In a vote at last week’s council meeting an amendment to the City Charter doing away with the Department of Traffic and establishing its functions in the Parking Department was passed, effective January 1, 2013.
Under the new plan traffic functions would fall under the purview of Parking Commissioner John Larsen. Current Traffic Commissioner Thomas Soyk would continue to work as a city traffic engineer.
Mayor Tom Roach and five of the councilmembers agreed on all aspects of the department merge.
Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona, however, said she felt the move was premature. “I don’t see why we have to do this so fast,” she said. “We are not sure what the impact of combining means.”
Mayor Roach, who was complimentary of Commissioner Soyk’s work, said the commissioner thinks progressively.
If you look at White Plains from the air, said Roach, you can see the old way of thinking about traffic in action. The old way asks: “How do we get these cars in and out of here as quickly as possible? And that works really great for the cars but not so well for people who are walking or riding a bike,” he said.
Roach continued: “We are moving into an era where these [traffic] decisions will not be made by engineers. They will be made with engineers,” he said. “The approach is called Complete Streets and it recognizes that the streets are there for everyone.”
Roach further explained that new traffic patterns would be developed with the Planning Department, Common Council and members of the community working together.
“We have [automobile association] awards that praise our traffic patterns,” said Roach. “But these are not about pedestrians. People are always saying it is difficult to walk safely in White Plains. We have cutting edge technology with audible crosswalks and count down crosswalks. What can we do to improve the situation?”
Roach concluded by saying that someone had made him think when they told him one-way streets with multiple traffic lanes encourage drivers to speed. “This is something we have to look at,” he said.