Put this in the “Things that can make life better NOW” category.
The project was based on a feasibility analysis that indicated it would improve traffic flow on 6th and 7th Avenue and improve traffic safety along Broadway. Both before and after implementing Green Light for Midtown as a pilot, NYCDOT collected extensive data on travel times, traffic volumes, pedestrian volumes and traffic accidents in the months just prior and just following project implementation. According to this data, the project is delivering on its expectations.
DOT collected and analyzed extensive data from GPS units in taxis to understand the impacts on this project for travel in and around midtown. Findings show:
- Travel speeds for northbound trips throughout West Midtown improved 17% from fall 2008-2009, compared with 8% in East Midtown.
- Travel speeds for southbound trips in West Midtown fell by 2% while East Midtown showed an increase of 3%.
- The speed of eastbound trips increased by 5% and westbound trips by 9% over the same time period.
- Bus travel speeds increased by 13% on 6th Avenue and fell by 2% on 7th Avenue.
Safety has also been vastly improved as a result of this project.
- Injuries to motorists and passengers in the project area are down 63%.
- Pedestrian injuries are down 35%.
- 80% fewer pedestrians are walking in the roadway in Times Square.
And the project has had additional benefits as well.
- 74% of New Yorkers surveyed by the Times Square Alliance agree that Times Square has improved dramatically over the last year.
- The number of people walking along Broadway and 7th Avenue in Times Square is up 11% and pedestrian volume is up 6% in Herald Square.
Based on these findings, Mayor Bloomberg has decided to make these changes permanent. NYCDOT will begin a capital project to design and build the plazas and corridor treatments with permanent, high quality materials.
Photo: New DeKalb Ave bike lane in
When it comes to adding bike lanes, a common roadblock (pun intended) is that the prospective street does not have enough horizontal space to accommodate them. For example, a typical striped bike lane should be at least four feet wide, but five feet is preferable. However, few streets have this kind of space between the parking lane and an adjacent traffic lane to make way for bike lanes without compromising legal lane widths. While taking away a traffic lane OR taking away a parking lane is an option, it can be like running up Everest trying to get the support of the community and its’ officials for this to happen, thanks to our powerful car/oil addiction. However there is one option that could serve as both a compromise and a win for the cycling/livable cities community: take away a traffic lane during off-peak hours.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to use a case from my Brooklyn neighborhood on DeKalb Avenue. As of about a month ago, DeKalb Ave was a one-way street with two traffic lanes and two on-street parking lanes. The avenue moves westbound moving out of Brooklyn toward the Manhattan Bridge, so cars regularly flew at speeds between 40-50 mph. As a result, the street was very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians despite a high number of both being present on the street throughout the much of the day.
Picture: Existing conditions on DeKalb Ave (NYCDOT)
The solution? NYCDOT decided to take away a lane of traffic during off-peak hours and add a five foot bike lane plus a three foot buffer to protect cyclists from traffic, getting doored, and hopefully mitigate maddeningly frustrating bike lane parking. By narrowing the street to one traffic lane during off-peak hours, it serves to calm traffic from the wild, unnecessary speeding and lane changing for much of the day. However, to help accommodate more traffic during rush hours, a parking lane (on the opposite side of the bike lane, of course) becomes a traffic lane. Any car still parked during peak hours gets ticketed.
Graphic: Conceptual plan for DeKalb Ave (NYCDOT)
Some people may ask, what about the businesses on DeKalb getting hurt by the loss of parking, especially during peak periods? The answers are straight forward enough. First, NYCDOT is installing meters to encourage turnover instead of all-day parking squatting. This will actually help businesses by facilitating turnover as well as generate revenue for the usage of valuable urban street space. It will also redefine loading zone hours in order to combat double parking that clogs traffic and creates dangerous conflicts. Lastly, by calming the street and improving access for cyclists and pedestrians, the potential is there to enhance local business activity even further.
Of course this will not be a perfect scenario, but it should certainly make DeKalb Avenue more livable as it functions more like a complete street. For example, I’ve noticed that it’s actually a little more difficult for pedestrians to cross DeKalb at mid-block now, since there is a steady (albeit slower) flow of traffic along the single traffic lane. However, this can be expected in the short term, as drivers adapt to the roadway changes. Over time, studies have shown that such street changes should eventually lead to disappearing traffic, whereas drivers either choose other routes, other schedules, or not to drive. I’ve witnessed idiot drivers double-parking in the bike lane already, but so far the only way to really solve this problem is physically separated bike lanes.
So how does this tie into Miami? There are many streets with parking lanes that could sacrifice a lane of traffic during off peak hours in order to incorporate bike lanes. Some of the streets that come to mind are operated by FDOT, so it’s important that this is taken into consideration when advocating for this type of roadway reconfiguration. Many other streets in more urban areas of Miami, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables have the potential to utilize this configuration.
(Note: I know there will be at least a few haters reading this who will be eager to point out how different New York is from Miami and how this type of street space reallocation would never work in Miami/South Florida. Well let me tell you this — NYC may be quite different in many ways, but this kind of thing isn’t just being done there, it’s being done it cities all over the country, many of which are less densely developed than Miami.)
Photo: DeKalb Ave @ Washington Ave
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