This is an Op-Ed published in the New York Times Room for Debate forum . It was solicited by the RfD editor, with the topic being “transportation challenges for the next mayor”. It was eventually published under a somewhat different debate topic, without my permission or consultation (strange!):
How to make New York City More Livable
The next mayor of New York faces some tough challenges that go to the core of what keeps the city livable. Challenges that he or she will have to address include basic infrastructural issues like electricity, water, flooding, waste management, housing and development, to name a few. What should be the new mayor’s priorities?
Continue to Lead on Climate
The next mayor’s biggest challenge will be to expand upon Bloomberg’s efforts to reduce our climate footprint. After Sandy, flood adaptation will take center stage, and now we’ll have the will to tackle all the sensible, efficient defense measures we’ve been neglecting. Yet, protections against ever-rising seas are not enough, and they must be paired with aggressive efforts to stop the root of the problem – carbon emissions.
The New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) projects our local sea level to rise by 7-31 inches by the 2050s, bringing regular monthly tidal flooding to some low-lying neighborhoods and making extreme floods like Sandy as much as five times more likely to occur. These sea level changes will be a challenge for NYC, yet they will be a humanitarian crisis for low-lying nations of the world such as Bangladesh, and other climate change effects like drought could lead to global food shortages.
It is crucial that we continue to take steps to limit our impact on our climate by reducing carbon emissions, even if these changes are often initially unpopular or difficult. In the transportation sector, examples already underway include the Second Avenue Subway, Select Bus Service, the bike share program, and increased use of energy efficient marine transportation, all of which should be continued or expanded in the next mayor’s tenure. Also, new strategies are needed to help fund improved public transit, such as the Schwartz Tolling Plan.
Lastly, the next mayor needs to continue to partner with other cities worldwide, particularly now that China has overtaken the United States in carbon emissions – Bloomberg is the chair of a coalition of 58 major global cities taking action as the Cities Climate Leadership Group. As has often been the case before, the steps we’re taking in NYC are having a much broader, global influence.