More New Yorkers Are Getting to Work Without Getting in Their Cars

Image: NYU Furman Center
Since 2000, riding transit to work is up, while car commuting is down. Image: NYU Furman Center

New York City is getting to be even more of a transit town. From 2000 to 2013, the share of working New Yorkers who commute by transit rose from 52.6 percent to 59.1 percent, while the share who commute by car dropped from 33.9 percent to 27.4 percent, according to a new analysis from the New York University Furman Center.

The Furman analysis is based on U.S. Census commute data. Not surprisingly, transit commuting is most prevalent in neighborhoods closest to the Manhattan core, such as Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx, western Queens, and northwest Brooklyn.

Transit commuting grew fastest in the South Bronx, Bushwick, Middle Village, Glendale, Brownsville, and East New York, increasing by more than 10 percentage points in those areas since 2000:

Neighborhoods near the South Bronx, Bushwick, Brownsville, and Middle Village had the biggest increases in transit commute share. Map: NYU Furman Center
Neighborhoods near the South Bronx, Bushwick, Brownsville, and Middle Village had the biggest increases in transit commute share. Map: NYU Furman Center

In all but three community board districts, more than a third of commuters take transit. The exceptions are Queens community district 11, covering Bayside and Little Neck, and Staten Island community districts 2 and 3, covering Tottenville, Great Kills, South Beach, and Willowbrook.

Bicycling also increased, but the report does not break out the rate of change in different parts of the city.

Instead the report shows neighborhood-by-neighborhood variations in current bike commute rates. Citywide, about 1 percent of New Yorkers choose bicycling as their primary mode of transportation to work. In northwest Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, which have a denser bike lane network, that rises to approximately 4 percent.

Biking to work varied greatly across the city. Map: NYU Furman Center
Biking to work rates vary greatly across the city. Map: NYU Furman Center

Other neighborhoods, the report points out, have higher bicycle commute rates than average but low levels of bicycle infrastructure, including Sunset Park, Borough Park, Flatbush, Midwood, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Corona.

The report also found that higher-density neighborhoods, which tend to be near the city’s core, had shorter average commute times: The city’s densest quarter of neighborhoods had average commutes of 35 minutes, while residents in the least-dense quarter of neighborhoods spent an average of 43 minutes getting to work.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The most anti-transit part of the city historically, with the most anti-transit politicians, has been Queens CB 5 — Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, etc.

    Archie Bunkerville s the place that fought the hardest against subway service.

    The fact that transit use is soaring there implies some serious population turnover is happening. Unfortunately, the way they have things rigged (and given the level of apathy) political turnover is much slower, if it happens at all.

  • BBnet3000

    Am I seeing this right that the areas of largest increase in transit ridership in Brooklyn are all along the L train? (and not just Williamsburg either) The MTA really needs to sort that train out. A several hundred million dollar investment in CBTC should mean trains on 90 second intervals at rush hour, not 180. The last time I was in Union Square at 5:15pm they were running on the latter and trains were coming through too full for people to get on.

  • Joe R.

    IIRC the issue isn’t the signaling but the throughput at the ends of the line. A similar issue exists on the Queens Boulevard line. I think you need somewhere north of 2 minutes for a train to exit the last stop, take the switch to the other side, and then pull into the station heading the other way. There are ways to fix this, but they all require space for track plus money the MTA doesn’t have.

  • BBnet3000

    Yep, and we’re going to have to wait decades for them to extend the tunnel to add tailing tracks so that they can provide the service increases they already promised (but should have known were impossible) with the upgrades.

  • ahwr

    I’ve seen RPA and others say the current max is 22, over the 20 or so they run, with minor upgrades to power systems it can go up to 26-28 tph without tunnelling. That’s a significant increase over current service levels.

    Where did the MTA promise they would run trains every 90 seconds on the L once they upgraded the signal system?

  • BBnet3000

    They never promised 90 second headways (that would be an awful lot of transparency for a state agency) but the “Should make some people very happy.” ads certainly implied that commutes without any service interruptions would no longer be a crushload/missed train shitshow once upgrades were complete.

  • Bolwerk

    Ridgewood real estate is on fire right now.

  • Bolwerk

    Tail tracks could probably easily be added on the Eighth Ave. side, but getting better than 2m service probably requires the Canarsie end see about turning some trains somewhere else.

    That might be possible at Myrtle and maybe Broadway Junction.

  • Larry Littlefield

    M train. Which proves something.

    The Archie bunkers used to worry about poor Black people moving in. Now they are afraid of college educated young adults pricing them out.

    In reality the college educated young adults are poorer than they are. But they are willing to live three to a room, and that allows them to price people out.

    You remember what the promise local pols made in Ridgewood back in the day? They’d keep Brooklyn out of Queens. Ha.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The signal system could accommodate 90 second headways but not, as mentioned, the terminals. There are multiple constraints on capacity.

    They could have, should have, added tail tracks after 8th Avenue and left enough trackage for a terminal at Broadway Junction. In the former case, they were probably afraid of the NIMBYs.

  • Bolwerk

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I don’t really see Ridgewood falling victim to Bushwick’s hipsterfied doom though, at least not to the same extent. Ridgewood did/does have a rather strong family/”middle class” homeowner segment too. It also has a lot of rent stabilization – albeit, at market rates that were well below legal rental rates, at least until recently.

    Speaking of transit-friendly Queens neighborhoods, Sunnyside seems to be taking off too.


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