Janette Sadik-Khan: Revitalization Begins by Building Cities for People

Drawing on examples from her crusade to make New York safer, more sustainable and more connected, Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation principal for Bloomberg Associates, challenged leaders to take risk and reimagine new ways to utilize existing infrastructure to move people and grow the region’s economy.

“Upkeep of current infrastructure while adapting to the challenges of the 21st century is a challenge all cities face,” Sadik-Khan said in keynote remarks at the Conference. “People are used to chronic congestion and have accepted it as the status quo.”

But Sadik-Khan said cities like Detroit have the opportunity to create a transformative street agenda that adapts to growth and encourages economic development.

33050841692_989ef71ffe_o“You can’t build your way out of congestion. That is like dealing with obesity by loosening your belt,” she said. “We need a fundamental rethinking of how we use streets.”

Sadik-Khan said the key is placing more emphasis on people, adding that the variety of uses for streets directly correlates to livability. Dedicated bike lanes, bus lanes and walking paths are some of the fastest, yet also the least costly, transformation strategies to improve communities, she said.

Taking a cue from the transformation of Times Square to a pedestrian-only zone, Sadik-Khan said cities like Austin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle have all taken steps to improve mobility. Detroit is following suit, with the opening of the QLine streetcar in the spring. Sadik-Khan said areas like Grand River Avenue and other wide streets, as well as the riverfront, are ripe with development opportunity.


MORE: Read more about the innovative work that is being done to ensure Detroit’s comeback continues. 


“With transformative mobility options, you are not just changing streets for the thousands of people in Detroit, you are changing the world,” she said.

Moving beyond a car-based to people-based city, however will require leadership and decisive action, Sadik-Khan said.

The session was sponsored by Delta Air Lines.

Read more from the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference:

Detroit Developers: Thoughtful Inclusion Key to City’s Ongoing Transformation