Tracking Your Car Travel Patterns?


Ever wonder which streets have the slowest car traffic? What your average driving speed is? Where you brake the most? New data may help us find that out. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that The New York City Department of Transportation recently received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to launch a program that monitors 500 cars with transponders around the city. Data will be available through apps to both car users and the city DOT. Participants in the program will receive a discount on their car insurance, and the city will have more data about car travel. Our own Sarah Kaufman was quoted talking about the potential pros and cons of the program.

Will pay phones become charging electric vehicle stations?


Photo via Flickr.com user Susan Sermoneta

Over the last decade, cell phones have become ubiquitous in cities across the world, creating less and less of a demand for the public pay phone. According to the Department of Technology and Telecommunications, there are still a little over 10,000 public pay phones on New York City sidewalks. The operational contracts for these kiosks expires in October 2014 and the city has the opportunity to transform the remaining kiosks to meet 21st century needs.

Earlier this year, the city sponsored a design contest to re-imagine these 20th century relics for the mobile 21st century. Several contest winners included electric vehicle charging stations as part of their design.

The electric vehicle is on the rise in the United States, electric vehicle sales are the fastest growing sector of the automotive industry and the number of E.V. models on the market has quadrupled in the last year. One challenge facing E.V. owners is the number and location of charging stations, especially in urban areas.

Converting kiosks into charging stations with two to three parking spaces each would be one potentially creative way to reuse the kiosks, which already have electric power. Finding charging stations can be a challenge for E.V. owners: Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug in America, said that in one California town, E.V. owners use municipal owned Christmas tree light wiring to recharge.

Conflicting jurisdiction and interests of city agencies could complicate the process, which would involve formal applications and approval from the city. Earlier this year, New York Governor Cuomo announced plans to bring 3,000 charging stations to the state over the next five years and put 40,000 E.V.s on the road in that same period. Converting even a percentage of New York City’s pay phones to charging stations would meet statewide goals and increase access to charging for eager owners.

How to Go 100 Million Miles in a Day


The combined distance traveled by all New Yorkers on a typical day exceeds 100 million miles–a distance slightly greater than that of the earth to the sun.  Only 53% of New York residents report having access to a car (ACS 2011), this leaves nearly half the population to depend on other means to navigate the city.

This chart shows seven modes of transportation which contribute substantially to New York’s transportation needs; the list is not exhaustive but attempts to include the most important modes.  Many statistics on transportation provide the number of ‘trips’ made per day to indicate the rate of use.  This chart instead shows the total ‘person-miles’ traveled per day.  This method provides a different picture of transportation in New York City.  For example private cars only account for roughly 35% of trips in NYC; however, this mode also provides the longest trips (8.9 miles on average).  A breakout of person-miles shows that private cars actually account for 59 million miles per day of travel, more than the other six modes combined.

New York City is likely the most transit rich city in North America, but NYC as a whole is still very much auto-dependent.  This may be troubling to those who point to NYC as providing a post automobile lifestyle.  However, it can also serve as an encouragement to those who see value in expanding other modes of transportation; there is still a huge space available to create a city that drives less and uses public and sustainable modes much more.


* Data Notes:

  • Pedestrian data only records trips to and from work (note the briefcase), if all walking trips were included this figure would be higher.

  • Sources:

    • Private Vehicle, (National Household Travel Survey)
    • Subway, (MTA)
    • Bus, (MTA and APTA)
    • Pedestrian, (Municipal Arts Society 2011 Livability Survey)
    • Taxi, (Schaller Consulting, 2006)
    • Bicycle, (Estimated from NYC Health and Mental Hygiene Survey)
    • Ferry, (NYC DOT and public information from private NYC ferry companies)

Taxis, Taxes, and Monorail. The NYC Mayoral Transportation Forum


Earlier today, UTRC hosted a panel discussion to ask mayoral candidates about their transportation policies. In attendance was Sal Alabanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner on the Democratic panel (Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio were no shows),

Democratic Mayoral Candidates: Sal Albanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner (left to right)

and Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald on the Republican / Independent panel.

Republican and Independent Mayoral Candidates: Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald (left to right)

Here were some the highlights:

  1. Most candidates support expanding SelectBusService and Express Bus Service in the outer boroughs to provide transit to underserved areas; however none mentioned creating exclusive busways to improve this service.
  2. Anthony Weiner and Paul Steely White (of Transportation Alternatives) got into a friendly debate about cycling in the city. After Weiner mocked the polls indicating support for cycling, White said that bicycles poll higher than the mayoral candidates in front of him.  
  3. Sal Albanese and Joe Lhota both explicitly support the city investing in mass transit infrastructure. Lhota believes that the N/R trains should be extended to Staten Island.
  4. Joe Lhota was the only candidate to bring other transit modes into the discussion, such as Light Rail on Staten Island’s Northern and Western shores. He also supports construction Metro North Railroad stations at Co-Op City and Parkchester.
  5. John Catsimatidis said that another subway line would never be built in our lifetime, but supports constructing “aboveways” (monorails) throughout the city.
  6. The Democratic candidates disapprove of the “Taxi of the Future.”
  7. Bill Thompson supports a commuter tax, but almost all of the other candidates believe that it is unattainable.
  8. Sal Alabanese believes that New York City Transit should be under city control. Anthony Weiner said that the city needs more control of the MTA board.
  9. There was a lot of discussion of tolling in the city, with candidates divided about additional tolls in the city, particularly on the East River bridges.
  10. Anthony Weiner noted that the city pays $7000 per student that takes a school bus. While candidates disagreed about labor costs, many mentioned that inefficient routing was a large reason for the high costs of school buses.

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner fields questions from the press after the panel.

Smart Transportation and Sustainability


Rudin Research Associate Sarah Kaufman spoke at yesterday’s Transportation Equity Conference in Albany to discuss the role of smart transportation in environmental sustainability. The topic is more complex than it seems: as driving becomes easier with tools like autonomous cars, traffic sensing and self-aware parking spots, how can we continue to reduce car use, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions? In the United States, commutes are growing ever-longer, as the NYU Rudin Center showed with our Super-Commuter report last year: fast-growing numbers of Americans are traveling more than 90 minutes or 90 miles each way, usually by car.

We can use technology to make transit more enticing:

- Open data lets travelers see schedules before they reach a station

- Social media informs them of delays, so they can re-route

- Open source planning tools, like NYC DOT’s Fourth Avenue project, give travelers a say in future developments

- Advanced fare payment systems, like MBTA’s mobile payments, make it easy to board even when the right fare is unavailable

- Walkability measures, like those provided by Walkscore, allow us to choose our housing locations by the ability to run errands on foot or use transit for a commute, saving money and waistlines.

These are just some basic tools to make transit a more pleasurable and efficient experience (several, like augmented reality, are on the horizon, and will shift our mobility patterns even further). For environmental and economic needs, these foundational technologies must be in place to bring riders over to transit and mitigate automobile dependence.

Super-commuters in the news: A Roundup


Our recent report on super-commuters has struck a chord across the country, making the news in a variety of places:

- Businessweek, Bloomberg, Toronto Globe & Mail and Atlantic Cities, among others, covered the growing trend of longer commutes.
- WNYC’s Transportation Nation featured a map of air commuters to New York City.
- USA Today discussed the number one super-commute corridor, between Tucson and Phoenix.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch featured a law professor who commutes weekly from Chicago to St. Louis.
- The Houston Chronicle saw the report as a call for more transportation options in the region.

This roundup is only some of the coverage shown here. What’s most telling is the broad reach of people affected by this growing trend, and how it affects local economies, commuters’ families, and the shrinking importance of in-office time.

 

Super-Commuters and the Market for Inter-City Transportation


By Carson Qing

Earlier this week, we examined the impact of the super-commuter’s emergence on transportation policies, using the example of the Arizona Department of Transportation’s study of a potential intercity rail line connecting Tucson and Phoenix, one of the most prominent super-commute corridors in the nation. But in recent years, the private sector has serviced a great number of these super-commutes.

While the Northeast Corridor is well-served by Amtrak, a fleet of discount bus companies (Megabus, Boltbus, Peter Pan, and several enterprising Chinatown bus operators) has provided an alternative for potential super-commuters between major cities, in response to the growing market for affordable intercity travel. Because super-commuters tend to be younger and are more likely to come from middle-income backgrounds, they may very well be responsible for the growing success of the intercity bus industry in the Northeast.

Private bus companies have played a significant role in shuttling thousands of super-commuters from Eastern Pennsylvania to Manhattan on a daily basis. Since 2002, the number of residents in the East Stroudsburg, PA metro area working in Manhattan has more than doubled, gobbling up affordable and spacious single-family homes in the eastern Poconos. The 75-mile, 2 hour, $60 round-trip commute to the Port Authority Bus Terminal has become a popular option of these hardy commuters, profiled in this 2008 New York Times article. Private bus operators such as Martz and Transbridge provide commuter services to Manhattan from as far west as Wilkes-Barre and Allentown, respectively. Even though no public infrastructure investments have been made to support development in the area, Eastern Pennsylvania is quickly becoming one of New York City’s newest exurbs as private commuter bus companies have made these daily super-commutes to Manhattan feasible.

Airlines have also facilitated super-commuting by adding greater flight capacity along these emerging corridors: in 2005, JetBlue added 10 flights per day from Boston-Logan to JFK Airport, a 14% increase in capacity, according to the New York Times. Since 2006, the number of residents from the Boston metropolitan area working in Manhattan has doubled. Southwest Airlines, whose entire business model is centered on short, 200-400 mile trips that have seen a significant growth in potential commuters over the past decade, may also make it possible to shuttle between the Texas Triangle cities once or twice weekly. Along the fastest growing super-commuting corridor in the nation (Dallas to Houston), Southwest runs a staggering 25 flights per day between the two cities. These examples show how the market has already responded to the demand for inter-city travel and contributed to the growing trend of super-commuting, while transportation policies are only starting to account for this emerging segment of the labor force.

The Super-Commuter and Transportation Policy


By Carson Qing

In our recently released super-commuter study, we defined a potential super-commuter as an individual who works in the core county of one metropolitan labor market, but lives in another metropolitan area, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s OnTheMap tool. Using these definitions, super-commuters may include individuals who commute daily, weekly, monthly, or may not even commute at all, working remotely. Below is a chart of the most common super-commutes in the United States.

The Arizona Sun Corridor is the most prominent super-commute corridor in the nation, based on the 10 core counties of the largest metropolitan labor markets. Residents from the Tucson area commuting to the Phoenix area (Maricopa County) account for 3.6% of the latter’s workforce, or 54,400 total. Robert Lang and Arthur Nelson have conducted extensive research on the growing convergence between metropolitan regions, and first coined the term “Sun Corridor,” which they predict will become the next Dallas-Fort Worth, merging into a mega-region of 9 million people over the next few decades.

Transportation planners in Arizona are already quite familiar with the impact of that super-commutes are having along the Sun Corridor. Arizona DOT planners estimate that already lengthy super-commutes on Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix would take more than twice as long in 2050 due to a doubling in travel demand, even if the road were to be widened, primarily due to population and economic growth, as well as the already substantial volume of daily commutes between the two cities. Consequently, DOT officials are in the early stages of studying the impact of a multi-billion dollar intercity passenger rail line connecting the two cities in anticipation of the mega-region’s emergence and to sustain its current economic and demographic growth. Establishing a rail corridor may allow land use planners to shape development patterns in a way that e  nhances mobility between the regions and further alleviates the anticipated traffic congestion along the I-10 corridor. The Phoenix-Tucson rail initiative exemplifies how the emergence of the super-commuter during the past decade is already making a significant and important impact in regional transportation policy. On Thursday, I will discuss what the private sector has already done to facilitate these super-commutes nationwide.