Road Diets But No Bike Lanes for Two Queens Traffic Calming Projects

DOT plans to create four parking lanes along 48th Avenue in a novel design presented last night. Image: NYCDOT.

DOT presented plans for two Long Island City street redesigns to Queens Community Board 2’s transportation committee last night. One, a standard road diet, would calm traffic on 44th Drive by replacing one moving lane in each direction with a painted median and left turn bays [PDF]. The other, a novel design for a single block of 48th Avenue, manages to make four of six lanes into on-street parking [PDF].

The traffic calming plan for 44th Drive is part of DOT’s commitment, laid out in last year’s pedestrian safety action plan, to install safety improvements along 60 miles of the city’s most dangerous corridors. This short stretch of 44th, from Vernon Boulevard to Thomson Avenue, is in the 92nd percentile for pedestrian crashes according to DOT and intersects with multiple subway stations.

“Right now, 44th Drive the volume is so much lower than what it could handle which is why there’s so much speeding and scary driving,” explained transportation committee member Emilia Crotty.

Under DOT’s proposal, 44th would have one parking lane and one travel lane in each direction, with a painted median and left turn bays in the middle. Currently, 44th has two travel lanes and one parking lane in each direction.

DOT compares its design for 44th to a similar redesign of Brooklyn’s Gerritsen Avenue. There, they say, all crashes causing injury decreased by 46 percent and crashes involving pedestrian decreased by 57 percent after the redesign.

The transportation committee raised the question of whether bike lanes should have been included in the road diet, according to Crotty. Talking with DOT, they reached the conclusion that one wasn’t necessary. “The wide parking lane is going to serve just like Bedford Avenue, where they took out the bike lane but it’s really still a bike lane,” she explained.

Another debate ensued over whether two moving lanes were necessary to accommodate the large amounts of double-parking in front of the Citigroup building. Many board members argued that such an accommodation was necessary, said Crotty, but ultimately the committee decided to stick with the DOT plan and push for more enforcement of double-parking.

On 48th Avenue, the goal appears to be adding more parking. Currently, the block of 48th between Vernon Boulevard and 5th Street has two moving lanes and one parking lane in each direction, with a painted median in between. The redesign would take away one moving lane in each direction and replace it with a second parking lane adjacent to the median. A similar design, though with a concrete median and bike lanes, can be found on this stretch of Carlton Avenue.

This would create 40 new parking spaces, a popular move in the neighborhood. “It’s a real concern for many residents in that neighborhood, both that residents need longer-term parking and that businesses need metered parking for more turnover,” said Crotty.

Interestingly, the parking adjacent to the curb would be metered in the new set-up while the mid-street parking lanes would not be. According to Crotty, DOT’s current plan is to make the median parking lanes truly long-term parking, with neither meters nor alternate side regulations. The committee worried that would cause people, including many from outside the neighborhood, to simply store their cars there forever without some reason to move them, so will join DOT in asking the Sanitation Department to implement alternate side parking along that lane.

That section of 48th Avenue is marked as a planned route on the city’s bike map, a point which was raised in the committee meeting. “It didn’t sound like something DOT was going to make arrangements for,” said Crotty.

The redesign could have a traffic calming effect, as it does narrow the space for moving traffic. DOT also plans to paint new or expanded pedestrian refuges on either end of the block and improve the crosswalks in both redesigns. Crotty said that the community board will ask the Parks Department to make those painted refuges into planted Greenstreets in the future.

The generally supportive committee did not formally vote on the two projects, said Crotty, but rather asked questions of DOT and tried to figure out the next steps for the streets.

  • Ian Turner

    Very strange that DOT was the one arguing for more parking and less bike lanes on this stretch.

  • Glenn

    Watch-out long term parkers along the median, it’s a jaywalking trap!

    I don’t understand how wide the space is for the moving lane or what they mean by the parking lane being wide enough (on the curbside or median side?) to accomodate cars and cyclists in a “share the road” situation. If memory serves, I think you need at least 15 feet width for a car to safety pass a cyclist and the cyclist to not be in the dooring zone. It sounds from this like they assume the cyclist will be in the dooring zone on the curbside of the street.

  • latron

    How is more on-street parking a step forward by any measure?

  • Andrew

    Hopefully, like Gerritsen Avenue, 44th Drive will be signed as a bike route. The parking lanes on Gerritsen are something like 13′ wide, which gives bikes enough space to ride in the parking lane without having to fear being doored. This sort of design is a used as a compromise between DOT and the community in places where bike lanes are unpopular.

  • carma

    heh, why not. this is probably one of the better plans i see. if limited parking was an issue. removing spaces is not going to solve the situation. this addresses the issue of adding parking, and traffic calming. so i can see this as a win win. not everything has to be about bike lanes.

  • Joe R.

    They did the same thing (parking on both sides) in the service road of Queens Boulevard a few years ago. I doubt traffic calming was the goal. Just another excuse for more parking.

  • carma

    joe r. the problem with queens blvd is not on the service road. its the fact that its a LONG road to cross. calming the traffic will do no good when you cant cross a long 12 lane blvd. a senior being hit at 25 or 40 has bad odds against them. queens blvd is a major thoroughfare for quite a few express bus routes as well. i feel the only solution to queens blvd is possibly a pedestrian skywalk. (which is unlikely)

  • Danny G

    Smart moves on 44th and 48th. Can always add a capital construction two-way median bike path on 48th at some point in the future.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I feel the only solution to queens blvd is possibly a pedestrian skywalk. (which is unlikely).”

    Cross under in the subway. That would be my solution. I could barely get across on a bike on my way to the Mets game.

    But of all the modes of transportation that are scary on Queens Boulevard, what scared me the most was driving on it. I found it the scariest road to drive on in all of NYC.

  • kevd

    Why not plant more trees in those medians? The plan and the picture of Carlton Ave.

    Also… 4 lanes of parking. Why not. Lets not be too dogmatic about everything. Lots of very pedestrian and bike friendly cities in Europe have side streets with loads and loads of parking (like 90 degree on both sides) and narrow travel lanes.

    And why is street cleaning an all or nothing argument? Some streets in some cities have street cleaning only once or twice a month.
    A big inducement to driving in NY is the fact that the car has to be moved for street cleaning anyway.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, carma, I agree the only viable solution for Queens Blvd is pedestrian skywalks. There’s no way you can stop traffic long enough for a person to cross that road without creating a mess. Even for a relatively fit person like me, crossing Queens Blvd. is an adventure. I actually prefer to cross using the 71st Avenue station as a pedestrian underpass. And as for bike infrastructure, in my opinion the only thing which would be viable along Queens Blvd. given the congestion would be above grade. Lots of luck getting that built even though it would be great if it ever were. This is one clear case where I basically just say let the cars have Queens Blvd., and stick in skywalks every few blocks so people can cross.

  • Joe R.

    “But of all the modes of transportation that are scary on Queens Boulevard, what scared me the most was driving on it. I found it the scariest road to drive on in all of NYC.”

    Believe it or not, I actually used to bike on that road. Fairly regularly. I’ve avoided it last few years, mostly on account of the potholes and the now awful light timing. Years ago it was a great thoroughfare where one could average ~20 mph most times of the day, provided you had the guts to mix it up with very aggressive motor traffic.

  • Andrew

    kevd:

    The paint is usually an interim measure. It takes a while longer to budget them under capital expenses. If you go down to Montgomery Street on the LES, they’re in the process of replacing the striped medians with concrete ones, and that project is about 3 years old.

  • krstrois

    Aaah, Queens Blvd. I had to cross Queens Blvd with my newborn son in a stroller once and it was one of the scariest pedestrian experiences I have ever had. My husband and I still talk about it sometimes and we live at the corner of a five-way intersection in an industrial park in North Brooklyn, so it’s not like we’re in some pastoral place without truck and car traffic.

    Re biking on Queens Blvd — it often amazes me what we can get used to. My father can’t believe I ride a bike in NYC, let alone with toddler son in tow, and I can’t believe he’s willing to cycle in the Connecticut countryside with SUVs moving at highway speeds. Yet, we both ride our bikes.

  • kevd

    Thanks Andrew.
    The medians could also be good spots for stormwater collecting tree planters.

  • carma

    larry, joe, i happen to live close enough to queens blvd that i drive and walk as a pedestrian regularly. drving wise, it is not scary. ive only been driving for 15 years that i never had an accident. use commonsense when driving. and dont text. as a pedestrian, some parts like yellowstone blvd can be a hazard if you dont watch where you are walking. as i mentioned, no traffic calming will alleviate the situation. you can make the lights 90 seconds long, (which still may be too short for certain folks) but that would cause traffic chaos. a pedestrian skyway is done in many parts of asia, when you have roads like queens blvd. a great one is omotesando in tokyo. but there is little chance we will see that here. in fact, a pedestrian/bike skyway would be great for queens blvd biking/walking. but the city unfortunately would need lots of money to build this.

  • Making the middle spaces unmetered is actually a good idea. Well, sort of. They shouldnt be free, just have no time limits.

    Why not let someone pay $10 to buy 24 hours worth of parking? This is easy if the meters take cards. Let people park for 1 hour or 30 hours in the middle, as long as they pay for it (like the airport!)

    Also, if theyre concerned that people will park, and then fly to florida for a month, all you need is to set aside 4 hours a week for street cleaning.

    No parking Monday 2am-6am. Easy. Any cars left are towed.

    The median does seem like a huge amount of wasted space though. Plenty of room for protected bike paths.

    Can people complain that a bike lane means less parking, if the bike lane is presented as adding 40 spots?

  • JJJJJ

    Making the middle spaces unmetered is actually a good idea. Well, sort of. They shouldnt be free, just have no time limits.

    Why not let someone pay $10 to buy 24 hours worth of parking? This is easy if the meters take cards. Let people park for 1 hour or 30 hours in the middle, as long as they pay for it (like the airport!)

    Also, if theyre concerned that people will park, and then fly to florida for a month, all you need is to set aside 4 hours a week for street cleaning.

    No parking Monday 2am-6am. Easy. Any cars left are towed.

    The median does seem like a huge amount of wasted space though. Plenty of room for protected bike paths.

    Can people complain that a bike lane means less parking, if the bike lane is presented as adding 40 spots?

    Also, I cant seem to leave a comment when using firefox? I had to load up IE.

  • Hi

    Another street that looks like this is Rutgers between cherry and Madison.
    http://bit.ly/eqb2ct

  • Hey

    What happens when they need to plow the snow on 48th Avenue after the redesign? There’s nowhere for the snow.

  • kevd

    @ Hey –
    the snow problem is no greater than on any one lane 1 way street in NY.
    Its just that there are 2. And they are right next to each other. And with the median, there is a place for people to put the snow from their cars… Not that they would if they never have to be moved.

    on my earlier point….
    Street cleaning is really way to frequent in general in this town. I enables certain level of disgusting and slobbish behavior. Many streets could be twice a month on each side.
    (could save money too) Twice a week on each side of most streets is probably over kill in many instances.

  • I haven’t had much time to comment today, but I want to throw my $0.02 in here about pedestrian overpasses. They suck, they’re anti-pedestrian and anti-urban, and they don’t belong on Queens Boulevard. What Queens Boulevard needs is a trolley, like the Paris tramway.

  • Joe R.

    Capt. Transit, you do know Queens Blvd has a subway under it, so a tram would be kind of redundant here. As for pedestrian overpasses, agreed that they’re anti-urban and should be used as little as possible, but there are some clear cases where there’s no alternative. You can’t stop motor traffic for the 90 seconds to 120 seconds it might take for a pedestrian to cross. Even if you did, there’s still the issue of turning cars. Really, there is no good solution here other than a pedestrian overpass.

    We have to realize that liveable streets are nice, but in order for the city to function there are just going to have to be some roads where you give up and say let the cars have it. In fact, by making these roads faster, you’ll draw traffic from other roads. Queens Blvd is one of these roads which would be perfect given that it’s pretty hopeless anyway for anything but motor traffic. I’m all for getting rid of the crosswalks altogether, sticking in pedestrian overpasses on those blocks without subway stations (which can function as an underpass), and raising the speed limit to something like 40 mph on the service road, and 60 mph in the middle road (these would match the actual speeds people drive). When you have a few fast, high-capacity arterials like this, you have a better case for calming lots of other streets, perhaps in some cases even making them off limits to motor traffic altogether. Queens Blvd. is practically like a highway, except it has intersections. Might as well just treat as if it were a highway for pedestrian purposes.

    Not sure what to do with it in regards to bike traffic though. If money were no object I think it would be a perfect test case for an elevated bike road. Actually, that might not be as expensive as it sounds. Once you get to the part where the #7 line comes in, you just need to hang something off that for bikes. You could even have it connect with the lane on the Queensboro Bridge for a nice, seamless run into Manhattan. I would love it personally. Basically I go about 2.5 miles on regular streets, then run on the “el” for the remaining 9 miles or so into Manhattan.

  • We have to realize that liveable streets are nice, but in order for the city to function there are just going to have to be some roads where you give up and say let the cars have it.

    To you, Joe, and all those who “realize” that, this post is for you.

  • carma

    joeR, i agree that the best solution for a bike lane is an overhead lane, but another alternative could be to remove the express/local infrastructure and completely revamp the blvd. this way we really get this blvd tamed, and at the same time allow cars to travel smoothly w/o the service rd/main rd infrastructure.
    the same proposal that was given for woodhaven blvd.

    one problem i can see though, is w/ the lirr overpass on 74th st & queens blvd. w/o major work there, reconfiguring any road is impossible.

  • Joe R.

    “To you, Joe, and all those who “realize” that, this post is for you.”

    Just so you know, you’re preaching to the choir here. I’ve never owned a car and never had a driver’s license. I’m aware that those who think a car is “necessary” will often be able to function fine without it. This seems to magically happen every time we have a big snowstorm, for example. My post was actually more directed at the types of motor vehicles which are necessary for the city to function, such as delivery vehicles, buses, emergency vehicles, paratransit services, etc. We can certainly greatly decrease the amount of private car usage, even if we can’t eliminate it completely. Nevertheless, you need *some* roads for motor vehicles. And it’s better for all if we can funnel most motor vehicle traffic to a few fast arterials and/or highways. It makes for less opposition when calming, narrowing, or restricting other streets.

    Let’s say we did as I described on Queens Blvd. It’s far cheaper than a complete road revamp even if you also included an overhead bike lane. You stick in the overhead bike lane on the premise that cycling on the “new”, faster Queens Blvd. would be akin to being a participant in “Death Race”. That’s probably not far from the truth. The good news is this provides a fast, high-capacity trunk route right into Manhattan for people far into Queens. It gets heavily used, it gets a small number out of their cars. Most importantly, it gets widespread support for more of this type of infrastructure. A few years later you have the Queens Blvd “el” connecting with “els” on other major arterials like Jamaica Avenue, Union Turnpike, Yellowstone Blvd, etc. Now you have lots more people not only using bikes to go into Manhattan, but also using the els to get from one part of Queens to another. Same with Brooklyn and perhaps the Bronx. Guess what? Most of those intraborough commuters are former motorists. Now you’re actually starting to reduce car traffic. Sure not everyone can or will bike, but you can get a huge number to realize you can live well without a car. Eventually perhaps Queens Blvd. has little enough traffic that you can narrow it to 6 lanes, and perhaps dispense with the pedestrian overpasses. Same with other places where this was done. The bike “els” stay of course because they’re what made bike travel so much faster and safer that it attracted hordes. And who knows? Perhaps by then you’re mass producing velomobiles, making bike commuting 50% faster than it was before, again attracting yet more people.

    So sometimes you have to (hopefully) temporarily give up something now to get a lot more in the future. I’m more than happy to do so, and let motor vehicles have certain roads for the time being.

  • A tram on QB is not redundant, since the subway underneath veers to Broadway, and is close to capacity anyway.

  • I’m not quite preaching to the choir, Joe. My post is aimed at those who think that You Can’t Do Personal Transportation Without a Car, but also at those who think that You Can’t Do Freight/Government/Paratransit Without a Car. I repeat, there is nothing you can’t do without a car, as long as you have the proper infrastructure. And a little imagination, apparently.

    Have you discussed your elevated veloways idea with the Queens Committee of Transporation Alternatives?

  • Joe R.

    I hear you Capt. Transit, although I’m still not sold on the idea the *everything* can be done without motorized transit of some kind (not necessarily cars). Sure, things I can think of might include using the subways to move freight during off hours (with cargo bikes going the distance from stations to final destination), paratransit vehicles closer to the size of a pedicab, putting cops on bikes instead of in patrol cars, etc. I’m actually a bigger fan of moving things on rail as opposed to road due to the inherently greater efficiency. Anyway, this is a good discussion. I’d like to hear more of your ideas.

    On the elevated veloways, I really want to create a nice, coherent writeup of the whole idea which I’ll hopefully do sometime this year in order to present to various groups. In my opinion this is the logical next step. JSK is creating what is a nice short-medium distance distribution network. A system of long-distance “els” could leverage this as a feeder network. Like you said, anything is possible given the infrastructure (and equipment), including human-powered commuting over distances previously thought unfeasible.

  • carma

    capn. i will give you a good example of why ppl need cars. today, i happened to have driven a carpool full of 7 ppl in my sienna to a family event in upstate. now, sure we could all hop on the metro north. but first we would have had to grab all our gear and stuff. load it up on a bus. (i live in queens where subways are not plentiful). transfer to a subway, with the mta weekend work. travel to grand central. change for the metro north. and after getting off. either wait a long time for another bus. or call 2 taxis to get to my final destination.
    how is that efficient for me? in terms of cost AND time. it simply is not practical, nor efficient.

    now during weekdays, i curse at driving due to traffic and the burdened cost of tolls since i work in jersey. i still take an hour and 15 min mass transit option OVER a 50 minute drive one way.

    but clearly sometimes, the car is just a better option. no matter what infrastructure you put in.

  • You’re not getting it, Carma. Having the right infrastructure means that your family of seven is a short walk from a train station, and so is the family event, with minimal transfers.

    Now, imagine there were no East River bridges or tunnels for cars, and in fact all cars drive on narrow gravel paths. Suddenly your Sienna (I’m assuming it’s a car, not a lump of clay) is not so useful. It takes you an hour over the bumpy, congested gravel paths to get to the ferry dock, then you have to wait an hour for the ferry, then it’s another three hours to get to your party.

    Yes, currently it’s a pain in the ass to get from someplace in Queens that’s not near the train to someplace upstate without a car, but that’s not the car, it’s the infrastructure.

  • carma

    capn. i hear what you are trying to say. an infrastructure set in place works great in cities, but you will NEVER see a country wide system where EVERY remote corner of the country is accessible by mass transit. i happen to support mass transit very strongly and wish the second IND system was built in ny. this would have connected certain parts like college point and bayside to the subway. at 63rd drive, we would have had a connection down to brooklyn, eliminating the need for the bqe. the g train is a joke connecting queens to brooklyn. but guess what, we had no money to build them.
    and some of the east river bridges were built with streetcars running as the primary mode. bridges were built long before the advent of cars. so it would not be fair to say more bridges were built because the advent of the car.

    what would you define minimal transfer? even if a system was built so i never have to leave the station, i still need to “transfer” as there will never be a total direct connection. and that requires lugging gear, and babies. and when i do get to upstate, there is still the issue of getting around. i doubt small towns ever will have a budget to provide streetcars.

    it takes me about 35 minutes by car to my destination. if mass transit was an option. it would take me 20 minutes by bus to the train. the r to 59th, transfer to the 4 to grand centarl. 25 minutes. then an additional 35 minutes by metro north. plus an additional 10 minutes by taxi.
    im not even including wait and dwell time. we are talking 2-3 hours for a party of 7.
    im not going to argue that its not doable. it certainly is doable. its just not practical. even if you put in the best infrastructure which will require HUGE amounts of investment.
    im surprised you dont know what a sienna is. every other taxi in nyc is a sienna these days.

  • carma

    it also may sound like i do nothing but drive, but the fact is i prefer to take a longer mass transit option during my weekdays b/c i dont have to deal with the frustration of congestion, tolls, wear and tear, and gas.

    i have biked to work as well in the past, but found it is not very pleasant biking 20 miles and you are all sweaty. (i do have a gym at work). time wise, it is on par with mass transit though. but then you lose time getting ready again to freshen up so you dont become the stinker at work.

    this may scare you, but i own two cars as well. i put only 5000 miles a year on both cars combined bc we have mass transit. i happen to enjoy driving when it is traffic free.

  • Carma: fine, for some uses cars are just better – for example, low-volume discretionary travel outside urban areas. But this has nothing to do with reducing traffic on Queens Boulevard, which is a pedestrian-hostile urban throughfare. Inducing people to shift driving to off-peak hours or to shift to other modes of transportation for urban travel is not going to make your road trips Upstate any worse.

  • carma

    alon, i agree. if anything, all drivers really do need to carpool, or switch to other modes. it makes overall driving experience more pleasurable if there are less cars. queens blvd is just a mess. and as i mentioned, nothing short but a COMPLETE redesign like ripping up the entire roadway and redoing is the only soluton

  • Carma, my point is that roads designed for cars and trucks are not absolutely necessary for a city to function. Millions of people have gotten in the habit of driving because that’s what the infrastructure encourages.

    In your case, the infrastructure encourages you to use your car. But I could imagine a train line going from Long Island and Queens to Westchester without a transfer. But in the scenario I gave where the only infrastructure available for your Sienna is narrow gravel roads and ferries, I could imagine you not choosing to live in Queens, or your relatives not choosing to live in Westchester. You made those choices because you knew the infrastructure was there.

    Ignoring the effect our infrastructure has on investments and habits will over-constrain us and blind us to the possibilities.

  • Cap’n, while what you say is very true for urban travel – as well as suburban travel to a large extent – it breaks down outside cities. There’s a reason why even in Switzerland, world capital of good rural regional rail, the cities still have a much higher transit share, and the rural populists are pro-road.

    Paving 70 km/h two-lane roads isn’t expensive. Conversely, transit lives off of high frequencies and easy pedestrian (or at worst bike or bus) connection to the stations. At low traffic volumes, you can leave the car and walk around wherever you want, whereas with transit you’d be captive to an infrequent schedule. Just as cars in an urban area impose certain restrictions – namely, accommodating them requires wide, expensive roads that severely degrade quality of life – in a rural area transit forces you to stay on particular routes with enough volume to justify running a train or a bus.

    On another note, one of the motivating forces behind suburbanization and roads in the US was that cars were the best mode of transportation for recreational rural travel even in the 1910s, so the urban patricians who romanticized the country decided to extend that into the cities, at great social, economic, and environmental cost to the people living there.

  • Alon, I’m not making any claims either way about the relative cost of the infrastructure or about transit frequency. I’m just saying that if you do have the infrastructure, cars aren’t necessary.

    Interesting point about the good roads people, though.

  • carma

    capn. you are right to a certain extent. case in point. manhattan has excellent transit for 80% of the island. there is very low personal car usage b/c of great transportation. however, you will still need roads for interuban delivery. trucks are THE best option if it is an 18 wheeler. a city full of hand cargo bikes are not going to cut it. out in queens, brooklyn, transportation is not so great and guess what, the best option is a car sometimes. i dont know what infrastructure you have in mind that can replace the best option. but i know its not going to be cheap. lets put it this way. the 2nd avenue stubway is > 50 years in design, way overbudgeted, and is still not done. Yes STUBWAY, cause i dont see anytime that we will get passed phase 1. at best we are going to have a subway from 96th connecting to the 63rd st tunnel.

    other cities do have a great transit infrastructure like tokyo and hong kong have low personal car usage. but not in nyc. in manhattan, yes. but certainly not in queens/brooklyn. last time i checked, those were still part of the 5 boroughs of nyc.

    a very good infrastructure can yield most of the citizens with 0% car usage inter-urban. but a very good infrastructure can only reduce dependence on truck delivery, not eliminate it. you still dont solve the problem of outer urban transportation, which as mentioned, it will unlikely be reliable due to infrequent schedules.

  • Joe R.

    The problem is really that many people choose settlement patterns for which rail transit (which requires expensive infrastructure and high ridership) wasn’t economically viable. In an ideal world most people outside of farmers would be living in high-density urban arrangements, and walking, biking, or taking the train to get around. In that case, the suburban infrastructure to accomodate cars never would have been built, and then extended into cities.

    The point in Capt. Transit’s argument which is valid is that cars aren’t necessary given the proper infrastructure. Part of that infrastructure must include high-density living arrangements. Once you go to rural or even suburban density, personal transit of some type is needed. I submit though that such personal transit doesn’t have to consist of multiton vehicles with overpowered internal combustion engines. That’s highly inefficient in terms of space, energy, etc.

    The best way in the long run to reduce car use and dependence is to discourage sprawl. You can do this by taxing land by the square foot regardless of location, making it more expensive to build in the suburbs instead of cheaper. You can also stop subsidizing roads with low traffic density. In short, make anyone choosing a low-density arrangement pay the true costs. Economics will take care of the rest. Without external support for cars via suburbia, there will be no need or demand for them in cities. Cities in turn can stop expensively trying to accomodate them, and return the land used for wide roads to other uses. For example, take Queens Blvd. If the traffic on that road could be accomodated by one of the service roads, say one lane in each direction, plus the third lane as a bike path, then you essentially have the equivalent of another city block every block to do as you will with. Same with all the space used citiwide for parking lots or expressways. If even half that space were taken from autos, the city could accomodate twice as many people.

  • J
  • The point in Capt. Transit’s argument which is valid is that cars aren’t necessary given the proper infrastructure. Part of that infrastructure must include high-density living arrangements. Once you go to rural or even suburban density, personal transit of some type is needed. I submit though that such personal transit doesn’t have to consist of multiton vehicles with overpowered internal combustion engines. That’s highly inefficient in terms of space, energy, etc.

    Well, if by “personal transit” you mean bicycles, that’s fine. But it’s the local density, not the average density that matters. It’s certainly possible to live carfree in the country with the proper infrastructure.

  • Joe: the political choice to build roads even when they could not be built affordably went hand in hand with the political choice to zone for sprawl. And to preempt the usual crap about Houston, let me remind the gallery that Houston has parking minimums, setbacks, a rule saying the street network should “discourage through-traffic” (i.e. consist of cul-de-sacs), inducements to developers to deed-restrict subdivisions to single-family housing, and until recently a minimum lot size.

    While you’re in principle right that at low density transit doesn’t work well, if you only look at American suburbs you’ll overestimate the threshold below which people need cars. It’s impossible to build something like Calgary’s C-Train or Swiss regional rail with the quality of planning and regulations common in the US, but that can in principle be reformed much more easily than the density of personal living can be increased.

  • Suzanne

    “[O]ther cities do have a great transit infrastructure like tokyo and hong kong have low personal car usage. but not in nyc. in manhattan, yes. but certainly not in queens/brooklyn. last time i checked, those were still part of the 5 boroughs of nyc.”

    That is true – right now – but it doesn’t have to stay that way. I’m not sure I agree with the Cap’n that we can go completely car/truck free but just because things are the way they are doesn’t mean they can’t (and shouldn’t) be changed. That’s why we’re all here at Streetsblog.

    I lived in Japan for 7 years and they have very low car usage. Part of it is because they consciously disincentivize cars (making would be car owners prove they have parking before they can buy a car for instance.) Part of it is because of the excellent public transportation system. You can get just about anywhere in the entire country on a train. And people do. I took a trip with my sick mother, my aunt and my elderly grandmother on trains (the Bullet Train, of course.) Also, it’s quite common to have stores ship your purchases to your home when you’re travelling. People have learned to live without everyone driving around in their own car. The economy adjusts and it becomes as natural not to have a car as it is for most Americans to have one.

    Then again, we took taxis to travel around once we got to our destination, but that’s precisely my point. It’s expensive and a pain in the butt to own a car. If we can change our infrastructure to discourage car usage, and private car ownership in particular, you might find it’s actually easier (not to mention a hell of a lot cheaper!) to live without one. And just think of all the stuff you can do with the $10,000 a year you’ll have saved!

  • Evan Mckelvey

     Technically, cars are not allowed to park more than 6 days in the same spot in NYC. I could be wrong on the exact number, but long term parking should not occur if parking enforcement were to pay attention to this. When I lived in Boston, this was enforced. Another great idea from Boston was residential permit parking. Not that difficult of an idea. 

    On a side note, it would be nice for parking enforcement to enforce parking regulations in the LIC Industrial Business zone and stop solely targeting the residents on the LIC Waterfront. Especially for double parking when dropping off groceries. But the city does not like to ticket city owned vehicles, city employees with parking passes issued by DOT in there car, or those other people who park in between the city vehicles in the NO Standing Zones. I’m not talking about NYPD or FDNY, I’m talking about DOT, SCA, DOT.

    I’m getting sick and tired of the selective enforcement. This image is a typical scene taken a week ago. Taken while sitting parked waiting for trucks to go in and out of the loading bays. If cars weren’t parked to the left and right, that truck to the left would be parked adjacent to sidewalk and the traffic could move through. Instead, we all had to back up and take another street.

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