PlaNYC Quietly Introduces “Safe Routes to Transit”

canal_crowd.jpg 

As New Yorkers well know, sidewalks around subway stops and major transit hubs are often intensely crowded. Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC team is aware of this and buried on page 48 of the Technical Report supplementing PlaNYC’s transportation recommendations is a new program called "Safe Routes to Transit" (SR2T). While the attention to pedestrian issues is welcome, given the scope of the congestion problem near major transit
stops, SR2T is a fairly modest proposal and is best viewed as a good
beginning, a
point of departure for significantly improving the walking part of
transit trips.

hylan_bus.jpgThe
new initiative — which, notably, is focused entirely on the outer
boroughs — combines three existing programs under one umbrella and
adds up to being the most specific and significant pedestrian
improvement offered by PlaNYC 2030. SR2T has three elements:

Bus Stops under the Els – improve pedestrian and vehicle safety and circulation at intermodal stations located underneath elevated subway structures.

Started in 2003, four locations have been improved of the forty
identified. Improvements consist of sidewalk islands, neckdowns and bus
bulbs. Starting in 2008, DOT or DDC will build out three per year.

Subway/Sidewalk Interface – improve safety and relieve congestion on sidewalks and intersections adjacent to subway entrances

This
subway/sidewalk interface project is a terrific DOT/ City Planning
initiative begun at the urging of Transportation Alternatives in 2000.
There are 468 subway stops in New York City and originally 29 were
selected for a first look. Improvements at two subway stops have been
completed and 24 more are planned. Starting in 2008 the city
will complete two a year.

bus-designs_1.jpgInterestingly,
city planners found very poor pedestrian conditions at 24 of the 29
stations they studied. Experience suggests that sidewalk crowding and
dangerous pedestrian crossings are a common problem at subway stops. A
study of all 468 stops would probably come up with a list of at least
one hundred more that need wider sidewalks, neckdowns, leading
pedestrian intervals, better lighting and improved crosswalks. This
program needs to be expanded and accelerated. Improvements to two
stations a year is paltry. Interestingly, none of the 24 stations
chosen for pedestrian improvements are in jam-packed Manhattan.

Sidewalks to Buses – create or improve sidewalk
infrastructure, crosswalks and other pedestrian amenities to bus stops
where walking is difficult today.

Surprisingly, there are still many parts of New York City without
sidewalks. The city plans to build up to a quarter mile of sidewalk
near bus stops in some of the most transit-deprived sections of the
city. Starting in 2008, new sidewalks will be built at up to 15 bus
stops a year until 2030. One of the first projects will be done at a
Hylan Boulevard  bus stop near Fairlawn Avenue on Staten Island’s East
Shore.

SR2T is an important new program. It deserves to be expanded and
accelerated and should include major transit hubs like Penn/Moynihan
and Grand Central Stations and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The
subway/sidewalk project should also include Manhattan, where crowding
is, clearly, the worst.

Photo: AntyDiluvian / Flickr, Graphics: PlaNYC Mobility Needs Assessment (PDF)

  • I’m not impressed. Started in 2000, and they’ve finished a mere two subway stops so far? In the meantime, every year more subway stations get rehabbed, and many of the plans include sidewalk narrowing to install elevators (most famously at 96th and Broadway). If it’s no longer taboo to turn roadway space into sidewalks, let’s make sure the MTA planners know this, otherwise the DoT will just be playing catch-up with the MTA as stations get rebuilt without consideration of the sidewalk improvements that DoT seems now allowed to install.

  • mfs

    yeah, there’s a bunch of “crazy” ideas in the technical report, like increasing the frequency of the G train.

    con: the implementation of most of these good transit and pedestrian projects occur in future mayoral terms.

    pro: that makes them fair game for topics in a mayoral election.

  • v

    thought manhattan is “clearly” the most crowded transit area, it’s also the best served. areas that aren’t well served need better infrastructure a better experience for travelers. not every trip involves manhattan, folks.

    i’ll ignore the small scale of the improvements…ok maybe i won’t…two bus stops a year??

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