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.

 

New Report: Transportation Social Media Policy Recommendations


We’ve just posted a new report, “How Social Media Moves New York, Part 2: Recommended Social Media Policy for Transportation Providers,” addressing necessary policies for transportation agencies looking to reach riders and drivers in the system.

View the abstract here, download the (pdf) report here, and read Part 1, “How Social Media Moves New York: Twitter Use by Transportation Providers in the New York Region,” here (pdf).

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Commuting After Hurricane Sandy: Survey Results


Sarah Kaufman and Carson Qing

As part of the NYU Rudin Center’s recent report on transportation impacts from Hurricane Sandy, we conducted a survey of commuters to learn about their experiences of getting to work after the storm.

The survey was conducted online, on the site Surveymonkey.com, and was publicized via email blasts and social media. Three hundred-fifteen people in 98 zip codes responded anonymously between October 31 and November 6th, answering questions about their typical and post-Sandy commutes.

Key findings from the survey included:

Many people in the region worked after the storm, either physically reporting to an office or by telecommuting. New Jersey had the lowest rate of people who continued to work, at 56%, while 85% of Brooklyn respondents worked, at the highest percentage.

With limited transit options after the storm, New York commuters significantly altered their commute patterns. Bus ridership rose in Brooklyn (5% of respondents normally used buses, but 12% reported using buses November 1-2) after shuttle buses were put in place of subway routes disrupted due to flooding. Bike commuting rose significantly in Manhattan (15% normal to 24% Nov 1/2) and Queens (17% to 30%).

Post-hurricane commute lengths varied significantly by home region, as shown in the table below. The largest differences were in Staten Island, where commute times almost tripled, and Brooklyn, where they doubled. Variations among home locations are due to the wide range of transportation options available to each set of commuters, and the lower number of survey respondents who reported physically to work, rather than telecommuting or not working.

Post-hurricane commutes were twice or three times as long, varying by mode, as shown in the chart below.Average post-Sandy commute lengths ranged from 43 minutes (walked on Nov 1/2) to 115 minutes (drove, or took subway and bus). Frustration levels ranged from 2.3 on the lower end (walked) to 5.7 on the higher end (drove). Commuters who drove, or took a subway and bus combination, had the greatest difference, with travel times at nearly triple their typical lengths. As expected, they were also among the most frustrated commuters.

Walking and biking commuters were, on average, the least frustrated. Commuters who biked to work Nov 1/2 had the fewest delays in their commutes, as they were only 9 minutes longer than their usual commute. Telecommuters ranked their level of frustration on a similar level as transit commuters, 3.7 to 3.8, perhaps due to communications difficulties of connecting to work.

Commuters used a variety of communications channels to learn about transportation resources, as shown in the chart below. They most commonly referred to official websites and social media, and least from smartphone apps and community groups. The lack of smartphone app connectivity was likely due to the lack of schedule and outage data used for programming the apps.

These figures show the need for increased storm preparation and ever-present public information in times of crisis to ensure residents’ mobility. However, the survey results also demonstrate the resilience of New Yorkers and their workplaces; even in the face of detrimental circumstances, New Yorkers’ businesses maintained operations, showcasing the extreme adaptability of their operations, finances and creativity. The adaptations to new, longer commutes are uniquely New York, in that the population quickly adapted to alternate and substitute transportation modes, new norms of local business practices, flexible, temporary workplaces, and continuous communications.

 

Survey respondents’ home and workplace locations, by zip code:

 

 

Average commute times and frustration levels by home region, November 1-2, 2012

Home Region Pre-Sandy Typical Commute Time (min) Post-Sandy Commute Time (min) Percent Reporting Physically to Work* Self-Reported Frustration Level, 1 (min) – 10 (max)
Manhattan 29 52 56% 2.97
Brooklyn 42 86 58% 3.93
Queens 45 47 65% 3.00
Bronx 41 63 100% 2.14
Staten Island 84 240 25% 7.00
New Jersey 52 69 27% 5.67
Northern Suburbs 73 61 33% 2.40
Long Island 85 85 33% 2.00

* Excludes telecommuters

 

 

Commuters’ travel time by mode and self-reported frustration level:

NOV 1/2 MODE Pre-Sandytravel time (min) Post-Sandy travel time (min) Avg frustration index (1-10)
Walk only 21.1 43.3 2.3
Bike only 43.6 52.0 2.7
Drive only 47.3 114.7 5.7
Taxi only 30.0 65.0 5.5
Subway only 35.0 51.4 2.9
Bus only 42.3 100.8 4.2
Rail only 80.0 85.0 2.0
Subway + bus 46.5 115.1 4.9
Subway + bus + rail 60.0 75.0 2.0
Any transit* 41.7 86.3 3.8
Telecommuting 40.1 0.0 3.7
Did not work 42.3 0.0 5.6

*includes PATH, private buses, ferries and other miscellaneous transit options

 

Sources of Transportation Information

Respondents were asked to select all that apply.

The A Train in the Rockaways


Thanks to Brian Furniss of MTA New York City Transit for providing us with these powerful photos of the A train line in the Rockaways.

 

 

National Perspective on the NYC Subway Fare


Just how far does a single ride ticket get you in subway systems across the U.S.? In light of the MTA fare hike discussions, the NYU Rudin Center decided to investigate:

Even if the base fare is raised to $2.50, you’re still able to go about six times farther on a MetroCard than the MBTA Charlie Card, WMATA SmarTrip or any other city fare. As Americans’ commutes get longer, NYC Subways remain one of the best bargains in the country.

UPDATE: Based on feedback via Twitter followers: True, most people don’t ride the entire track length. But the system’s size determines the costs to run, maintain and secure it. A system of NY’s size can’t afford to run on the same fare as Chicago’s.

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.

Transportation Headlines from Around the Web


Harlem subway riders may be fighting a losing battle against rats in their station (via NY1).

New York legislators are proposing installing street cameras to catch city speeders (via NY Times).

More Bronx residents are heading north, rather than south, in the mornings (via Transportation Nation).

Adrian Benepe, called the most ambitious Parks Commissioner since Robert Moses, is stepping down to work for a non-profit (via NY Times).

Some neighbors of the UN building are concerned that nearby bike share stations could be used by terrorists (via Gothamist).

Mobilizing the Region argues for the importance of the MTA’s Capital Program, which funds many of the Authority’s improvement projects.

– Catherine Dwyer