Pedicabs in New York City


Pedicabs are an increasingly popular mode of tourist travel in New York City. After a series of scams involving the use of the app “Square,” lawmakers have increased regulations on drivers and companies, who are licensed through the City’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). The DCA instituted new regulations about pricing and signage, effective on July 12. Instead of arbitrarily negotiated fares and rates, standard rates are determined by timers. Pedicabs must have clear signage indicating the prices. This will have a large impact on the industry, which has 1,461 licensed drivers and 201 licensed companies (NYC Open Data, DCA).

The data allows us to see who is licensed and their zip code, which for this study is assumed to be their place of residence. There appears to be a large concentration of pedicab drivers from Southern Brooklyn, particularly Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach. There are also many drivers in Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx, and Western Queens.  The following table shows the neighborhoods with the most pedicab drivers:

ZIP Code Neighborhood Count
11235 Sheepshead Bay / Brighton Beach / Manhattan Beach 126
11230 Midwood 71
11229 Kensington 67
11214 Bensonhurst 57
11204 Bensonhurst 44
11377 Woodside 37
10456 Claremont 36
11219 Borough Park 35
10031 Hamilton Heights 34
11373 Elmhurst 31


A/C Will Be There Soon


By Justin Tyndall, Edited by Nolan Levenson

New York City has had a heat wave this week, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees five days in a row.  Most New Yorkers know that the subway stations get excessively hot and humid. According to the folks at “L-Degrees”, the average temperature yesterday on an L train platform was 108° F, and with high humidity it felt substantially hotter.  For comparison, in Death Valley, California yesterday the temperature was 115° F. Good thing the L train arrives every 3 minutes during rush hours.

Not only does the weather outside heat up the station, but air conditioners used to cool the subway cars create hot exhaust which adds additional heat.  Due to the vast ventilation system of the subway, it is impractical to introduce air conditioning in stations. Additionally, there is a lack of space for the machinery that would be needed.

Other cities have air conditioned platforms, including Washington DC’s Metro, but New York’s more antiquated system may make such a retrofit difficult.  Other systems including Dubai Metro, Singapore MRT, and the JFK AirTrain accomplish climate control with the help of platform screen doors which help keep the cooled platform air from escaping down the tunnels.

Hot temperatures on subway platforms may provide a reason for the MTA to consider exploring the possibility of installing platform screen doors, and perhaps, air conditioning in the long term.  For the moment the best advice is to keep cool any way you can and keep in mind that the next air conditioned car will be there soon.

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)

The Rudin Center notes with sorrow the passing of Susan Kupferman, the center’s first Co-Director

The Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service notes with sorrow the passing of Susan Kupferman, the first Co-Director of the Rudin Center. Susan’s energy and intelligence made her a joy to work with. Our condolences to her family.

This Month at The Rudin Center – June 2013

In the Press:

Blog Posts:

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 You Know You’re A CitiBike Pro

By raw numbers, New York City’s new bike share system, CitiBike, has been a runaway success. In the first 10 days of operation – some 35,000+ riders have logged 100,000 rides and travelled more than 270,000 miles – enough to get to the moon (and partway back).

The research staff at the Rudin Center – transportation nerds that we are – all signed up the day CitiBike registration opened, and have been actively using the system since Day 1. As an East Village resident from 2000 to 2010, I was an avid biker on the streets of Manhattan. But when I moved across the river to Hoboken in 2010, I lost touch with New York’s bike culture. Dragging a bike on the PATH is a major headache. Taking one on the ferry, a major expense. So my new acquantanice with Citbike has also become a re-acquaintance with how utterly wonderful and simultaneously awful New York City is as a place to ride a bike.


Log of my first 10 days of CitiBike trips.

Nonetheless, according to my CitiBike account logs, I’ve taken a total of 15 trips in the last 10 days – some as short as 3 minutes. And it occurred to me today how quicky I’ve integrated the system into my daily movements around the city. I feel like I’ve already become a Citibike Pro User.

And in honor of that realization, I’ve come up with the Rudin Center’s Top 10 List “You Know You’re A CitiBike Pro When….”


#10 -You’ve Worked CitiBike Into Your Commute, Deliberately to Deprive the MTA of Subway or Bus Fare

Bikeshare at the Christopher St & Hudson St corner = happy PATH commuters!

For me, getting to my office at the Puck Building used to mean a 25-minute walk across SoHo from the Christopher Street PATH Station, or a transfer to the F train somewhere along Sixth Avenue. Now, as long as the skies are dry, I’m keeping the $2.50 the MTA wants to take me 10 blocks. The MTA has been sticking it to us for decades. Time to stick it back! Thanks Citibike!

While we’re on the MTA…




#9 – You’ve Jumped Off A Crawling Crosstown Bus to Make the Trip to the [insert: East/West Side] By Bike Instead

Just yesterday I tried getting from Grand Central Terminal to the 39th Street Ferry Terminal on the M42. What a cruel joke. 20 minutes later, barely past Bryant Park, I hopped off and grabbed a bike on W. 43rd street. Five minutes and 36 seconds later, I arrive on the banks of the Hudson. Straight onto the boat, having purchased my ticket at a red light on the NY Waterway app, I’m out of the city – it was like some kind of postmodern urban escape rocket.

#8 - You’ve Scared the Daylights Out of at Least One Pedestrian

This is New York. We are mean people. Size matters. Speed matters. Get out of my way.

#7 – You’ve Realized The Stunning Number of Things Other Than Bikes That Inhabit New York City’s Bike Lanes

Postal trucks, pedestrians, construction barriers, UPS trucks, taxis loading/offloading, food carts, food trucks, dead pigeons, etc. etc. etc. Sometimes I think they should call them “Bikes and Stuff”  lanes.

#6 – Despite Your Best Intentions to Obey Traffic Laws, You’ve Riden the Wrong Way Down A Bike Lane or A One-Way Street

I told myself from Day 1 I’d obey the rules, but sometimes the detours needed to stay legal can double the length of a short trip between two CitiBike stations (for instance, the contortions needed to get to the station in front of the Puck Building when coming from the northwest add 4-5 minutes). And so, I’ve just given in and started (like everyone else on a bike) riding south on the Lafayette Street bike lane.

New Yorkers are jaywalkers, and everyone accepts that, right? This is just New York’s timeless mobility culture expressing itself in a new medium. Or at least that’s what I tell myself at night.

#5 – You’ve Figured Out That If A Dock Is Full or Empty at Either End of Your Journey, There’s Almost Always One Available 2-3 Minutes Away

Proceed to the next station, then. No big deal. Quit whining.


#4 – You’ve Dropped Your Coffee and Broken Into A Sprint When You See This

Or this.

‘Nuff said.

(p.s. Unlock bonus points if you’ve zoomed in far enough to see the cool 3-d building detail in the CitiBike app’s maps.)

#3 – You’ve Figured Out What the F—ing Inscrutable Light System Means

Oh you mean the one that isn’t documented -anywhere-? Not on the stations, not in the app, not on the CitiBike website?

Yeah that one. Sure to get the “Worst UX” award this year.

(And BTW, its “Green = please steal me, the guy trying to rent me got bored waiting for the yellow light and walked away but I’ll unlock anyway after he’s gone”, “Yellow = please wait, my crappy wireless Internet is slow/not working”, and “Red = I’m broken…. again”)


#2 – You Have Reconciled In Your Mind the Irony of Those Who Would Criticize CitiBike (What Is Essentially A Giant Roving Bank Advertisement Pushed By a Billionaire Mayor)… as “Socialism”

(thanks to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang @askpang in Silicon Valley for that detached observation)

and the winner…

#1 – You’ve Figured Out How to Unlock the Bike and Simultaneously Adjust the Seat Height With A Single Well-Timed Yank

It’s like learning how to snap your fingers for the first time. Look me up in SoHo, I’m happy to show you how it’s done.