Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, July 06, 2018

New York City sustainable mobility news

1. Toronto Transit Commission's Andy Byford was brought in to run the New York City Subway system and "fix it." The city often gets blamed for the problems, but the system is run by the state, with some funding from the city. Still, because it is so essential to the success of the city, it ought to be a higher agenda item for the mayor.

-- "Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?," New Yorker Magazine
-- "New subway chief Andy Byford still hasn't met with Bill de Blasio," New York Post

In this June 1, 2018 photo, an Enterprise CarShare vehicle occupies a parking space in one of the new designated Carshare areas, on New York's Upper West Side. New Yorkers are at odds over a new program that's taking away hundreds of public spaces and doling them out to companies that rent out cars by the hour. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)


2.  According to the Associated Press ("Road rage: NYC turns parking spots into car share-only zones"), NYC has instituted dedicated street parking for car sharing services.  The article discusses resentment on the part of car owners. From the article:
The two-year pilot program is pitting proponents of car sharing, who see it as an efficient alternative to car ownership, against car owners, who fear fewer spaces will force them to circle the block even more.

"Parking is not an easy thing to find. Period," said Jerry Armer, whose Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, neighborhood has seen 18 on-street spaces gobbled up for car sharing.

In his neighborhood, at certain times of the day, it isn't unusual to have to circle for 30 minutes for an open spot, only to wind up a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) from home. New Yorkers also deal with the scourge of alternate-side-of-the-street parking, which involves having to move your car once or twice a week to make way for street cleaners.

The pilot program has elicited some grumbles over the price these for-profit companies are paying for exclusive use of these hard-to-get spots: almost nothing.

Zipcar and Enterprise are each paying a one-time $765 fee for the curbside spots and $1,000 to $1,200 per year for each space in the city-owned lots. Residents of city-owned public housing also will receive discounts on car sharing services.
It doesn't mention that NYC residents don't have to pay for residential parking permits.  Nor does it mention a previous AP article about how Hoboken uses car sharing as a way to manage parking supply ("Car sharing program finds home in crowded Hoboken," 2012).

But it does mention that car share vehicles tend to support 10+ households without cars.

3. Central Park goes car free.  "Last automobile drives out of Central Park as park goes car-free," New York Daily News, although the transverse roads that connect west to east remain open to cars.

4. For many months I've been meaning to mention that Prospect Park in Brooklyn, another Olmsted park, went car free in January ("Prospect Park is car free at last," Village Voice).  The discusses the long period of evolution, not unlike what happened in Central Park, of both accommodating the car and then "nibbling back" on car access, first on Sundays, then including Saturdays, and then off-peak hours during the week, until the final decision to go car free on the Prospect Loop was made last fall, effective January 2nd ("Prospect Park to permanently go car free," New York Post).

(The VV article linked to an article addressing privatization of public space, "The death of the Olmstedian vision of public space," Journal of Leisure Research, (2000), which is relevant given the bulk of writings on successful urban parks tout privatization.)

Capacity of different transit modes
5.  In response to criticism, New York City DOT is upping their response to the April 2019 closure of the L subway line for repair.  Earlier plans provided for bus lanes on 14th Street in Manhattan, but not making the road an exclusive transitway.  They've changed their tune.  From the New York Daily News story, "Ferries, 80 buses per hour to help accommodate commuters during L train shutdown":
The move to make 14th St. a mostly bus-only street for 17 hours a day marks a big shift from a city plan that would have restricted traffic only during the morning and evening rush.
Although I think it was imperative to also use higher capacity buses, even bi-articulated buses ("Revisiting stories: the L Subway Shutdown in NYC and what to do"), but they are not doing that. From the article:
Buses will play a significant role, too, in shuttling riders across the East River.

"80 buses per hour, accommodating 4,200 riders," Byford said. "80 buses per hour will form an intense bus shuttle across the Williamsburg Bridge."
Articulated buses could increase that capacity by up to 50% and bi-articulated buses even more.
The MTA says its new ferries will also help, carrying up to 1,190 riders on eight boats per hour.
6. I still don't think a streetcar makes sense for NYC, ("Will a BQX light rail along the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens have extra-normal economic impact?") although Paris and London do use trams as part of their system.  (The Docklands Light Rail system in London runs on dedicated tracks.)

According to the Village Voice ("So Is the BQX Dead Yet or What?," Mayor DeBlasio hopes President Trump could come up with the money.  I wouldn't hold my breath.

-- "Tech sector needs BQX to reach potential in Brooklyn and Queens," Crain's New York Business

7. Mayor DeBlasio agreed to fund a lower cost transit pass for low income residents. ("New York City's $89 Billion Budget Includes Discount Transit Fare Plan," NYT). From the article:
Mr. Johnson had pushed hard to get the mayor to agree to include funding for subsidized MetroCards, an initiative known as “Fair Fares.” The program will begin in January, with New Yorkers whose income is below the federal poverty line — about $25,000 a year for a family of four — qualifying for MetroCards at half the regular cost. It is estimated that about 800,000 people could be eligible for the subsidy, although far fewer are expected to enroll in the first year.
9. New York City is expanding the ferry system ("NYC Ferry service is getting a major expansion," Time Out) which is the only element of the transit system controlled directly by the city.  They'll be adding two routes, and three new vessels each with a capacity of 350 passengers, compared to the 150-person capacity of each boat in the 17 boats in the current fleet.

Commuter Emily Mueller enjoys a drink at the ferry bar on her way home to north Brooklyn on the evening ferry. Village Voice Photo: David Williams.

Before the recent agreement by Mayor DeBlasio to fund a lower cost transit pass for low income residents, advocates criticized the transit focus on ferries as helping the well off, especially because under mayor DeBlasio, the ferry fare is equal to the subway fare,$2.75, making it heavily subsidized.

From the Village Voice article "Foamland security: ferry riders say DeBlasio's subsidies spare them subway trauma":
Ferry riders are, by and large, higher-income New Yorkers taking advantage of subsidized ferry rides to avoid subways and buses — not because it’s a faster commute, but because of the ferry’s creature comforts such as elbow room, concessions, alcohol, WiFi, and the fresh sea air.

“The time factor has nothing to do with it for me,” explained J. Scott Klossner, a 53-year-old freelancer currently working for the Today show who takes the Rockaway route, even though it adds almost 45 minutes each way to his commute.

“I can get a coffee, a bagel, everyone is nice. The opposite is true of the A train: Everyone is a fucking asshole.”
London as a counter example: pricing ferry commuter rides as a premium service.  On my walking tour of London with former TfL official Ivan Bennett, we talked about the ferry services there, called the River Bus. In planning for river  transit, TfL differentiates between commuter transportation and tourist services.

-- TfL River services
-- London River Services map and guide, Tfl (speaking of branding, it uses the same design style as other London transit services)
-- London River Services map, 2018

Ferry trips on the Thames tend to be slower than rail, but nicer, with coffee service and newspapers. He argues that they should be marketed and priced as premium services, with the extra revenues used to support other aspects of the transit system.

(By contrast, some of the NYC Ferry routes can be faster than rail, because they provide service in areas underserved by the subway.)

That seems like a sensible approach for pricing ferry/water taxi service in London and elsewhere.

While the individual fare is higher than riding the Underground--2x to 4x higher than a single fare, they've slacked off raising River Bus fares, and because of the Crossrail cash crunch, expansions to the system have been delayed.

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