Fordham Plaza Overhaul Promises Big Improvements for Pedestrians

Fordham_Aerial.jpgPlans for a re-designed Fordham Plaza would add 15,750 square feet of public space. Image: NYCEDC/DOT

Fordham Plaza, one of the city’s busiest transit and retail hubs, but also one of its most dangerous, is slated for a major redesign [PDF] by NYCDOT and the Economic Development Corporation. Highlights of the badly-needed overhaul include a massive increase in public space, a slew of safety improvements for pedestrians, and a block-long bus- and bike-only street.

Currently, Fordham Plaza is one of the most important public spaces in New York City. It has rich transit access, with the third-busiest Metro-North station in the system and eight bus lines, including the city’s first Select Bus Service route. According to DOT counts, the retail corridor along Fordham Road sees as much foot traffic as Herald Square or Penn Station — more than 80,000 pedestrians over the course of 12 hours.

Fordham_Crashes.jpgTraffic collisions injuring pedestrians (red) and cyclists (yellow). The biggest red dot is the intersection of Fordham Road and Webster Ave.

Despite those assets, however, Fordham Plaza doesn’t work the way it should. Its northwest corner, the intersection between Fordham Road and Webster Avenue, is the third most dangerous intersection in the city. According to CrashStat, between 1995 and 2005, drivers injured 116 pedestrians and cyclists and killed one pedestrian. Whether on their way to shop, to work, or to class, pedestrians are hemmed in by excessive asphalt. 

This plan should go a long way toward making Fordham Plaza the safe and vibrant place it ought to be. Many streets next to the plaza would get serious traffic-calming measures, with wider sidewalks helping pedestrians to cross streets. All told, the plan adds a full 15,750 square feet of pedestrian space to the area. 

At the heart of the plaza, Park Avenue would no longer extend north of 189th Street, opening up room for a large, contiguous public space. Third Avenue would become a one-block busway between 189th Street and Fordham Road, with sharrows to connect the bike network south of the plaza to the Fordham University campus. A slip lane at the hazardous Fordham and Webster intersection would be converted to sidewalk space.

FordhamJaywalkingCompare_1.jpgFilling in the plaza (left) will reduce some conflicts between pedestrians and buses, which currently plague the site (right), but it will still be very tempting for pedestrians to cross Fordham Road midblock.

The plan isn’t a cure-all, however. One reason there are so many injuries in the area is that the quickest way between the Metro-North station and the bus stops is to walk across Fordham Road mid-block. It seems likely that many pedestrians will continue to do so. On Third Avenue, bus and bike traffic will be funneled together without any dedicated space for cyclists.

The redesign comes at the same time as a Department of City Planning proposal to rezone much of the neighborhood. The rezoning calls for more intensive development than is currently allowed near this transit hub. Together, these changes could transform the area. 

Next up for the Fordham Plaza overhaul, which is currently in the conceptual design stage: a detailed plan by DOT for permanent construction

Fordham_Public_Space.jpgPedestrian space in the re-designed Fordham Plaza, overlaid on the present plaza.

  • This would be pretty good to redo Fordham Plaza. However, if the DOT wants to relieve some of the congestion on Fordham Road, there’s one simple solution, not allow turns at Webster Av/Fordham Road. This would allow cars, buses, and trucks to move much quicker through the intersection. Eastbound on Fordham Road, the traffic stretches as far as Tiebout Avenue just to get past Webster.

    As for 189th Street, make it a one-way Westbound between Park and Webster, eastbound vehicles can use 188th Street.

  • JamesR

    This looks like a real improvement on what’s there currently. As it is now, the area is basically a vortex of doom for anyone on a bike due to the heavy, high speed traffic volume on Fordham Rd and Webster Ave. I did notice, however, that bike lanes and sharrows on Fordham Rd itself appear to be off the table. Is this so as to not interfere with the Bx12 Select Bus? Fordham Rd desperately needs bicycle facilities. It’s an area that I refuse to ride through because it’s such a clusterf**k.

  • Well, all I can say is hooray! I am glad to see DOT targeting other areas for livable streets makeovers than just Manhattan south of 96th St. Fordham Road is a key transit connector between Inwood and the Bronx. Several subway lines cross it, as does the Metro-North Harlem line, and the SBS runs over it. And yet bicycling along Fordham Road can be a nightmare. Fordham Plaza is a wonderful first step towards re-prioritizing pedestrians and transit users; let’s hope a protected bike lane on Fordham Road is next. Imagine being able to ride your bike from Inwood Hill Park to Pelham Bay Park in tranquility, or enjoy a speedy transit line along that corridor.

  • poncho

    The plan isn’t a cure-all, however. One reason there are so many injuries in the area is that the quickest way between the Metro-North station and the bus stops is to walk across Fordham Road mid-block. It seems likely that many pedestrians will continue to do so.

    So why not put in a mid-block crosswalk? I dont understand how when there are major pedestrian destinations directly across the street from each other, DOTs expect pedestrians to walk way out of their way. This is a major enough pedestrian route to warrant a legit mid-block crosswalk.

  • JamesR

    IIRC, NYCDOT policy is to avoid installing crosswalks at mid-block locations. It’s basically a tacit acknowledgment that drivers will not stop for crosswalks unless they are already stopped at a red light to begin with.

  • momos

    poncho, you hit the nail on the head. When two major pedestrian transit points lay on either side of a road, and huge volumes of people cross between the points, then why the heck not put in a crosswalk — and while you’re at it, design the crosswalk for the greatest possible pedestrian safety?

  • ChrisCo

    >>This would be pretty good to redo Fordham Plaza. However, if the DOT wants to relieve some of the congestion on Fordham Road, there’s one simple solution, not allow turns at Webster Av/Fordham Road. This would allow cars, buses, and trucks to move much quicker through the intersection.<<

    Yes, just what we need. Faster-moving traffic. That is sure to enhance pedestrian safety and comfort.

    We need measures to SLOW vehicular traffic. Not speed it up and make it run "smoother".

  • Re: the “problem” of pedestrians crossing mid-block, how about putting in both a traffic light AND crosswalk, or a pedestrian bridge or underpass? Let’s be creative in our solutions.

  • momos

    Despite my comment above, this is a hugely exciting plan. Well worth reading through the PDF. They’ve developed this plan with great care and attention to detail.

    As Urbanis said, it’s fantastic to see a project of this impact outside of Manhattan-south-of-96th-street.

  • vnm

    I also want to just take a moment to praise the wide, buffered Park Avenue bike lanes that lead right to and from this plaza from the south. They make great use of the middle of the avenue, adjacent to the tracks in the median, where there are a lot fewer intersections to contend with. Anyone who hasn’t tried them should — for probably one of the grittiest, most urban cycling experiences one can have.

  • poncho

    You make it a signalized mid-block crosswalk. Then they have to stop or they’ll (potentially, if NYPD enforces) get a ticket. Hell, put one of these in…

    http://www.streetfilms.org/seattle-crosswalk-tap-foot-lights-blink-cross-street/

    Just to emphasize again, this is the one of the busiest pedestrian areas in NYC with 80,000 per 12 hours, on par with Penn Station and Herald Square. And yet we cant put in a crosswalk in a highly urbanized pedestrian rich area?!? Please, this is hardly a rural highway with no pedestrians around.

    Just look at that last image above, the B+W aerial with the green… Doesnt even look like there is any crosswalk across Fordham Road now even at the intersection, clearly turning cars get the priority here. And I’m not even sure the new plan remedies this minor fix.

    If turning traffic and through traffic on Fordham Road are so important that a crosswalk cant be put in (which I highly doubt), can’t another Metro North station entrance then be put in across the street so bus riders dont have to cross this cherished traffic sewer? I have to believe the platforms already stretch under the street and plaza, if so it would just need a vertical connection.

  • güzel bir yerle?me plan?

  • Poncho, there are entrances to the station on the south side of the plaza.

  • JamesR

    It’s possible that DOT might have modeled a configuration that included a mid-block crossing and traffic light, but found that the level of service dropped too low for it to be a viable option. I know DOT staff check in here, so if one of you wants to comment anonymously, what’s the story?

  • Walter

    There already are stairs to both platforms on the south side of the plaza. The elevators, however, are located in the station building, but perhaps Metro-North could add two elevators on the south side to prevent crowding in the narrow station house hallways. Improving those stairways also wouldn’t hurt; they’re always dark and filthy.

  • Do you have a link for the statement that Fordham is the third busiest Metro-North station? The official passenger counts (which only count inbound boardings, to avoid double-counts) ave Fordham way down, with only a few hundred daily commuters.

  • vnm

    Alon, here’s a link for that from an MTA press release from last month, which says that 6,000 people board trains during the morning hours:

    MTA Metro-North Railroad to Buy Land to Expand Platform at Fordham Station

    It reads: “Over all, Fordham is Metro-North’s third busiest outlying station, after Stamford and White Plains.”

    I believe “outlying” stations exclude Grand Central and 125th Street. What’s your source for the official passenger counts?

  • ChrisCo, part of the reason why traffic is backed up on Fordham Road and Webster Avenue in the first place is because most of the cars are making turns. The drivers would either have to wait for slow pedestrians to cross before turning, or try to speed up before them. To make matters worse, on Fordham Road, cars often use the bus-only lane to make a right turn onto Webster, causing the buses to get delayed on route to Fordham Plaza or to Inwood.

    In my mind, not allowing turns at Fordham and Webster would not only encourage better through-travel, but with the elimination of left-turn signals, it would give pedestrians more time to cross the streets (and not worry about ANY car turning).

  • VNM: it’s an MTA on/off count, linked here. The LIRR has full numbers; MNRR unfortunately only has inbound boardings.

  • vnm

    Alon, ah-ha. Yes, the statistics you linked to are for inbound boardings only — people going to Manhattan. Since it’s less expensive to take the bus to the subway to reach Manhattan from the Bronx, and you have shorter headways and more destinations, most people do that instead of use Metro-North. The large majority of boardings at Fordham are outbound and not counted in the statistics you cited.

  • Yeah – you’re right, as I suspected. Thanks for the link, anyway.

  • For those wondering about bike lanes around Fordham Road, there are some a block south, on 188th Street.

  • ChrisCo

    >>>Re: the “problem” of pedestrians crossing mid-block, how about putting in both a traffic light AND crosswalk, or a pedestrian bridge or underpass? Let’s be creative in our solutions.<<

    Exactly. See Toronto on Queen Street 100 feet or so West of Yonge Street. There is a mid-block pedestrian crossing with lights even though there is no cross-street there. It is there to collect the Eaton Centre entrance to The Bay.

  • For those wondering about bike lanes around Fordham Road, there are some a block south, on 188th Street.

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