Closed Proposal

NYC Congestion

Summary

From October 21, 2015 to January 8, 2016, people affected by congestion in the NYC area could use this site to learn about and discuss the causes and possible solutions. The public discussion is being compiled and will be submitted to local and state officials and transportation advisory groups.

Congestion is hardly a new problem, but there’s been some new activity around finding answers. The Mayor and Uber reached a temporary truce that involves a study of the impact of Uber and other for-hire vehicles and advice from a new Technology Advisory Group of transportation policy, economics and other experts. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer held a large public hearing, where transit officials, commercial transportation providers, mass transit advocates, traffic engineers, and economists offered data and debated what the City and State should do. Council Member and City Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, speaking at NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy, released a set of proposals for making transportation safer and more efficient.

With all this attention on what the experts think, it's time to bring the people into the discussion. Share your experiences and on-the-ground knowledge. Help evaluate the various proposed solutions and add your own ideas--so that policymakers are also hearing the voice of the people who know first-hand about NYC congestion.

Discussion 6. How to Improve Area Transportation - 52

Select other topics

Subtopics

1|Subway: Modernization, renovation, extension - 10

The NYC subway is one of the most heavily used metro systems in the world, and ridership has been increasing. It has the most stations and tracks of any subway system world-wide. Unfortunately, it is also one of the oldest systems and has serious needs for maintenance and repairs, replacements, and modernization: more than 1/3 of mainline signals have past their 50-year useful life, and more than 1/4 are over 70 years old. (PDF p.5). Also, during times when ridership was down, more than 100 entrances/exits to existing stops were closed. Now, overcrowding and delays at some of the busiest stops could be improved if these additional entrances/exits were reopened. These needs in existing lines and stations are on top of projects to expand into new service areas.

The originally proposed $32 billion MTA 2015-2019 capital plan (PDF, p.16-17,66-67,136-37) included the following work:

  • install "tap and go" contact-less payment technology to speed fare collection
  • replacing old signal systems with automated CBTC technology that will allow more trains per hour; also station "countdown clocks" for incoming trains. CBTC technology is one way MTA hopes to reduce delays that have reached record levels.
  • replace 940 Division B cars, which are nearing the end of their useful life
  • bring 20 existing stations into SOGR, and do backlogged repairs at 150 more
  • structural work at Times Square and Grand Central-42d St. Stations; repair of structural defects in 11 tunnels; emergency exit rehabilitation
  • more ADA handicap accessibility work
  • electricity network repairs, track and switch repair/replacement, tunnel lighting
  • repairing and improving the Staten Island Railroad, including new power substations, customer info signs and track replacement.
  • continued expansion of Harlem/Bronx section of Second Avenue subway

The most controversial change in the recently revised $29 billion plan (PDF) is to substantially delay work on the East Harlem portion of the new 2d Ave. subway line. The 67% cut in the originally proposed budget surprised transit experts and critics, including Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez, point out that the decision disproportionately affects less affluent neighborhoods with serious public transit needs.

Some, including the Citizens Budget Commission, have criticized the MTA for not devoting relatively more resources to replacing and upgrading existing equipment and facilities (PDF), but obviously there is competing pressure to extend service into underserved areas. And delays in delivery of new cars have frustrated many transit officials and advocates, since old cars increase MTA maintenance costs and contribute to service delays.

The Move NY Fair Plan proposes to reduce subway crowding by funding more trains on the JZ,1,QN,G,L and C lines, as well as increasing frequency of trains (although the ability to do this depends, at least in part, on deploying the new CBTC technology, as well as reducing breakdowns through replacement of track and cars). It also proposes funding station and platform upgrades that allow faster, and more accessible, movement of commuters. (Transit Capacity PDF.)

What would you identify as the priorities for MTA? If you do use the subway, would you be willing to pay higher fares to get those improvements?

If you don't use the subway, why not? Are there improvements that would make subway use more attractive to you?

Did you know that beginning in July 2016, many NYC employers will have to offer employees the option of purchasing up to $130 of transit passes each month with pre-tax income? By not having to pay federal tax on this money, the average employee can save $400 a year--and many people will save even more. (Employers also save by not having to pay payroll taxes on this money).

Comments10

Commenting is now closed.

MTA should not raise fares so soon after the most recent increase, because this is putting an unfair burden on low-income New Yorkers who do not have many other transportation options. We should be incentivizing public transit usage, not making it less appealing. However, the reality is that we do need more revenue - and the Move NY plan is the most effective and beneficial way to get it. Keeping subway service regular and reliable - preventing breakdowns, reducing overcrowding, and maintaining frequent service - is crucial to the functioning of New York, and so signal replacements and track repair should be prioritized. If subway service gets worse, then cars will seem more appealing, and traffic and congestion will increase and more people take to the roads in their own cars, taxis, Ubers, etc.

We should look into the possibility of reduced fares on off-peak hours to encourage riders to avoid rush hours and congestion.

Michael, Move NY would extend City Ticket to seven days a week on Metro North and LIRR and reduce fares to $6 peak/$4 off-peak and Express Buses to $5 to help reduce the congestion (and high prices) of alternatives to the subway system during rush hours and off-peak hours.

Reopening the Gimbels passageway connecting the 7th Avenue line to the Herald Square complex should be a top priority. The streets connecting Penn Station to Herald Square are all choked with pedestrian traffic. Even if the passageway is outside fare control, it will still eliminate the climb from the Herald Square complex to street level and the descent back underground at Penn Station. That will cut congestion and provide a pathway that is protected from the weather to get all the way from 6th to 8th Avenue. Vornado was going to finance the passageway's rehabilitation as part of its plan to replace the Hotel Pennsylvania, which has never moved forward. I hope that whatever form the redevelopment of the hotel lot takes, that it still includes the passageway. With the number of people constantly coming through the area, there is no excuse for not getting this done.

MTA mass transit should be free. Funds to improve the system should come from tolls.

NYC should not have a 1950s era transit system. This is a diaster waiting to happen.

The SAS phase 2 should include a provision for eventual continued expansion into the Bronx even if initially routed towards Lexington/East 125th. Service along Third Ave in the Bronx is going to be necessary sooner than later considering the continued reconstruction of the surrounding communities.CBTC is one of the most important upgrades however. Higher train frequencies with less delays and eventual automation at potentially faster speeds.

in 1962 most of the rockaway beach line of the LIRR except for the last 3 1/2 miles was converted to the subway system. With a less than 1/4 mile extension the entire RBL could have been connected to the Queens Blvd subway. Instead the last 3 1/2 miles was lopped off and the tracks were diverted to connect with the A line where it then ended at Euclid Avenue. What could have been a 40 minute commute from rockaway to Manhattan through Queens became an hour and 15 minute travail through

my comment cut off. Route was diverted through Bedford Styveston. The last 3 1/2 miles lies unused between rockaway blvd on the A line to less than a quarter mile short of the Queens Blvd subway. The Q53 bus parallels this route on congested Woodhaven Blvd yet takes 50 minutes from rockaway to Queens blvd when the entire trip from rockaway to Bloomingdales would be less than 40 minutes if the city owned right of way of the gerrymandered RBL were restored.

Thanks for your comment, imacamera. You’re right: the Rockaway Beach Line closed in the late 60s, and right now, there are no plans to reopen it—although there has been public support for the idea, which you can read about here and here. Some have suggested that the city transform the line into a park, like the High Line in Manhattan.

You mentioned that if the city owned the right of way, the RBL could be extended. Just as a note, the city still owns the right of way, which is managed by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the Parks Department. Assuming you’re a Queens resident, have you heard support for reopening the RBL?

One thing that could be done to improve the terrible IND Queens service (E,F,M,R) and which would cost very little would be to revert back to the days when the E and F went through the 53rd Street tunnel. Because the F now travels through the 63rd Street tunnel and the M goes through 53rd Street this requires the F to switch tracks before Queens Plaza westbound for the 63rd Street tunnel and for the M to switch onto the tracks for the 53rd Street tunnel at Queens Plaza. These track switches, east and westbound, cause delays all the time with the E delayed at Queens Plaza waiting for the M to switch in front of it or the M waiting for the E to clear the track. Westbound the F must slow down significantly in order to switch to the 63rd Street tunnel and eastbound the E or F is delayed when they both meet at the same time and compete for the eastbound express track east of Queens Plaza. If they would just revert to the F going to 53rd and the M going to 63rd these switch caused delays could be totally averted. I've seen this recommended on other transit sites and I think it would help improve service on these lines a lot.

2|Bus: More express bus and Select Bus service; lower fares - 11

More enhanced bus service. NYC has several varieties of public-transit bus service, including local, limited stop, SBS and express. The major bus-system item in MTA's proposed capital plan is purchase of more than 1800 new buses and almost 1000 paratransit vehicles. (PDF p.18-19) Congestion-reducing proposed tend to focus on SBS and express bus service.

Select Bus Service (SBS) is how NYC has been implementing "bus rapid transit" (BRT). (See Topic 6.6 for proposals to use more ambitious types of BRT to deal with "transportation deserts.") For SBS routes, loading is like the subway--fares must be purchased in advance and passengers can enter through all doors. This itself is supposed to improve travel time by 15-20 minutes. Typically, these routes run on dedicated, red-colored travel lanes and make fewer stops--although some routes and parts of routes share lanes with other traffic. Priority traffic signaling technology helps speed buses through intersections. New routes have occasionally been controversial because of street uses displaced by dedicated bus lanes (e.g., parking) and concerns that displaced car and truck traffic will divert to side streets. Express bus service is generally geared towards peak-hour commuters from the outer boroughs and neighboring suburbs that lack rail or subway services to and from Manhattan. Express buses use dedicated bus lanes where available and make fewer stops.

Mayor DeBlasio and NYC-DOT are aiming for 20 SBS lines by 2017. The Move NY Fair Plan emphasizes funding more express bus and SBS service. (PDF p.24 and Borough Fact Sheets.) Specific proposed locations include: Woodhaven, Woodside, Jamaica-Flushing; Utica Avenue and along the Southern Brooklyn East-West corridor; North Shore and West Shore (or, alternatively, new light rail service); and completion of the Express Bus/HOV lane on the Staten Island Expressway. The Plan also proposes to restore more of the service cuts made in 2010, when the failure to deal proactively with transportation funding resulted in major loss of bus service.

According to NYC-DOT, the average running speed for a bus south of 96th Street declined by 5% in 2014. Unlike subway ridership, which has been increasing, bus ridership has been dropping, and some people think that declining trip speed is to blame. Running speeds could improve from other proposed transportation investments including: road condition improvements (see Subtopic 6.5 - Roads & bridges), investment in adaptive signaling technology that detects traffic volume and adjust signals to speed heavy flows, and Vehicle to Vehicle and Vehicle to Infrastructure that exchanges information between vehicles (to avoid crashes) and with signals (for adaptive signaling). For example, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that poor traffic signal timing accounts for 5%-10% of traffic delay.

Some people argue that declining bus ridership, even on some of the SBS routes, argues against further investment in dedicated bus lanes and signaling technology. What's needed instead, they propose, is overhauling bus routes, rebuilding the Beach line, and changing traffic laws to require drivers to yield the right of way to buses leaving a bus stop.

Lower fares. The Move NY Plan proposes to fund reducing express bus fares from $6.50 to $5.50.

Did you know that beginning in July 2016, many NYC employers will have to offer employees the option of purchasing up to $130 of transit passes each month with pre-tax income? By not having to pay federal tax on this money, the average employee can save $400 a year--and many people will save even more. (Employers also save by not having to pay payroll taxes on this money).

Other. The Move NY Plan proposes to fund subsidizing county bus systems to provide more service and increase transit options in Nassau, Westchester, Suffolk and Rockland Counties. (Suburban Fact Sheets PDF.)

Are you one of the riders who has cut back on, or abandoned, taking the bus? If so, why and what are you doing instead? What would bring you back?

Do you think it's a smart anti-congestion strategy to continue to expand SBS service while also taking other measures to increase running speed?

Comments11

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I almost never take the bus because it doing so is so painfully slow. (I recently had to use a wheelchair for a month, which forced me out of the subway and onto the bus, and, while the bus drivers were unfailingly helpful, patient, and polite, the experience was otherwise a nightmare.) I do sometimes take the bus to go cross-town, and I live right near a cross-town line that recently became SBS. This is a HUGE and welcome improvement and I would strongly support expansion to as many lines as possible. It makes an enormous difference, since it solves three problems: (a) people getting on having to wait for people to exist through the front door, (b) having only one door to enter through, and (c) having to pay onboard, one at a time. Things would be faster yet if the buses had wider doors, but the buses are what they are.

That said, I would never take SBS instead of the subway.

Merich, thank you for your comment​ ​​explaining your support for expanded SBS service. So you use SBS only when subway service isn't available to you; if expanded​ ​SBS service​ ​were to be​ ​an option, do you support it primarily because of the improved rider experience or do you think it can have an impact on congestion as well?

That's a good question. I am enthusiastic about SBS primarily because it offers a significantly improved rider experience. My guess is that it makes a contribution to reducing congestion because (a) SBS buses spend less time sitting still at bus stops, which clogs traffic a bit and (b) the improved service will draw some additional riders. But (a) is minor because for the most part buses at stops are not in traffic lanes and they still have to pull out into traffic. I suspect (b) is also pretty minor because the increase will be small and some (most? almost all?) of those new riders will be drawn from the subway or from walking or from just staying at home, not from other modes of surface transportation.

FWIW, I feel similarly about a lot of the bicycling improvements, including Citibike. That is, I am enthusiastically supportive, because they are valuable amenities. I ride more as a result. But I am riding instead of walking or taking the subway, and therefore my getting on a bicycle is doing nothing to reduce congestion. Maybe the occasional bicyclist would otherwise be taking a cab; it is surely extraordinarily rare for a NYC driver to leave the car at home and ride a bike.

Select Bus Service is so much less expensive to implement than digging a new subway line! As we've seen on Fordham Road in the Bronx, SBS can link up multiple subway and commuter rail lines that are otherwise unconnected the the borough. And I'd love to see SBS in places under-served by the subway system, where personal car ownership is higher, because then residents would have an alternative to expensive and congestion-causing cars. It But bus routes don't need to be converted to SBS in order to improve. Something as simple as designating more dedicated bus lanes can speed up service. This is a relatively inexpensive but useful intervention.

Almost every other metropolitan city I've either lived in, or visited, has done buses better than NYC. I don't take the bus now, but I would if it was better. I lived in London for a few years and was an avid bus rider (in lieu of the tube). Their local bus system was great, in my opinion, and NYC can learn something from them.

I think SBS is definitely a worthwhile investment and think NYC should keep pursuing it.

Thank you for your comment, Zannaw3. Given your experience in other metropolitan cities like London, could you clarify what attributes made their local bus systems better than NYC's general bus system? In your opinion, how can SBS address NYC's deficiencies?

From my experience there a number of buses that are painfully slow, especially in the Manhattan CBD. Of particular note are the M14 buses, which often times is painfully slow and crowded. While SBS service would benefit a number of routes listed under the city's plan, a much better plan would be if we could just apply SBS features to all bus routes in the city, especially bus routes running through the Manhattan CBD and CBDs in the other boroughs (like Flushing, Downtown Brooklyn, and Jamaica). That way way more people would benefit as opposed to a select few who use bus routes identified as potential SBS routes.

I think we need to promote bus lanes for all cross town buses in Manhattan and we should make crosstown buses in the CBD free. I think getting crosstown is a major driver for taxi and uber trips which add to conjestion on the streets. Free and fast crosstown services would compete.

i would also add that should a day come when our subways are so congested it not tolerable (almost there in my opinion) we should make all buses in the CBD free, ideally displacing some short distance subway riders onto buses.

My bus riding has increased significantly increase because of the available bus app. This allows me to better manager catching the bus as it arrived.

Bus availability should be increase. Available date should be analyized to create better routes.

Major roads should be dedicated to SBS. In particular for areas that have limited transit services.

SBS requires more BRT implimentations where applicable (e.g. physically seperated lanes and elevated platforms). Additionally, the city requires significantly more SBS.

In the Bronx, several corridors should recieve the treatment. It can take over an hour to get cross town in the Bronx (e.g. Castle Hill to Morris Heights) via bus which increases the desirability of driving and congestion while reducing safety and adding pollution.I'll use myself as an example. I live in a section of the Bronx (Soundview) which is a 15-20 minute walk from the nearest subway station (St Lawrance Ave/6). I used to take the bus (BX 5) to the express Hunts Point Ave/6 subway station but it has become so crowded and slow that it has become uncompetitive to walking to the closer local (St Lawrance Ave/6). Two of the most necessary additions to this bus line in particular are off board payment and elevated platforms for those with limited physical mobility. Limiting bus stops would also make a huge difference as some are located within close proximity of one another. Waiting at bus stops takes an enormous amount of time. A huge traffic bottleneck currently is the Bruckner Expressway's Bronx River drawbridge which should be widened along the service road to include bus only lanes and adaquate seperated pedestrian/bicycle space. Opting to bike has reduced my commute time to the nearest station (St Lawrance/6 to less than 5 minutes or the preferable express station (Hunts Point/6) down the line to 10. A substantial improvemnt but this may not be an ideal situation for all. Also, poor weather (precipitation, especially snow) also makes this mode more unreliable in the winter.

Buses should always get priority.

The proposed SBS project for Woodhaven Blvd in Queens doesn't make any sense at face value as it slows down 60,000+ motorists a day to marginally speed up the commute of 30,000 bus riders. On face value this is a nonsensical tradeoff and a waste of tax payer money. And aslower net commute is bad for the City, the economy and it's residents.

Let's speed up everyone's commute on Woodhaven by installing intelligent traffic control devices that will keep buses and cars moving efficiently.

3|Commuter rail: More capacity; lower fares - 9

MNR Penn Station Access. This project would open a new Metro North Railroad (MNR) directly into Penn Station once space has been freed up by the Long Island Rail Road's (LIRR) adding connection to Grand Central station. (This East Side Access project was scheduled for completion in 2018-19, see Proposed Capital Plan PDF p. 129-35, but the date has been pushed back to 2023). Most of the new spur would using existing track owned by Amtrak (Penn Station Access PDF). This should substantially reduce travel time between the West Side and MNR's East-of-Hudson area, and provide a new, no-transfer route from New Haven Line communities to the West Side.

Four new intermediate stations would be added in the Bronx (Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point), which will provide a one-seat ride between East Bronx and the West Side, and bring direct commuter rail to communities now undeserved by public transit. Two other new stations will be on the West Side. MTA expects to finish environmental and federal reviews in 2017 (Metro-North Penn Access PDF). Estimated cost is $1 billion (although a 2008 state report put the price closer to $1.8 billion); Governor Cuomo has guaranteed $250 million from the State, and the rest is supposed to come from the federal government. There's been some opposition from Long Island officials concerned that even with the additional Grand Central access, the LIRR needs all existing Penn Station facilities. Others strongly disagree that Long Island commuters would be hurt. The environmental review will include a study of future rail operations in Penn Station. (Presentations to various community groups can be found here; MTA Capital Program, PDF p. 138)

The originally proposed MTA Capital Plan included repairing and replacing track and cars on the MNR, upgrading communication and signal systems, and renewing Grand Central terminal and stations on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines. (MTA Capital Program, PDF p.22-23, 94-111).

LIRR double track. This project will lay a second track on 18 miles of the LIRR's Ronkonkoma Branch. Construction began in August and is expected to be completed in 2018. Also in the original proposed MTA capital plan was money for new LIRR platforms at Babylon, Nostrand Ave. and Hunterspoint Ave., and new signal and communications technology, and Automatic Speed Control (PDF p. 20-21,70-91).

Fares. Commuter rail lines tend to be expensive--much more expensive than the subway where the alternative exists. (E.g., a trip from Jamaica in Queens to Penn Station in Manhattan, for example, costs $10 on the Long Island Rail Road for a 19-minute trip versus just $2.75 on the Subway for a 35-minute trip). The current fare structure gives people discounts for taking slower (and more crowded) services, and some commenters argue that NYC should follow the lead of cities like Paris and turn the monthly pass into a regional ticket that would allow passholders to also ride the LIRR and MNR. Other commenters argue that fare subsidies will be especially important to making the Penn Station Access investment work. (Unlike the LIRR, whose ridership has doubled in the last 25 years (PDF), the MNR has struggled for ridership because fares are pricey for working class commuters and the subway is much cheaper.)

Of course, the trade-off with lower fares is less revenue--unless expanded rider volume makes up the difference. Earlier this year, the Citizens Budget Commission argued that capping the number of trips on the now unlimited 7-day and monthly passes would be a fairer way to raise revenue than continued fare increases.

The Move Fair NY Plan proposes to extend the "City Ticket" discounts for LIRR and MNR travel within city limits to seven days a week. The City Ticket now works only on weekends. The Plan would fund subsidies to price the fare at $6.00 peak and $4.00 off peak (PDF p.24) The Plan also proposes increasing ridership by investing in "last mile strategies"--transit-oriented development and increased parking capacity--at select MNR and LIRR stations (PDF p.24). Some City Council members are pushing a Resolution calling on MTA to set commuter rail fares within NYC limits at the same price as a Metro-Card subway or bus ride, and to allow free transfers between commuter rail and NYC transit subways and buses.

If you commute from areas served by commuter rail, do you use the LIRR or MNR? If not, what do you use instead? What, if anything, would likely make you switch to commuter rail commuting?

What do you think about the proposed fare ideas? Do you support the regional ticket, capping the number of trips on the unlimited 7-day and monthly passes, or extending the City Ticket? Do you have other suggestions?

Did you know that beginning in July 2016, many NYC employers will have to offer employees the option of purchasing up to $130 of transit passes each month with pre-tax income? By not having to pay federal tax on this money, the average employee can save $400 a year--and many people will save even more. (Employers also save by not having to pay payroll taxes on this money).

Comments9

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Although I'm lucky enough to live close to work in a long island exurb, I go to the CBD about 4 times a week. And I usually end up driving due to slow and expensive public transit.

It takes me 55-100min to drive to midtown depending on traffic (I typically drive in in the evening). I would love to take the LIRR, but it usually doesn't make sense;

I drive a moderately fuel efficient car, and end up using about 3 gallons of gas roundtrip, or about $7. I take the tolled midtwon tunnel, and (with ezpass) pay another $11 in tolls. Parking is free and plentiful in the evenings. Coming back home there is almost never any traffic, so it takes a reliable 50min. So total is $18 and 105-150min.

If I take the LIRR, the ticket cost (off-peak) is $11 each way. the train takes 63min. Time to drive to the station is 10min, and you need to get to the station at least 5 min early to make sure you catch the train. So $22 and 156 min. The train also only comes once an hour (but that's just a minor added difficulty).

Driving wins, and that's with taking a toll bridge (you can take a free one if traffic is light), and driving alone. Once you have a passenger, car costs almost drop in half, while train costs double.

Until the train is cheaper or faster, why wouldn't I drive?

Thank you for sharing the story of your commute, Exubrider—it sounds like you would not switch unless the train is cheaper or at least, faster and worth the cost. The MoveNY plan considers, on page 3, using some money in the MTA budget for the LIRR. Would that, if it came to be, be a factor in your decision to drive or not?

Abosutely, switching to the train is worth it if it's faster, or cheaper, but doesn't seem to be worth it if it's neither of those things. I looked at page 3 of the MoveNY plan (which I support, by the way), however, it only mentions extending cityTicket to weekdays; which doesn't help if you live outside the 5 boros. There is some hope with the east side access project, which should allow an increase in train frequency someday, but as I understand it, train speeds would be unaffected.

The LIRR/metrocard fares will only increase over time, so it's hard to see the sitation improving in the short to medium term.

In regard to commuter rail, not many people seem to know that monthly passes for city residents on MNR and LIRR average out to about $5 a ride already (depending on how often you use it) what really seems to be the down side for many potential riders would be the need to buy a metro card as well to get to there final destination. I wonder if a more viable first step in this issue ,would be to get city residents a free subway transfer with the current rates of a monthly commuter rail ticket.

Seperate to this issue, I also wonder about LIRR and MNR planned investment for double deckers trains. Seems like an easy way for them to increase capacity. I did hear that there is an issue with MNR using double deckers for the tunnel approaching grand central, but I also heard that orders for new single level trains have already been placed for both LIRR and MNR.

I forgot to add that there seems to be little said about the Penn Access for the Hudson line of MNR. I would imagine this expansion would directly effect the number of cars streaming into the city down the Saw Mill and onto the Henry Hudson.

Welcome to the discussion, MR. How do you feel about the proposed changes (pg. 24) to the City Ticket fare, which would extend discounts and reduce fares? The fare would work 7 days a week (instead of the current 2 days for weekends). Would this be a viable alternative to the “free subway” transfer that you suggested?

In my opinion if we are talking about getting daily commuters out of their cars or to have a more expeditious commute on the LIRR or MNR, the city ticket doesn't do much price wise, given that a monthly ticket within NYC is already around $5 per ride, usually less than $220 a month. The detriment to getting more people to ride the train seems to be the fact that if you don't work in the vicinity of the Penn or GC you need to fork over another $120 for the monthly subway ticket. A total of $340 a month easily pushes some people to drive and others to suffer long subway rides to save money. The proposed city ticket only seems to help in maybe getting the occasional commuters to ride the train since they don't t want to buy a monthly. I think a free transfer to the subway for at least city residents, would have big effect on getting more people on the train.

NYC transit should be free.

What would bring far more riders onto commuter rail lines is a free continuation of their trip onto the subway. It's not so much the cost of a monthly ticket that discourages people from using the LIRR as it is the fact that many need to pay for a monthly Metrocard as well. Of course if this was actually done LIRR stations in places like Jamaica, Kew Gardens, and Forest Hills would be overrun with new customers seeking to avoid the delay plagued terrible service on the IND lines (E,F,M,R). But it's just this lack of free transfer that puts me in my car every day to get to my office in Sheepshead Bay from Kew Gardens. I can take an LIRR train from Kew Gardens to Jamaica, then from Jamaica to Atlantic Avenue, then switch to the B train there. (The subway ride by itself from KG to BK is far too long to be considered). But to do this I'd have to buy two monthly tickets (Metrocard and LIRR) and the cost of that is what keeps me in my car - far too expensive.

So while lowering the price of city tickets and making them 7 days a week will be nice for occasional commuters and day-trippers it will do nothing for regular 5 day a week commuters who will still drive like me or take the subway.

4|Ferries: A new network of commuter service - 5

In his 2015 State of the City Address, Mayor DeBlasio announced plans to institute a network of ferry service to Astoria, southern Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, and Soundview in The Bronx and to restore service to Rockaway Beach. The cost is estimated at $55 million, with the new 5-line network opening in mid-2017 and completed in 2018. Further expansion to Coney Island and Stapleton might come, depending on getting funding. Fares for the new ferry service will be the same as subway fares.

The goal is to provide service to areas that don't have efficient public-transit commuting options, but the decision has been controversial among transportation policy experts. Unless ridership volume is high, ferries are costly for the City to subsidize. (See a comparison of subsidy costs for different types of NYC public transit here.) The Rockaway service was stopped in 2014 because it was costing the City $30 per passenger per trip. (By contrast, the subsidy for the Staten Island ferry is $4.86.) The hope is that a network of service with frequent runs will attract riders--and that more profitable routes will offset some of the costs of the longer or less popular routes. The City estimates subsidies for the new network to cost $10-$20 million annually, with a ridership of 4.6 million.

Proposed transit improvements in the Move Fair NY Plan include developing the ferry network. (PDF p.24)

Some people have argued that the City would do better to invest the money in other transit modes, like more express buses in these areas. Since transportation dollars are scarce, are ferries the best way to go, despite the cost?

If you commute from one of the areas where new ferry service is proposed, how do you get to work now? Would you use the new ferry service instead? Year-round?

Comments5

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Ferry service should not be subsidized. This money would be better spend providing SBS type service for areas with limited access to transit.

Ferry service has been proven to be reliable, under-utilized and a much safer option in public transportation. SBS type service only ADDS to the volume of traffic on the road, on top of the required adjustments to lanes, signs, parking, etc. SBS will not be beneficial, especially on Woodhaven Blvd. Most vehicles are local traffic or commerical trucks. SBS cannot improve on that. Ferry service is certainly worth the investment by the city. It will help to fill jobs along the paths of service, create an employment channel for those in the transportation deserts it will serve, and, God forbid, there's a loss of power or an emergency, ferries have become part of the first responder systems (passively) to come to the aid of our fellow residents. We can't forget the downed plane in the Hudson, nor 9/11; both times when commuter ferries came to the aid of our citizens. Federal monies subsidize the Staten Island Ferry. Communter ferries from the transportation desert should be given the same opportunity.

Thanks, medmalnursing. It’s worth considering two things. First, some have argued that ferries are expensive unless a lot of people ride them, and that subsidizing ferries could cost the city a lot without benefiting many people. Second, Queens lacks transit options. Do you think some of the local traffic would decrease if people driving cars had SBS service to rely on?

No I don't. There are studies out there that show the drivers on the proposed SBS on Woodhaven Blvd. in Queens consists of less than 5% of commuters.

I do believe the idea of ferry service for commuting will increase over time, given the increase in stops and expansion in hours of service. It's new. It's a new concept for non-Staten Islanders. It will also attract more residents to live in isolated areas where transportation deserts exists. What was learned in Rockaway will be built upon going forward.

By the way, when the Rockaway ferry was up and running, I used it regularly to get back and forth to Manhattan, about an hour each way. Now it takes me 2 hours or better from 11692 to 10018. It's a no-brainer. Plus, it will open economic opportunities for the Rockaways.

5|Roads & bridges: Repair, restoration, modernization - 8

Like the subways, roads and bridges in the NYC area get extremely heavy use, have been in service a long time, and are in need of repair, replacement, and modernization. According to Federal Highway Administration 2014 data, 12% of highway bridges in NY State are "structurally deficient" and 27% are "functionally obsolete" (State Bridge Profile, PDF). More than half of NYS-DOT highway lanes in the City are in fair or poor condition (Caution Ahead, PDF p.15), as are 30% of NYC's roads: Manhattan 43%, Staten Island 40%, Bronx 34%, Queens 31% and Brooklyn 28% (PDF p.5). The longer the pavement goes without rehabilitation, the faster it begins to deteriorate and the more costly it becomes to fix. One former MTA official says that city streets may be in the worst shape of any part of the City's transportation system—"and that says a lot. While a lot of resurfacing our streets has been done, they need to be fully reconstructed on a much wider scale, rather than just having asphalt poured on top as a patch. The resurfacing program is helpful, but it is basically an overused Band-Aid...”(PDF p.5).

NYC-DOT has a long list of road and bridge repair and replacement projects, which you can see here. NYS-DOT's list of highway and bridge projects can be found here (select desired region).

The MTA's proposed capital plan allocated $3.06 billion of its $32 billion total to repairs and rehabilitation of its 7 bridges and 2 tunnels; work on the Throgs Neck bridge would allow addition of a 7th lane. Other proposed work included new toll collection equipment and intelligent transportation management systems (PDF p.24-25,146-53).

The Move NY Fair Plan proposes to use $362 million of new revenue each year on road and bridge repair and upgrading (PDF p.23). This is on top of money for operation and maintenance of the 4 newly-tolled East River Bridges. This includes not only repair existing potholes but also sealing roads to prevent new ones, and preventative bridge maintenance (coating and lubricating components) so that spans last longer.

Do you agree with the former MTA official that the city streets may be in the worst shape of any part of the City’s transportation system? Why or why not?

What do you think of the MTA’s proposed capital plan and the Move NY Fair Plan proposals to improve roads and bridges?

Comments8

Commenting is now closed.

Traffic speeds (and congestion) are unlikely to improve significantly without major changes to arterial road design.
There are currently no streets in Manhattan that fit the standards of a “Complete Street” with designated spaces for all road users and proven safety improvements. Contrary to popular belief, bike lanes do not worsen congestion - we actually have evidence that they can speed up traffic, because with dedicated bike lanes, everybody is in their proper place and there's no conflict about who gets which spot on the road. Plus, safety is improved when bikes and cars aren't swerving around each other - and that's what we need in order to achieve Vision Zero. Along with bike lanes, a complete street has dedicated bus lanes, pedestrian islands, benches, wayfinding amenities, green features like bioswales, retimed signals that prevent streets from becoming speedways, and more. Of course, these things cost a lot of money. But if Move NY is implemented, some of the revenue could potentially be reserved for complete streets. Everybody can use a complete street - drivers, cyclists, transit users, and pedestrians of all ages and physical abilities. They need to be a priority.

I think a great way to spend some of the Move NY proceeds on the road network would be to retrofit the parkways to accommodate bus and truck traffic. The first priority should be the Belt Parkway which links Staten Island and JFK airport. It is not right that trucks be forced to use neighborhood streets based on a notion that limited-access highways be reserved for the aesthetic enjoyment of car drivers. Foremost, the limited-access road corridors need to be used to move regional traffic of all types in the most efficient manner possible. Once that is taken care of, then we can focus on the aesthetics.

You seem very knowledgeable about this issue, Robert Hale, so thank you very much for your comments. Perhaps you'd like to comment on the Move NY Fair Plan. We'd also encourage you to reply to the comments of other participants.

We really need to set a standard on our freeways and highways such as introducing "Keep Right Pass Left" like in other states. We do it for it bikes but not for cars. Imagine a two lane road and both cars driving next to each other within the same speed limit and the person on the left not moving over. The amount of congestion created by that one person is incredible.

Thank you, Autobahn, for noting the "Keep Right Pass Left" option for highway travel. What do you think about current proposals & projects underway to better transportation within the City?

DOT is stil installing the same old dumb traffic lights that were invented over 100 years ago. Why? We are wasting time and fuel, adding polution to our environment and causing an unsafe situation by making people stop unnecessarily.

Why do we allow this situation to continue when the techology exists to reduce the wasted time and fuel, clean up the envirnment and provide safer intersections.

The only question is whether this is a result of ineptitude or a conscious effort to drive us nuts.

Hi rickhoran, Welcome to the discussion and thanks for all the comments. We thought you might be interested in NYC DOT's page on traffic signals and their sustainable street lighting program. It looks like these programs won't address all the 12,000+ traffic lights NYC DOT is responsible for right away. Do you think it shoud be a budget priority to replace older traffic lights with new technology?

Just because the Move NY FAIR Plan has the word Fair in it doesn't make it so.

Instead, let's have motorists pay for the roads and bridges and mass transit the subways, buses and ferries.

That sounds more fair to me.

6|Dealing with Transportation Deserts: Full-featured BRT? Light rail? - 9

Both City Council and the NYC-DOT have recently focused on "transportation deserts" (also called "transit deserts"). These are areas having a large number of people with limited automobile access, who depend on public transit but have few good transit options. This could mean either that public transit isn't conveniently available at all, or that it involves long commutes and/or many transfers.

In NYC, transportation deserts disproportionately affect lower-income residents: two-thirds of people who commute more than an hour each way to work earn less than $35,000 a year. (PDF, p.1). These areas--including Southeast Queens, the Rockaways, the North Bronx, and the South Shore of Staten Island -- are unlikely candidates for subway expansion, so officials and private groups have focused on what is called "full-featured" BRT and light rail.

Full-featured BRT has all the features of SBS (see Topic 6.2) plus more: larger buses with more capacity (many cities use long accordion buses for BRT); exclusive bus lanes that use a median to separate other traffic; and actual stations for passengers to wait until boarding, with real-time information about bus arrivals. (PDF p.12-15) Longer blocks and more available street space in the outer boroughs makes them better candidates for implementing full BRT, while cost and implementation time are far less than alternatives like subway extension. Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens will be the City's first full-featured BRT. a 2013 study by the Pratt Center for Community Developed proposes 7 additional BRT routes that would link underserved neighborhoods and major employment centers such as the airports, Hunts Point and the East Bronx hospital cluster. (PDF, p. 19).

Light rail is the other proposed solution for transit deserts. Recently, City Council Transportation Committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez held a hearing that included discussion of a proposed bill to require NYC-DOT to study the feasibility of light rail. A light rail system would have much greater initial costs than BRT, but can be cheaper to operate in the long run. Vision 42, a citizens initiative sponsored by the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, has proposed building a light-rail system on 42d St., river to river, as part of converting that street to a pedestrian, auto-free boulevard. This Midtown Manhattan proposal obviously doesn't address transportation deserts, but proponents say the 42d St. project could be the prototype for a light-rail system in other areas of the City. The Staten Island Economic Development Corp. has launched a petition drive for a West Shore light rail line, and discussion of a Brooklyn-Queens waterfront line continues.

The Move NY Fair Plan proposes to use new revenues from the toll swap (see Topic 4) to fund BRT service (or possibly light rail service) in several locations including Woodhaven, Woodside, Jamaica-Flushing; Utica Avenue and along the Southern Brooklyn East-West corridor; North Shore and West Shore. (PDF p.24 and Borough Fact Sheets.)

If you commute from one of the City's transportation deserts, how to you get to work now? How long does it take?

What kinds of things should transportation officials consider in deciding whether BRT or light-rail (or something else?) is the best solution for NYC's various transportation deserts?

Comments9

Commenting is now closed.

While BRT could be good options for transit deserts, I should point out that several subway routes have provisions built in to allow for expanded service to these areas, like the unused platforms at the Utica Avenue A/C stop for a Utica Avenue Subway, the tunnel stub ends on the E line in Jamaica that could allow for subway service along the LIRR Atlantic Branch, or the disused portions of the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch. If we use these we could connect transit deserts to the rest of the city.

Thanks for your comment, Liam Jeffries. You note that several subway routes have provisions built in to allow for expanded service to areas with few transit options. However, the MTA's current budget shortfall may be preventing the agency from doing so. Check out the discussion on Topic 5 (Money Problems) for more information.

SBS and BRT systems should be investiagated and piloted in remote areas now.

Entire roads should be dedicated to SBS/BRT, intoducing transit could revitaize areas with limited transit access.

As I mentioned under the bus tab, I live along the edge of a transportation desert (Soundview). The nearest subway station is currently 15-20 minute walk for me (1 mile) (male, late 20s). This includes an at-grade highway which requires me to utilize a pedestrian bridge and NYCHA superblocks.Subway expansion along Lafayette Avenue from points southwest would be most ideal (this is a very dense location, more so than most transit deserts). However, in the short term, SBS features should be added to local buses. Off board payment in particular would make a significant difference. Elevated platforms could improve boarding speed for those with limited physical mobility (common in this area). Less stops would improve travel times to the nearest subway station, espacially along the BX 5. The Bruckner Expressway drawbridge at the Bronx River needs a widening along the service road to add bus only lanes and appropriate bicycle/pedestrian space. This is a huge bottleneck for buses and accouts for a long period of idle time.The BX 5 should also connect to the BX 6 to offer cross-service across the entirety of the southern 1/4th of the Bronx, IMO.

Additionally, the BX 39 and 36 deal with heavy traffic along White Plains Road south of the Bruckner Expressway and would benefit from queue jumps. Also, just south of Westchester Ave traffic tends to get backed up. The BX 39 and BX 27 in particular are vital for Clason Point, a neighborhood where some points are 2 miles from the nearest rapid transit station. The BX 27 suffers from heavy usage, it is not articulated. A ferry is proposed for Clason Point but ridership depends on commute times to final destinations. If the ferry is quick enough, it could draw commuters from Soundview which is much more dense and perhaps Castle Hill. Still, SBS implimentations to the nearest subway stations would serve the largest portion of the population in the most useful way.

Re-activate the Rockway Beach Line. Commutes of 2 hours (or more) from 11692 to 10018 is ridiculous! It makes a lot of sense. LIRR service over subway service is much better. Secondly, the RBL is NOT being utilized now. So, that's a BIG PLUS, rather than to re-vamp roads and lines that are already near capacity in ridership and lacks timeliness in delivery. Southeast Queens is a transportation desert because there is no reliable modes of public transportation! I cannot keep my job in 10018 much longer because 3 hour commutes each way has become the norm lately. Imagine that! 6 hours round-trip just to commute!

Woodlawn Boulevard?? It's called Woodhaven Boulevard.

Thanks for letting us know - we fixed the mistake in the post.

Congestion can be caused by ideas like this--SBS Selective Bus Service it does not work in all parts of New York City. Here in the Borough of Queens they want to remove traffic lanes from from Woodhaven Blvd. & Cross Bay Blvd. (one lane in each direction). Common sense tells you if your already having traffic congestion now taking away two traffic lanes you will get the word congestion! You have to plan smart or were all going to be in trouble when traveling on our roads. Danny RuscilloCo-Chair of CB#14 Transportation CommitteeQueens, N.Y.

We need to look at ways to exapnd transportation options in the City, especially for transporation deserts such as south Queens. Reactivating the old Rockaway Beach Rail Line (AKA QueensRail) is one important way to do that. Instead, some people are actually considering de-mapping this priceless Right of Way and making it into a park.

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