Where would New York be without public transportation? New York’s transportation system moves more people and goods than anywhere in the world. Our subway system alone was built almost a century ago. However, as every New Yorker knows, buses and trains can be unreliable and inconsistent. Improving public transportation is an investment in New York’s future.
Although there is a to-do list, the city has already started some improvements. For bus service, the MTA launched the first rapid bus transit lines: Select Bus Service, which has been a tremendous success so far. The city’s bicycle network has almost doubled in the past few years, and safety is constantly improving. Traffic and delays lower productivity, and it costs the region more than $13 million per year. PlaNYC aims to smooth public transportation and improve the entire system for everyone.
Initiative 1: Improve and expand bus service throughout the city
Over 2.3 million New Yorkers ride the bus each week. Bus service, however, is often criticized for its slow speed and inconsistencies. To combat this, the MTA launched the first SBS route in the Bronx. (SBS routes use off-board fare collection, dedicated bus lanes, signal prioritization, and efficient stop spacing to speed a rider’s trip.) Since the launch in 2008, the Bx12 improved its service by 20% and total ridership increased by 10%. In 2010, these bus routes were added on 1st and 2nd Avenues. The city and the MTA will continue expanding this service, adding SBS routes on Nostrand Ave in Brooklyn and 34th Street in Manhattan, as well as Hyland Boulevard in Staten Island. Bus lanes are another easy way to improve service. After creating a bus land on the M34, service improved by 17% and ridership grew by 6%. Another feature to be implemented is signal prioritization, which recognizes when a bus is at or approaching a light. The city and MTA also hopes to provide real-time bus information for online, mobile, or on-street LCD displays. Bus Time is currently available for the B63 and is coming to 31 Staten Island bus routes.
Initiative 2: Improve and expand subway and commuter rail.
There are three Mega Projects currently underway that encompass the largest New York transportation expansion in 70 years. The Number 7 Line is being extended to Hudson yards and Manhattan’s west side. Phase 1 of the Second Ave Subway is also ongoing. The Q will run on the Second Ave Line between 63rd St and 96th St. This will alleviate the overcrowding of the Lexington Line, which carries more than 1.3 million riders per day, more than the Boston and Chicago systems together. It is on schedule to be completed by 2016. The other project underway will bring Long Island Rail Road service to Grand Central Terminal. This will reduce over crowding at Penn Station and make the East Side more available for thousands of commuters, meaning a shorter commute. As the advertisements say “that’s a lot of minutes.”
Initiative 3: Expand for-hire vehicle service throughout our neighborhoods.
The yellow NYC taxis is famous worldwide. Taxis and car services provide move more than 1.2 million people every day, and a survey has said that 66% of riders believed that taxes helped them live without a car. Taxis are a key part in keeping New York independent of personal vehicles. However, 94% of all taxi trips originate in Manhattan, while more than 80% of residents live in the outer boroughs. New York plans to expand ‘yellow-caliber’ taxi service to neighborhoods beyond lower and central Manhattan by licensing more cabs. The City is committed to keeping New York accessible.
Initiative 4: Promote car-sharing
Only 54% of New York City households own a car. The city is committed to keeping this percentage down, so there is less economic and environmental impact. The City is already the largest market for car-sharing (services like ZipCar) in the country. So far, in 2010 a pilot program was launched to replace 50 City-owned vehicles with ZipCars. More opportunities to for car-sharing will continue to be explored.
Initiative 5: Expand and improve ferry service
Between the 5 boroughs, Ferries carry over 90,000 people each day. Since Manhattan is an island, there are ample opportunities for expanded ferry service. A comprehensive Staten Island Ferry Study to improve service. There will also be a pilot ferry service along the East River. The route will service Queens West, Greenpoint, North and South Williamsburg and Fulton Ferry in Brooklyn, East 34th Street and Wall Street/Pier 11. The City will be evaluating recreational and commuter ferry use, as well as studying the necessities for bike space and connectivity with bus service.
Initiative 6: Make bicycling safer and more convenient
There have been a lot of improvements to New York City to make it more bicycle friendly. Protected bike lanes, for example, crash-related injuries drop by as much as 40%. In order to keep this up, and continue expanding the bike network, the City is looking into initiatives for bike parking, education, and implementation of a bike-sharing program. The goal is to double bicycle commuting from 2007 levels by 2012, and tripling it by 2017. Bike sharing has been a hit in other cities, such as London, Paris, and DC, and is a great candidate to increase bicycle use.
Initiative 7: Enhance pedestrian access and safety
In a pedestrian-heavy city, accidents are not uncommon. However, 2009 was the safest year on record; accidents were down 35% from 2001. To enhance pedestrian safety, countdown crosswalk signals have been installed at over 1,500 intersections, and garages will adopt new guidelines to ensure pedestrian safety around cars pulling out. The City has also implemented 32 Safe Routes to Schools projects. Safe Routes adds more safety patrols and reduces traffic speeds around school districts.
Initiative 8: Pilot technology and pricing-based mechanism to reduce traffic congestion
Cars in the city are a problem that needs to be carefully addressed. For one, there are physical limitations to the cities ability to hold cars. Studies have shown, however, that pricing strategies are the most efficient means of affecting change. ParkSmart is a parking program designed to encourage turnover of parking spaces by charging higher prices during peak hours. The City has also recently replaced over 11,500 parking meters with Muni-Meters, which allow debit and credit card payment options and free up sidewalk space.
Initiative 9: Modify parking regulations to balance the needs of neighborhoods
There is a saying: “If you build it they will come.” The worry with parking is that, in a dense city like New York, if parking space is built, more people will bring cars, which is not the goal at all. In fact, parking spaces in residential buildings were prohibited until 1938 in New York City. This is of course not viable now, but setting parking requirements involves balancing demands with the consequences. The City will complete a study of parking trends in Manhattan to identify how to revise parking regulations.
Initiative 10: Reduce truck congestion on city streets
A large part of the transportation system is moving freight to shops and businesses, and over 90% of these products are transported by truck. These deliveries are essential to the New York economy, but trucks on the street contribute tremendously to on-street congestions, which in turn delays deliveries. A recent pilot found that, by shifting deliveries to off-peak hours, trucks experience less congestion and dramatically increase their productivity. The City hopes to expand this program and also implement commercial paid parking at high-demand loading zones, which will encourage off-peak delivery.
Initiative 11: Improve freight movement
Trucks, while very necessary, are noisy and have a lot of dangerous emissions. So, the City is looking into methods to reduce truck delivery’s negative impact. One solution would be to shift more freight from trucks to rails and barges.
Initiative 12: Improve our gateways to the nation and the world
Cities depend on being accessible and interconnected with the rest of the world. New York City sits in the middle of the Northeast, one of the largest megalopolises in the US. This means there is tremendous potential for a high-speed passenger rail line. In addition, the three area airports that serve New York (La Guardia, JFK, and Newark Liberty) are extremely important, and delays ripple across the entire air network. Cargo is one of the largest problems at these airports. The City is conducting a comprehensive study, and working with the Federal Aviation Administration to improve all aspects of flight for New York.
Initiative 13: Seek funding to maintain and improve our mass transit network.
The MTA’s subway, bus, and regional rail services provide 8.5 million rides per day, yet fare box collection accounts for only 41% of the MTA’s budget. The City will continue to work with the MTA to continue service New York.
Initiative 14: Maintain and improve our roads and bridges
The City has been able to use $267.3 million in federal stimulus funding to fund stop-gap repairs to the road systems, but finding ongoing funding is still a challenge. Only 72% of New York roads are in a ‘good’ pavement condition, though only 4 of our bridges are rated below ‘fair’ conditions. The City is working with the State to speed the process of repairs, and navigate unnecessary paperwork.
Overall, there is much work to be done, but if New York does not invest in it’s transportation system now, the costs will be even more expensive in the future. The City is committed to maintaining a top-notch system to transport people and goods in and around the metropolitan area.