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.

How will NY move in 2040?


Our colleagues at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council are hosting a series of events to involve the public in a 2040 plan, which are open to the public. From their website:

This Plan will be the 25-year blueprint for transportation strategies and investments in the NYMTC region, which includes the five boroughs of New York City; the lower Hudson Valley counties of  Putnam, Rockland and Westchester; and Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long island.  It will cover all modes of surface transportation from a regional perspective including highways, streets, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, goods movement and special needs transportation. In addition, it will also address key transportation activities such as operations and management of the transportation system, safety, security and air quality conformity analysis.

You can learn more about the events on the website here, and let us know if you plan to attend – we’d love to hear about your experience.

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.

Avoid These Roads!: Top 10 Bottlenecks in the New York City Region


 

Traveling in and around the New York City area this holiday season? Make sure you avoid these roads. A recent study by the Texas Transportation Institute identified the most congestion-prone corridors in the nation. Using this data, the Rudin Center has developed a list of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the Tri-State area to help you plan ahead and get where you’re going on time. These corridors were ranked based on the Texas Transportation Institute’s Buffer Index, a measure of how much additional time should be allocated for travel along these corridors to account for traffic congestion.

The Christmas holiday season is one of the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year, as tens of millions of Americans will be traveling long distances each day during a two-week period. A 2001 study by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics identified that 9 out of 10 Americans who travel long-distances during the holiday season do so by car, and long-distance travel during the Christmas holidays is 23% higher than that of other periods. The 2001 study also identified the weekend before Christmas was the busiest travel days of the holiday period, with 93% more long-distance trips than the daily average on Saturday, or December 22. Thus, travelers driving in and around New York City both during and after the holiday season should take note of these ten worst traffic bottlenecks in the region.

  • The Bronx-bound Whitestone Expressway and the northbound Hutchinson River Parkway are tied for the worst traffic bottlenecks of any corridor in the Tri-State area. The two-lane northbound “Hutch” in Westchester County requires motorists to plan for a trip three times longer than normal along the corridor to guarantee on-time arrival at the end of the route.
  • While part of the Whitestone Expressway from Flushing to the Bronx is twice as wide as the “Hutch,” it is just as prone to crippling congestion during peak traffic hours, and also requires motorists to plan for a trip that’s three times as long as expected.
  • Traveling north out of the city during an evening rush hour? Pick your poison. The northbound Henry Hudson Parkway, FDR Drive, and Major Deegan Expressway are all equally unreliable and all experience peak congestion from 3 pm to 7 pm on a typical weekday.
  • The longest traffic bottleneck among the top 10 in the region is southbound I-95, including the notorious Cross-Bronx Expressway and the Jersey-bound George Washington Bridge. Evening commutes along this route can be a nightmare, as motorists must plan to travel 24 minutes more (about 40 minutes total) along this 11-mile corridor to guarantee on-time arrival.
  • Heading into Lower Manhattan early in the morning? Make sure you avoid the Pulaski Skyway approach to the Holland Tunnel. This 3.3 mile corridor is the least reliable stretch of highway in the entire state of New Jersey, and requires motorists to plan for at least 10 more minutes of travel.

Long Commutes in the New York City Region: Explaining how we commute in New York City and the surrounding suburbs


Photo Credit: Suzy Allman for the New York Times

Recently, the Census Bureau released a comprehensive report describing how Americans traveled to work in 2009. Once again, the New York metropolitan area was ranked as having the longest average commute in the country at 34.6 minutes, followed by Washington DC and Poughkeepsie. Great Falls, Montana has the shortest commute time of 14.2 minutes. Some have jumped to the conclusion that the New York region has the worst commute in the country simply because it has the longest, but a closer at the “Journey to Work” data can help explain the long commute lengths.

(Data Source: US Census Bureau 2009 American Community Survey)

The figure above shows that residents in the New York City region are far more reliant on transit to get to work on a daily basis: 2.7 million commuters take transit to get to work on a daily basis, and 300,000 rely on a commuter rail system that primarily serves suburban areas. Transit commutes, on average, are more than 20 minutes longer than car commutes. In particular, since commutes by rail in the region average 70 minutes in length (almost three times as long as an average car commute in the country), and 43% of all rail commutes in the U.S. take place in the New York City region, where the modal share for commuter rail is almost seven times as high as the national average. It is clear that the high share of transit, particularly rail, commutes is responsible for skewing the average commute lengths, rather than congested roads or poor accessibility to job locations.

Among those who commute to Manhattan, the numbers are even more skewed towards transit modes: 73.2% of Manhattan workers take public transit to get to work according to 2009 Census data, a proportion that is more than 14 times as high as the transit modal share for commuters nationwide. The share of Manhattan commuters traveling by rail is 11.7%, which is more than 21 times as high as the rail modal share for commuters nationwide.

In July 2011, the prominent urban economist Richard Florida introduced several explanations of commuting mode shares and lengths in New York and other U.S. metropolitan areas, such as population density, weather and climate, residential development patterns, and occupational characteristics. However, he curiously did not mention job location patterns as an explanation of how we commute, since after all, the purpose of these trips is to get to the workplace in the most efficient and convenient way.

The New York City metropolitan area is unique because a high concentration of well-paying jobs are still located in a central business district such as Midtown Manhattan, whereas in other regions in the country, job opportunities are more dispersed in “technoburbs” and “edge cities.” Therefore, residents of the New York region, particularly those living in the suburban areas, still rely heavily on mass transit to get to work: a recent Forbes study ranked the top public transportation cities in the country by modal use, and all but two municipalities of the Top 10 were in the New York City region. These municipalities not only included New York and nearby cities such as Hoboken and Jersey City, but also distant suburbs such as Great Neck and Bronxville, located along major commuter rail lines such as LIRR and MetroNorth. Thus, transit is not only essential for commuting among city residents, but also residents of suburban areas and “bedroom communities” in New Jersey, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley, who take short drives to the nearest park-and-ride lot and take the train or express bus into Manhattan. These commutes are long, but convenient enough for suburban residents to choose them over a long, stressful, and increasingly expensive drive into the city.

In cities with more dispersed job locations, the best and, in most cases, the only way to gain access to those jobs is by driving, due to transit systems that provide limited, unreliable, or non-existent services to job locations. In metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Raleigh-Durham, job opportunities are not concentrated in the downtown central business district but dispersed across the region in office parks and strip malls off arterial roads. Thus, the most practical and sensible way to access the workplace is to drive.

These maps below show how job locations could play a major role in determining commuting travel modes and lengths.

NEW YORK CITY (jobs primarily clustered in traditional “C.B.D.” in Manhattan)

BAY AREA (metro area with high transit use, jobs clustered in traditional “C.B.D.”)

DALLAS (notice the dispersion of job locations along interstates, beltways, and arterials)

OKLAHOMA CITY (again, notice the distribution of jobs along major highways)