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Topics in Urban Design

Course Description

This course, titled “What the L?!” will engage the real-time urban design and transportation challenges connected to the closure of one of New York City’s subway lines. The L train operates between 8th Avenue (Manhattan) and Rockaway Parkway (Brooklyn) and currently serves over 300,000 riders each day. Beginning in April 2019, the tunnel between 8th Avenue and Bedford Avenue will be closed for reconstruction, causing significant transportation disruptions. Partial shutdowns along this inter-borough artery, in the form of suspended service during late nights and on weekends, have already begun to occur. 

The L train shutdown has been the subject of intensive study by the MTA and other agencies since saltwater from superstorm Sandy flooded the Canarsie Tunnel in 2012. In this urban design course, students will evaluate the system-wide studies performed by the MTA to mitigate delays, enhance existing travel options, and introduce alternative modes of transportation. Students will also analyze responses and critiques prepared by community boards, business associations, residents’ groups, academic research centers, and the popular press. Many professional and academic studies anticipate dramatic changes to transportation patterns throughout the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan during the L train shutdown. While most reports predict widespread inconvenience and problems for commuters, it is possible that “temporary” changes might also presage beneficial urban design opportunities for certain neighborhoods.

It is the goal of this urban topics course to engage as urban designers, spatial analysts, and advocates in this real-time urban design challenge. Students will be asked to focus on one or more areas of interest with the twin goals of identifying both expected and unanticipated challenges and opportunities.

1) buses, bus routes, traffic patterns, congestion 

2) bicycles, scooters, parking 

3) subways, distributed demand

4) pedestrians, grade crossings, disgorgement

5) ferries, ferry terminals

6) wayfinding, information interfaces

Course lectures and working sessions will include practitioners and researchers from these and other organizations: State of New York, Metropolitan Transportation Authority; City of New York, Department of Transportation; TransitCenter; NYU Rudin Center for Transportation and Policy Management.


URPL-GP 1620

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