Urban Planning

Understanding the Challenges of Regional Ferry Service in New York City

Understanding the Challenges of Regional Ferry Service in New York City
RCWP 10-006 June, 2010

McCandless, Patrick
06/01/2010

On February 12th, 2008, Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council, took to the dais at the City Council Chambers to deliver the State of the City Address.  Towards the 17th page of an 18 page address, the Speaker’s remarks turned to public transit and the Mayor’s recently released PlaNYC initiatives.  While transit is generally a hot topic in New York, Mayor Bloomberg had made transportation a centerpiece of his second term and was spending the winter in a campaign to convince the State Legislature to approve a congestion pricing scheme in Manhattan to finance transportation capital projects. 

“It’s only natural to look at our natural highways, our water ways... to move New Yorkers efficiently and sustainably.” Said Speaker Quinn,  “That’s why we are proposing and the Mayor has agreed to begin developing a comprehensive five borough, year-round New York City Ferry System.”   The Speaker explained that the idea for ferry service originated through a series of public hearings she held with her colleagues in the Council:

 “Soon after, we began exploring the concept of a pilot ferry service for the Rockaways…got a commitment from the Mayor to fund it…and that service should be up and running by this summer.


Two years and twelve days later, the rhetoric of the State of the City speech came crashing to an anti-climactic end, as a report in the Daily News announced the cancellation of the Rockaways service.  The ferry would cease operations at the end of March.  

Plans for a five borough Ferry System have not materialized, except for an East River ferry serving developments along the Queens/Brooklyn waterfront, currently with two sailings during the AM and PM peak hours is expected to offer more frequent service next year  The Rockaway route had not met ridership projections and was recovering only 15-30% of its operational costs from revenues collected at the farebox.   The failure of the Rockaway ferry service, combined with the cancellation of another newly opened ferry service between Yonkers and Lower Manhattan in 2009 has dashed the hopes of some who wished to exploit New York’s water resources to improve commuting options via ferries.  This has led to questions about the feasibility of expanding ferry service in New York City more broadly. 

As large sections of the New York City waterfront are reclaimed from decades of industrial land use, idyllic waterfront parks have been developed next to gleaming residential towers.  It seems only natural that ferries will soon serve a role in transporting residents and visitors to these new neighborhoods throughout the City.  However, recent experiences illustrate the many obstacles facing expanded ferry services in New York City 

Minimum Parking Requirements, Transit Proximity and Development in New York City

Minimum Parking Requirements, Transit Proximity and Development in New York City
RCWP 10-004 Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy

McDonnell, Simon, Josiah Madar and Vicki Been
04/01/2010

New York City policymakers are planning for a city of over 9 million residents by 2030, a large increase from today. A central goal of City officials is to accommodate this increase while simultaneously improving the City’s overall environmental performance, addressing externalities arising from traffic congestion and providing increased access to affordable housing. The requirement in the City’s zoning code that new residential construction be accompanied by a minimum number of off-street parking spaces, however, may conflict with this goal. This paper combines a theoretical discussion of parking requirements in New York City with a quantitative analysis of how they relate to transit and development opportunity. It draws direct relations between minimum parking requirements with the rise in housing prices and the reduction of density.

Causality vs. Correlation: Rethinking Research Design in the Case of Pedestrian Environments and Walking

Causality vs. Correlation: Rethinking Research Design in the Case of Pedestrian Environments and Walking
RCWP 10-001  

Guo, Zhan
03/01/2010

This paper investigates the causal effect of pedestrian environments on walking behavior and focuses on the issue of research design. The paper differentiates between two types of research designs:treatment-based and traveler-based. The first approach emphasizes the variation of the treatment (pedestrian environments), and generally compares distinct neighborhoods, such as urban vs. suburban or transit-oriented vs. auto-dependent. The second approach emphasizes the homogeneity of subject (pedestrians), and aims at the same pedestrian under different environments normally due to home relocation, or the improvement of pedestrian environments.

This paper presents a third method, following a traveler-based research design while providing the pedestrian multiple walking paths with different pedestrian environments.

 

Welcome to the Neighborhood: What Can Regional Science Contribute to the Study of Neighborhoods?

Welcome to the Neighborhood: What Can Regional Science Contribute to the Study of Neighborhoods?
JOURNAL OF REGIONAL SCIENCE, VOL. 50, NO. 1, 2010, pp. 363-379

Ellen, I.G. & O'Regan, K.
01/13/2010

We argue in this paper that neighborhoods are highly relevant for the types of issues at the heart of regional science. First, residential and economic activity takes place in particular locations, and particular neighborhoods. Many attributes of those neighborhood environments matter for this activity, from the physical amenities, to the quality of the public and private services received. Second, those neighborhoods vary in their placement in the larger region and this broader arrangement of neighborhoods is particularly important for location choices, commuting behavior and travel patterns. Third, sorting across these neighborhoods by race and income may well matter for educational and labor market outcomes, important components of a region's overall economic activity. For each of these areas we suggest a series of unanswered questions that would benefit from more attention. Focused on neighborhood characteristics themselves, there are important gaps in our understanding of how neighborhoods change - the causes and the consequences. In terms of the overall pattern of neighborhoods and resulting commuting patterns, this connects directly to current concerns about environmental sustainability and there is much need for research relevant to policy makers. And in terms of segregation and sorting across neighborhoods, work is needed on better spatial measures. In addition, housing market causes and consequences for local economic activity are under researched. We expand on each of these, finishing with some suggestions on how newly available data, with improved spatial identifiers, may enable regional scientists to answer some of these research questions.

Welcome to the Neighborhood: What can Regional Science Contribute to the Study of Neighborhoods?

Welcome to the Neighborhood: What can Regional Science Contribute to the Study of Neighborhoods?
Journal of Regional Science

O'Regan, K. & Ellen, I.G.
01/13/2010

We argue in this paper that neighborhoods are highly relevant for the types of issues at the heart of regional science. First, residential and economic activity takes place in particular locations, and particular neighborhoods. Many attributes of those neighborhood environments matter for this activity, from the physical amenities, to the quality of the public and private services received. Second, those neighborhoods vary in their placement in the larger region and this broader arrangement of neighborhoods is particularly important for location choices, commuting behavior and travel patterns. Third, sorting across these neighborhoods by race and income may well matter for educational and labor market outcomes, important components of a region's overall economic activity. For each of these areas we suggest a series of unanswered questions that would benefit from more attention. Focused on neighborhood characteristics themselves, there are important gaps in our understanding of how neighborhoods change - the causes and the consequences. In terms of the overall pattern of neighborhoods and resulting commuting patterns, this connects directly to current concerns about environmental sustainability and there is much need for research relevant to policy makers. And in terms of segregation and sorting across neighborhoods, work is needed on better spatial measures. In addition, housing market causes and consequences for local economic activity are under researched. We expand on each of these, finishing with some suggestions on how newly available data, with improved spatial identifiers, may enable regional scientists to answer some of these research questions.

Age of Entry and the High School Performance of Immigrant Youth

Age of Entry and the High School Performance of Immigrant Youth
Journal of Urban Economics 67: 303-314

Stiefel, Leanna, Amy Ellen Schwartz, and Dylan Conger
01/01/2010

In 2005, immigrants exceeded 12% of the US population, with the highest concentrations in large metropolitan areas. While considerable research has focused on how immigrants affect local wages and housing prices, less research has asked how immigrants fare in US urban public schools. Previous studies find that foreign-born students outperform native-born students in their elementary and middle school years, but urban policymakers and practitioners continue to raise concerns about educational outcomes of immigrants arriving in their high school years.

The authors use data on a large cohort of New York City (NYC) public high school students to examine how the performance of students who immigrate during high school (teen immigrants) differs from that of students who immigrate during middle school (tween immigrants) or elementary school (child immigrants), relative to otherwise similar native-born students. Contrary to prior studies, their difference-in-difference estimates suggest that, ceteris paribus, teen immigrants do well compared to native-born migrants, and that the foreign-born advantage is relatively large among the teen (im)migrants. That said, their findings provide cause for concern about the performance of limited English proficient students, blacks and Hispanics and, importantly, teen migrants. In particular, switching school districts in the high school years - that is, student mobility across school districts - may be more detrimental than immigration per se. Results are robust to alternative specifications and cohorts, including a cohort of Miami students.

 

Crime and Urban Flight Revisited: The Effect of the 1990s Drop in Crime on Cities

Crime and Urban Flight Revisited: The Effect of the 1990s Drop in Crime on Cities
Journal of Urban Economics, 68 (3):247-259.

Ellen, I.G. & O'Regan, K.
01/01/2010

The ‘flight from blight' and related literatures on urban population changes and crime have primarily considered times of high or increasing crime rates. Perhaps the most cited recent work in this area, Cullen and Levitt (1999), does not extend through 1990s, a decade during which crime rates declined almost continuously, to levels that were lower than experienced in decades. This paper examines whether such declines contributed to city population growth and retention (abated flight). Through a series of population growth models that attempt to identify causality through several strategies (including instrumental variables) we find at best weak evidence that overall city growth is affected by changes in crime. We find no evidence that growth is differentially sensitive to reductions in crime, as compared to increases. Focusing more narrowly on within MSA migration, residential decisions that are more likely to be sensitive to local conditions, we do find evidence supporting abatement of ‘flight' - that is, lower levels of crime in central cities in the 1990s are associated with lower levels of migration to the suburbs. This greater ability to retain residents already in the city does not appear to be accompanied by a greater ability to attract new households from the suburbs, or from outside of the metropolitan area.

Do Public Schools Disadvantage Students Living in Public Housing?

Do Public Schools Disadvantage Students Living in Public Housing?
Urban Affairs Review, 46 (1):68-89.

Ellen, I.G., Schwartz, A.E., McCabe, B. & Chellman, C.
01/01/2010

In the United States, public housing developments are predominantly located in neighborhoods with low median incomes, high rates of poverty and disproportionately high concentrations of minorities. While research consistently shows that public housing developments are located in economically and socially disadvantaged neighborhoods, we know little about the characteristics of the schools serving students in these neighborhoods.

In this paper, the authors examine the characteristics of elementary and middle schools attended by students living in public housing developments in New York City. Using the proportion of public housing students attending each elementary and middle school as their weight, they calculate the weighted average of school characteristics to describe the typical school attended by students living in public housing. They then compare these characteristics to those of the typical school attended by other students throughout the city in an effort to assess whether public schools systematically disadvantage students in public housing in New York City. 

Their  results are decidedly mixed. On one hand, they find no large differences between the resources of the schools attended by students living in public housing and the schools attended by their peers living elsewhere in the city; on the other hand, they find significant differences in student characteristics and outcomes. The typical school attended by public housing students has higher poverty rates and lower average performance on standardized exams than the schools attended by others. These school differences, however, fail to fully explain the performance disparities: they find that students living in public housing score lower, on average, on standardized tests than their schoolmates living elsewhere -- even though they attend the same school. These results point to a need for more nuanced analyses of policies and practices in schools, as well as the outside-of-school factors that shape educational success, to identify and address the needs of students in public housing.

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