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.

Pedestrians vs. Left Turn Signals



Despite the new signs, pedestrians cross illegally between Broadway medians at 96th Street.

Last week I traveled to my homeland on the Upper West Side. As a recent transplant to Brooklyn, I had forgotten the nightmare that is the intersection of 96th Street and Broadway.

In 2010, a new median station entrance opened for the 1/2/3 IRT Line 96th Street station. The entrances had previously been located on the sidewalks. While the new station is beautiful and makes sense for circulation of subway users, it has created a hazard on the street by forcing pedestrians to the median.

Existing Conditions

Diagram 1: Existing Pedestrian Movements at 96th Street and Broadway

To rationalize traffic movements, NYCDOT installed left turn lanes on Broadway, creating new signal phasing. This change has created a lot of confusion and caused dangerous situations and conflicts between cars and pedestrians.

To mitigate these challenges, NYCDOT has placed signs such as “Wait for Walk Signal” and “No Ped. Crossing Use Crosswalk” (pictured above) to encourage better pedestrian behavior. However, in New York, pedestrians walk wherever and whenever they please. So, if they don’t see cars moving, they go, often putting their lives at risk. This not only occurs at 96th and Broadway, but many other busy intersections throughout the city with left turn signal phases.

At this intersection, after the east-west traffic stops and before the left-turn signal phase begins, people begin to cross north-south on the western and eastern crosswalks in the intersection, despite the red light and eventual on-coming traffic.  In addition to the potential crashes this creates, pedestrians act outraged, as do the drivers. This prevents cars from moving through the signal with sufficient time, and creates congestion for the following phase as well. Congestion and danger is furthered by people illegally crossing between medians (see Diagram 1).

Diagram 2: Potential Solution: The Pedestrian Scramble ("Barnes Dance")

It is true that better enforcement and ticketing by the NYPD might change pedestrian behavior, but I believe the DOT should explore more creative solutions for this intersection. One possible solution (Diagram 2) could be a variation on the “Pedestrian Scramble” or “Barnes Dance,” which would stop all traffic and allow pedestrians to cross in one movement. This would decrease the amount of separate pedestrian movements and perhaps cause less confusion, while allowing pedestrians to take direct routes. This approach could reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cars, improving safety, health, and convenience for all intersection users.

Don’t-Miss Events in April


We have a fantastic set of events slated for April at the NYU Rudin Center:

April 9th (morning): Local Innovations in Bus Rapid Transit: A Panel Discussion – This panel will focus on innovative bus planning in the New York Metro area, and the unique challenges it presents to both policy makers and citizens.

April 9th (evening): Short Talks, Big Ideas: Transportation Innovations – Join the NYU Rudin Center for this high-energy series of short talks about how we’re using, improving and thinking about the future of transportation.

POSTPONED UNTIL FALL April 10th: Climate-Proofing Connectivity: The Future of New York’s Links to the Northeast Corridor – This symposium will convene experts on climate change, next-generation aviation, and high-speed rail planning to explore how New York’s external transportation connections can adapt to climate change in the coming decades to provide secure, resilient and sustainable economic lifelines in the face of an uncertain future.

April 20th: Rethinking Regulation Design ChallengeThis challenge is about bringing stakeholders to the table to develop innovative, realistic, and implementable solutions to help address the problems government regulators face when monitoring illegal apartment conversions in NYC, and non-compliant “Chinatown” motorcoach companies. (with NYU Wagner and OpenPlans)

All events are free and open to the public. Click on the event titles to register. See you in April!

Open Transportation Data in NY


As part of the Open Transportation Data Meetup, we’ve created a Google Doc to centralize all available transportation data for the NY region in one place. The document is publicly editable and ready to be populated and discussed (wishlist items accepted as well). Check it out here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AoNd04_Ge-SpdGFwSWtpa0F1ZGVzS19oZGxNektSVnc&usp=sharing

Your contributions and suggestions are welcome!

Wagner Transportation Association Visits the NY Transit Museum


This weekend the Wagner Transportation Association (WTA) visited the NY Transit Museum in Brooklyn. Here are some pics!

Did you know that the Court Street station (originally an IND station) where the museum is located accommodates both IRT and IND/BMT trains? Because IRT trains are about a foot narrower than IND/BMT trains, the platform needed to be extended out so that museum customers could safely board the trains.

Manhattan Commuting Trends: An In-Depth Look


Carson Qing

Earlier this week, we discussed the unique patterns of employment “re-centralization” that the New York City metropolitan area experienced over the past decade. Now, we focus on the region’s core, Manhattan, and where its commuters are coming from. A detailed analysis, building on last year’s report describing trends in commuting among Manhattan’s workforce, reveals that most of the growth in Manhattan commuting has originated from waterfront neighborhoods in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Brooklyn, areas that experienced significant high-density residential development in recent years.

Using the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics dataset from the U.S. Census Bureau, I identified specific towns and neighborhoods (defined as ZIP codes) that have the greatest increase in commuters to Manhattan. The interactive map below shows areas of residence with growth and declines in Manhattan commuters from 2002 to 2010 in absolute numbers. Zip codes shaded as blue represent a decrease or no difference in commuters to Manhattan. Darker shades of red indicate greater increases in commuters to Manhattan from that zip code. Click around to see the figures at a neighborhood level.

These numbers indicate substantial increases in Manhattan work trips originating from Northern Brooklyn, Western Queens, Jersey City and Hoboken, the South Bronx and Staten Island. The five neighborhoods with the greatest increase in Manhattan commuters were Williamsburg (+5,405), the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City (+4,262), Downtown Brooklyn (+3,598), Williamsburg/Bedford-Stuyvesant (+3,373), and Greenpoint (+3,139), all consisting of neighborhoods situated along either the Hudson or East River waterfronts. Areas that saw declines in commuters to Manhattan were largely in the northern and eastern suburbs, consisting of neighborhoods in eastern Queens and Westchester, Rockland, and Nassau counties.

High-density residential developments along the waterfronts in New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens, paired with the expected increase in Manhattan-bound commutes from those neighborhoods, indicate that there are significant opportunities for expansion in ferry services in New York City. The East River Ferry that connects the neighborhoods of Downtown Brooklyn/DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City with the Midtown East and Lower Manhattan business districts has been far more successful than originally anticipated during the first year of its 3-year pilot service, carrying more than 1.6 million passengers (300,000 more than expected). A long-term extension and expansion of ferry services on the East River should be strongly considered as a strategy to relieve rush hour crowding on subway lines such as the L and 7 lines and provide a more convenient travel alternative.

The growth in Manhattan commuting to from the west in suburban New Jersey is not limited to communities with “one-seat” rides into Manhattan where no transfers are required to get in. Communities in Bergen and Passaic Counties along the Main-Bergen and the Pascack Valley rail lines, where Manhattan-bound rail trips require transfers at either Secaucus Junction or Hoboken to enter Manhattan, have also seen significant increases in commuters to Manhattan: these include towns such as Fair Lawn (+39% increase), Paramus (+30%), and Lodi (+47%). Workers traveling to Manhattan from those areas are much more dependent on the regional express bus system operated by NJ Transit and private companies to commute into Manhattan, and will continue to be dependent due to the cancellation of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) rail infrastructure project in 2010. Making the region’s system of commuter buses run more efficiently, whether by creating additional capacity at the Port Authority Bus Terminal or providing an express bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel during evening rush hour, should help accommodate this growth in commuters from suburban New Jersey and sustain the region’s economic productivity and competitiveness in the 21st century.

 

Rush Hour in Williamsburg…at 1 AM


By Carson Qing

Last September, one of our research assistants at the NYU Rudin Center, Nolan Levenson, took an interesting picture at the Bedford Avenue subway station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (right). The subway platform was filled to capacity with straphangers, but what makes the photo interesting is that the image was captured in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, at 1:30 AM. There has been much discussion, and subsequent action, over the issue of providing more L-train service on the weekends to better serve this ridership growth, but the image of a subway platform filled to near capacity at 1:30 AM on a Sunday morning, when Manhattan-bound trains run on 20 minute headways, raises some interesting questions about travel characteristics along this particular subway line.
Since 2005, ridership on the L train has soared, with every station in Brooklyn posting double digit growth rates in ridership on weekdays (with the exception of Broadway Junction). On weekends, ridership by station has grown at even faster rates: tripling or even quadrupling the ridership growth on an average weekday for a given station. The Morgan Avenue station in Bushwick had the greatest ridership growth on both weekdays (+59%) and weekends (+174%) of all L-train stops in Brooklyn from 2005 to 2010. The Bedford Avenue station in Williamsburg had the greatest absolute increase in average weekday ridership (+5,867) and average Saturday ridership (+9,236) from 2005 to 2010. The two maps below compare ridership growth on an average weekday (left) and on average weekend (right) for all L-train stations in Brooklyn, from 2005 to 2010.

 

To examine these weekend ridership trends in more detail, I used the MTA’s turnstile data and took a sample of a turnstile at the Bedford Avenue station over one week in August 2012 to identify trends in peak hours of subway ridership, and what could be driving these patterns in weekend ridership. I classified both entries and exits into the Bedford Avenue station and identified “peak hours” in subway ridership, which were hourly intervals that were in the top 25% of all intervals in the sample data in total entries or exits into the station. The results are summarized in the chart below (note: data is only for a single turnstile, and is only meant to illustrate ridership trends):

What’s remarkable about this case study for Bedford Avenue is that not only are there ridership peaks for long durations on Saturday (8 am to 4 am Sunday) and Sunday (8 am to 8 pm), but entry/exit figures are actually comparable to morning and evening rush hours during the work week: thus, growth in weekend ridership at Bedford Avenue has increased so much that it may very well have resulted in an “extended rush hour” for almost the entire weekend.

Even more remarkable is that the peak entry hours on Saturday night actually extend into the wee hours of Sunday morning for the sampled data, suggesting that the crowded subway platform at 1:30 AM might in fact be quite a common occurrence. Given recent, dramatic changes in demographics and land use patterns in Williamsburg, these unusual peak hour trip patterns should be expected. Not only has there been a well-documented influx in 25-to-34 year olds in Williamsburg (25% of the population, compared to 17% in 2006, according to census data), but there has also been a significant growth in restaurants and bars that are open late on weekends and draw young New Yorkers from across the city to the neighborhood (117% increase in full service restaurants and 59% increase in bars since 2005, according to census business data). The peak entry hours from 12 am to 4 am on a Sunday morning should be expected given the context of how Williamsburg has changed dramatically in just a few short years, as many of the restaurant and bar patrons are likely contributing to this peak period of subway ridership during these late night hours.

These trends reveal that due to the growth in weekend ridership on the L-train, conventional assumptions of travel demand for this particular subway line may no longer be appropriate, and may require some adjustments in service offerings during weekend evenings, late nights, and other times of day. According to subway schedules, the MTA currently runs roughly 43 Manhattan-bound trains on the L during a weekday morning rush hour (8 am-12 pm) and 48 Manhattan-bound trains during Saturday afternoon (4 pm-8 pm), falling to roughly 32 on Saturday night (8 pm -12 am) and 13 during weekend late-night hours (12am-4 am Sunday). With only 13 trains during one of the busiest travel periods of the entire week, crowded platforms at Bedford Avenue and nearby stations during late Saturday nights/early Sunday mornings will likely be commonplace going forward.

The growth in weekend ridership on the L-train in Brooklyn and peak travel demand during unconventional hours show how as cities and neighborhoods evolve, traditional assumptions of “rush hour” travel will inevitably change. Transportation providers should be flexible and adaptable to recognize these anomalies, rather than assume that travel characteristics are uniform system-wide, and respond by offering level of services that are appropriate given these unique patterns in peak travel demand.

Have you taken the L from Bedford Avenue during late night hours on the weekend? Are weekend, late night hours in Williamsburg comparable to weekday morning “rush hours?” Please share your experiences in the comments below.