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Last updated: 03.28.2023 – I’ve cleaned up this page by updating broken links and editing for clarity.
Over the years, I’ve thought about transportation infrastructure in the New York metropolitan area. It has so much potential beyond its current state, so I’m thinking of ways to improve it. At first, I mainly focused on the NYC Subway since it was a major part of my life – not to mention I’ve loved trains since I was a kid. Recently, however, I began thinking beyond the rails. It’s no secret – NYC’s subway is in crisis. NY is always stuck in traffic. NY’s highways are a chief source of pollution and misery. Politicians blame bikes for car-caused congestion.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) presented a golden opportunity to rethink transportation in and around NY. Stay-at-home orders and the resulting decrease in traffic reduced air pollution in cities worldwide (PDF file); along the Eastern Seaboard, cities normally inundated with pollution from Interstate 95 enjoyed an unusual respite. However, despite the usual rhetoric, politicians have largely failed to seize the moment – traffic hell has largely returned, with no meaningful solutions in sight.
So how do we fix all this? How do we get NY moving again in a way that also achieves environmental justice for all?
Enter the New York Transportation Improvement Plan (NYTIP)!
What is NYTIP, you ask? Simply put, NYTIP is my informal collection of ideas for improving New York’s transportation systems and infrastructure. I’ll present some of these ideas in a series of blog posts; detailed plans – such as v1.0.0 of the Enhanced NYC Subway – would get their own pages.
My motivation for starting this blog series came from many places – studying transit and highway maps (including satellite images via Google Earth), researching formal subway plans, proposals from the Regional Plan Association (RPA) and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC), discussions on social media, ideas from The Brown Bike Girl, Transit Ninja, Second Avenue Sagas, vanshnookenraggen, Alon Levy, and others, and of course, my own ideas.
First, a disclaimer. I am not affiliated with any transportation agencies. However, I am a member of the Rail Passengers Association.
Now let’s get to the fun part!
VOLUME I: THE ENHANCED NYC SUBWAY
Status: Beta (v0.8.0)
This volume addresses the broken NYC subway system. NYTIP prescribes a three-point plan for the NYC Subway, in this order:
Point 1 – Enhance: Improve the NYC subway’s frequency and regularity by reducing merging conflicts between subway lines and leveraging existing infrastructure.
The posts below explore different options for enhancing the NYC subway.
Note: v1.0.0 of the Enhanced NYC Subway is coming soon!
- Central Park West
- South Brooklyn
- Broadway and Queens Boulevard
- The Broadway (Brooklyn) and Jamaica Line
- Eastern Parkway
- South Bronx
- The low-hanging fruit
- Enhanced NYC Subway summary
- Enhanced NYC Subway service guide (v0.8.0 – Microsoft Excel file – 30.1 kB)
- Enhanced NYC Subway service guide and mock timetable (v0.8.0 – Microsoft Excel file – 12.3 MB)
- Overnight service and subway maintenance
Point 2 – Extend: Building on the Enhanced NYC Subway, the next step is to extend existing NYC subway lines to increase the system’s reach. The posts below explore some extension options.
Major updates coming once I release v1.0.0 of the Enhanced NYC Subway.
Point 3 – Expand: The third and final step is to conceive new lines that have high ridership potential and close the remaining rapid transit coverage gaps in NYC.
The goal of this three-point plan is two-fold. First, immediate improvements made possible by the Enhanced NYC Subway will allow each subway line to run every 6 minutes or better at all times, including weekends. Then, with additional investments, baseline service on each line can improve to 4 minutes or better during peak hours. Regardless of current loading guidelines or service levels, this will be the new baseline for all subway lines, with higher-ridership lines receiving more frequent service.
To make weekend subway service more reliable, most maintenance work would shift from weekends to overnight hours through targeted line closures – essentially an expanded FASTRACK program. In exchange, each subway line that operates overnight would run every 12 minutes instead of every 20. Proper street management is key to making this transition a success since line closures would require adequate substitutes, such as frequent shuttle bus service.
VOLUME II: REALIZING REGIONAL RAIL
The Tri-State Area (NY, NJ, and CT) is home to some of the largest commuter rail systems in the United States. Existing tracks form a well-connected network; however, MTA’s Metro-North Railroad (MNR) and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and NJ Transit (NJT), operate entirely separate services with different fare regimes and uncoordinated schedules. Building on RPA’s Trans-Regional Express (T-REX) proposal and TSTC’s Regional Rail Report (PDF file), NYTIP prescribes policy and infrastructural changes that will transform commuter rail into regional rail, improving travel throughout the Tri-State Area. The changes fall into two categories:
Provisioning for regional rail. Set the stage for regional rail service by unifying fare regimes, coordinating schedules, simplifying service patterns, and leveraging existing infrastructure.
Implementing regional rail. Expand the regional rail network’s reach with infrastructural improvements, such as infill stations, new and improved physical connections, and line extensions.
VOLUME III: RETHINKING ROADS, REBUILDING NEIGHBORHOODS
The “master builder”, Robert Moses, is often credited with building large swaths of parks, beaches, and highways throughout New York. However, many of his projects came at great cost – costs which many New Yorkers (especially in The Bronx) still bear today in the form of scarred neighborhoods, asthma, air pollution, heavy – and often dangerous – traffic conditions, and more.
To undo the damage wrought by urban highways in NY, NYTIP proposes a radical rethinking of the road network. In moving toward a new philosophy of urban highways – namely, that interstate through-traffic should travel around cities, not through them – NYTIP calls for outright removal of the most deleterious highways and highway stubs to allow full restoration of the neighborhoods destroyed by their construction. NYTIP also contemplates pedestrian-friendly boulevard conversions for other urban highway segments. The resulting road network retains connections to the national road network while achieving environmental justice in communities blighted by highways for decades.
VOLUME IV: BETTER BUSES FOR ALL
For far too long, NY streets have prioritized the automobile – think free curbside parking, parking lots, wide roadways, and car-oriented amenities like drive-thrus and garages – while neglecting the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and mass transit users. The result – crowded sidewalks and pokey buses.
The road to better buses requires a threefold approach. The first step is allowing all-door boarding on all local buses. This would realize immediate speed improvements. The second step is replicating the 14th Street Busway‘s success by implementing a citywide network of busways. This would usher in real Bus Rapid Transit. A robust network of local buses would overlay the busway network, dramatically improving service. The third and final step is redesigning the citywide express bus network to increase its utility and reach, especially for those with few transportation alternatives.
VOLUME V: GIVING THE GIFT OF GREENWAYS
Bicycles have existed in some form for over two centuries. More recently, the number of people commuting by bicycle has increased substantially in NYC (PDF file). Despite this, cycling infrastructure remains woefully inadequate. Quite frankly, it shouldn’t be.
In 2020, the Regional Plan Association proposed a Five Borough Bikeway, a cohesive network of protected bicycle lanes and greenways in NYC. Using this proposal as a model, NYTIP will explore several options for building a citywide network of greenways and the connections between them.
Status: Originally planned as Volume VI – will now be incorporated in Volume V.
Micromobility refers to non-auto personal transportation options, such as bikeshare, E-bikes, scooters, and mopeds. Citywide micromobility – a key element of NYTIP – would augment the citywide greenway network.
VOLUME VI: FIXING FERRIES
In 2017, then-Mayor Bill deBlasio introduced the NYC Ferry service. While the ferries offer a new way of getting around NYC, they are heavily subsidized and serve whiter, richer commuters than other modes. Splurging money on the ferries while buses and subways crumble is not sound transportation policy.
Nevertheless, ferries would have a place under NYTIP. To address inefficiencies with current ferry service, NYTIP prescribes a network redesign that would improve interconnectivity between the ferries and other transit modes. As a luxury service, ferry fares would rise to reduce the effective subsidy. In exchange for the increased fare, OMNY integration would allow free transfers between ferries and other modes.
VOLUME VII: A SMALL PRICE TO PAY
This volume would provide ballpark cost estimates for each of the recommended proposals under NYTIP; the “ballpark” is not New York’s ridiculous costs, but those derived from the Transit Costs Project. The estimated costs allow for proposal prioritization based on feasibility, benefits, risks, and potential integration with other proposals.
The New Rochelle Transportation Improvement Plan (NROTIP)
Status: Pre-Alpha, On Hiatus
NROTIP is an informal collection of ideas for transportation improvements in New Rochelle, a small city with no bus or bike infrastructure that is contemplating “Complete Streets” projects.
The “NYTIP INSIDER” blog posts highlight my thought process for select NYTIP topics; they also include my takes on transit-related news in the NY Metro area.
- The delicate balance
- NYTIP Lite
- Conceding the LaGuardia AirTrain?
- Regional Rail
- Enhanced NYCS Updates
- On R211 delays and NYTIP updates
- More Enhanced NYCS Changes
- On LGA and NY’s asthmaway addiction