Vanderbilt Avenue: The Model for DOT’s 9th Street Proposal?

As noted elsewhere, tonight the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 will consider a plan by DOT to redesign 9th Street from Third Avenue to Prospect Park West in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Ninth Street is a very wide street for the number of vehicles that actually use it. Overly wide streets may tend to encourage speeding and create dangerous conditions. On 9th Street we often see these dangers where the left-turning vehicles have to cross two lanes of traffic while keeping an eye on pedestrians in the far-off crosswalk.

Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights had a very similar problem to 9th Street. So, in May 2006 DOT striped a 15-foot wide median with left-turn bays, reducing Vanderbilt to one travel lane in each direction and bringing left-turning cars closer to the crosswalk where the pedestrian conflicts occur.

Many in Prospect Heights will tell you that the Vanderbilt median has helped to calm traffic, make left-turns less dangerous, and foster a safer, more pleasant pedestrian environment. In the future DOT says that it hopes to turn the striped median into a raised, planted median kind of like Park Avenue in Manhattan.

DOT’s success on Vanderbilt Avenue is, I believe, the basis for the 9th Street proposal. But no one at DOT is talking very much and these planning processes are done in secret, so who really knows?

Here are some Vanderbilt Avenue before and after photos:





  • Tom

    Those changes sure made the street look a lot more cheerful and sunny!

  • rlb

    That’s definitely an improvement for Vanderbilt, but wouldn’t it be better to widen the sidewalks as opposed to adding a fifteen foot median?
    Adding five feet or so to both sidewalks would create an impressive pedestrian experience. That leaves five feet to work with for the turning bays, which could probably happen with a little tweaking of lane widths.
    Plus, without a median the opposing cars are closer to eachother which tends to result in slower speeds.
    Anybody know if there is a standard for lane widths? what it is?

  • oiseau

    Too bad you don’t have pictures there of Vanderbilt Ave at the evening rush hour. I used to live on the street and the amount of cars was ridiculous and all you needed was one double-parked car and the whole thing went to hell. I don’t live there anymore but I can only imagine the carnage with these so called “improvements”.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    If that’s all you can imagine, Oiseau, try expanding your horizons. Imagine that all the people who tried to drive down Vanderbilt during rush hours realized that it took too long and switched to the subway instead. Induced demand is real.

    I haven’t seen Vanderbilt Avenue for years, so right now all we’ve got is dueling imaginations.

  • lee

    I drive vanderbilt almost every day.

    It is a nightmare at the intersections of Gates and Fulton, but I think that could be cleaned up with a few tweaks in signal timing.

    the other trouble spot is right where the two lanes neck down into one. There is a bus stop right there which is almost always blocked by illegal parkers or double parkers, which means the bus stops in a moving lane right where cars are trying to merge and no one can move for the duration of the stop.

  • boon doggle

    From what I hear the response to the Vanderbilt measures has been overwhelmingly positive from the community, and there have been no significant crashes. So, oiseau, keep “imagining” the carnage.

  • concerned

    has anyone considered the dramatic decrease in air quality that results from car exhaust on vanderbilt? the narrowing often backs up traffic to a crawl, increasing air pollution!

  • Charlie

    This approach is being used on Prospect Park Southwest. It is a total disaster. Check it out. Traffic is backed up from Park Circle to 11th Avenue.

  • BorschtBelt

    okaaaayyy.. so on the one hand people want traffic calming and reduced dependence on cars.. on the other hand they don’t want the flow of traffic to be affected. which one will it be?

  • MD

    I’ve noticed traffic being less backed up on Vanderbilt since the changes were implemented.

  • Bob

    I agree that this “might” work on Ninth St. But how can this be a good example, when there aren’t two bike lanes also the way it’s proposed on Ninth St. When a car will try to make a right on Ninth St. It will have to stay in the one lane of traffic so as not to block the bike lane. This will cause more problems than Prospect Park SW or the what was commented on re:Vanderbilt. Ninth sT. will have horns sounding & fumes for most of the length. Especially from the Cement Trucks, DOT asphalt trucks & oil trucks that use Ninth St. to go to/from Smith St. & Hamilton Ave.

  • da

    Bob, Vanderbilt and 9th present exactly the same scenario to cars making a right turn. One travel lane in Vanderbilt, one travel lane in 9th St. The presence or absence of a bike lane would seem to be irrelevant. If anything, it seems easier to make a right turn on 9th since you can cut into the bike lane. In Vanderbilt, there are parked cars instead of a bike lane.


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