Astoria, Transportation
Dec 07, 2017

Transportation and Transit News Roundup, Mega Holiday Season Edition

A roundup of recent transportation and transit news of interest to Astorians.

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Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa, and Christmas are around the corner, and as those celebrations accompany the annual holiday travel rush, transportation is on our minds. We hope if you’re taking a plane, boat, train, car, or going by foot to see loved ones later this month for the holidays, we hope you stay safe. And now, here’s some transportation and transit news.

Nix the 24 Hour Subway?


Photo credit: Adam E. Moreira via Wikimedia Commons

The NY Times is one of the papers that published an article saying experts at the Regional Plan Association (RPA) has considered shutting down the subway at night as one option that will help fix the ailing system. They’d use the time to work on the tracks etc, and run shuttle buses in place of trains from 12:30am-5am, which they claim that only a small percentage of riders use the system. I’m not sure how they measure things but in my experience, the N/W is often crowded at 1am.

Here’s the section from the RPA’s recently released 400-page report where it talks about how improving the technology of the system could bring about better service in the long run. Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) is desirable, and “could be deployed across the system in 10 to 15 years by taking the following steps”—the following is one that is relevant to this post:

“Track work is complicated and expensive on a 24/7 system. Closing the subways on weeknights and/or for more extended time periods would create more opportunities for track installation and testing of the equipment—and reduce costs. Only 1.5 percent of weekday riders use the system between 12:30 am and 5 am. The overwhelming majority of people who ride the subway during the daytime would benefit from the better, more reliable, cleaner and better-maintained system that weeknight closures allow. Of course, whenever lines are shut down, the MTA will need make sure that riders are not left stranded. New bus service should be provided to mimic subway service on traffic-free streets, and with shorter waiting times than today’s overnight subway service.”

If the City Never Sleeps, Should Its Subway? [NY Times]
The Fourth Regional Plan (warning: PDF, large file) [RPA]

Expanded Ferry Service Is Affecting Rent Pricing


StreetEasy’s latest analysis found that “rents have increased in several areas along the East River in Brooklyn and Queens as a result of NYC’s recently-expanded ferry service. In particular, rents within a 10min walk of the Astoria, Atlantic Avenue, and Greenpoint stops grew roughly 1.5 percent faster than rents in the broader areas surrounding these stops.”

Grant Long, senior economist at StreetEasy says, “The city’s reliance on an aging transportation infrastructure will face tough tests in 2018, but buying in a rapidly changing neighborhood along a major commuting corridor will remain one of the best bets in city real estate. Traditionally that has meant the train, but with an expanded fleet of ferries on the East River, we also expect more New Yorkers to take to the water on a daily basis.”

Changing Grid: How Expanded East River Ferry Service Has Affected NYC Rents [StreetEasy]

Because they are a real estate database, of course they are looking at how people make decisions about housing, and connecting that with transportation changes and adjustments that are happening. You can read their 2018 predictions below.

StreetEasy’s 2018 New York Housing Market Predictions [StreetEasy]

Queens Blvd is No Longer Considered the “Boulevard of Death” in NYC


Photo credit: DOT

There hasn’t been a pedestrian or bicyclist death on Queens Blvd since 2014. Mayor DeBlasio says, “The Boulevard of Death has become the Boulevard of Life.” Well, I wouldn’t go that far (hello pollution), but apparently the Vision Zero work has paid off. This is good news.

So how did they make Queens Blvd safer? They started in the late 1990s after so many had died on the road, and implemented quite a few changes. They adjusted the timing of walk signals to give more time to cross, widened curbs and medians, added crosswalks, removed two lanes taking it down to 10 lanes, installed red light cameras, lowered the speed limit, redesigned car lanes and added bike lanes.

Watch the transformation of Queens Blvd in this short film:

Caroline Samponaro, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives reminds us that we should focus on other deadly streets “that need to be tamed.” Which ones would you pick?

No Longer New York City’s ‘Boulevard of Death’ [NY Times]
Related: Almost all successful cities are clamping down on private cars and promoting bikes [Tree Hugger]

2020 NYC Bicycling Goal Update


Photo credit: Aggre-gator1

Transportation Alternatives has released their own report, BikeNYC 2020: How To Make New York a World-Class Bicycling City. One major take-away is that installing protected bike lanes increases cycling, and TransAlt calls for having protected bike lanes available within 1/4 mile of all New Yorkers. Here is a summary of their findings:

“The report, for which Transportation Alternatives conducted eight months of exhaustive opinion research in focus groups and surveyed nearly 7,000 New Yorkers, was developed in response to slow progress toward Mayor de Blasio’s goal to double bicycling in New York City by 2020, to 1.5 million New Yorkers who regularly ride a bicycle. Research found that a majority of New Yorkers—including current and former bicyclists, as well as those who do not yet ride a bicycle—said they would be more likely to bicycle if the City of New York built more protected bike lanes.”

Additionally, Transportation Alternatives found:

  • More than two-thirds of less frequent riders said the most important thing the City of New York could do to encourage them to ride more is build more protected bike lanes.
  • 71% of those who used to ride, but stopped, said that feeling unsafe played a role in their stopping, and 21% stopped directly because of a harrowing incident.
  • 92% of former bicyclists said that more protected bike lanes would encourage them to ride again.
  • 99% of less experienced bicyclists feel safer in a protected bike lane.
  • 88% of frequent bicyclists are concerned about being hit by a driver, and 94% of frequent bicyclists have encountered at least one car parked in a bike lane in the past month.

“With the strong reelection of Mayor Bill de Blasio, champion of the Vision Zero campaign and advocate for biking as a critical responsibility in the age of rapid climate change, it is clear that New Yorkers agree: New York City should be a place where cycling is safe and accessible transportation, and voters will overwhelmingly support public officials who prioritize streets for people,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “New Yorkers have spoken, and they want to ride their bicycles. Mayor de Blasio, please be the bold leader we know you can be, and invest in streets for New York’s future. You have the power to lead the city, and by turns, the nation, into a safer, more sustainable, and more equitable tomorrow. The greatest city on Earth should expect nothing less from its leaders.”

BTW, love the shot of the Hell Gate Bridge and Shore Blvd on the registration page.

BikeNYC 2020: How To Make New York a World-Class Bicycling City [Transportation Alternatives]

Congestion Pricing is in the News Again


Governor Cuomo seems amenable to implementing congestion pricing in NYC. A state task force, Fix NYC, has been assembled and tasked with putting together a plan. Cuomo plans to introduce his plan early next year; it will be interesting to see what form it takes.

One has to wonder how this will affect public transportation in NYC if/when people get out of their cars and into trains, buses, and ferries. Don’t get me wrong—I think less cars is the way of the future in big cities. But with the subway system in such a mess, will it be able to take on a surge of new riders? Or will that lead to more collapse? Perhaps it will be the excuse the city needs to shut down the subways at night.

We live in interesting times.

New York’s Tilt Toward Congestion Pricing Was Years in the Making [NY Times]

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

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