Thursday, August 13, 2009

What if everyone drove to work this morning?

And now let us turn to the Big Apple, New York City, and listen to what they have to tell us about what would happen if tomorrow everyone who normally commutes into the city by subway decided instead to drive in and park their car. For the non-initiated, that is for non-New York natives, this piece, originally written to the local language, has been prepared for the ROW and is divided into three parts: (a) map, (b) rant, (c)lexicon.

- Original posting to Streetsblog NY by Brad Aaron on August 10, 2009

1. The Map:

Let's start with their map:

You probably can already see what they are up to. It might be interesting and instructive to run a similar drill for such a transfer in your city. If you do, please share your map and basic nunbers with us. We will surely publish it.

2. The rant (that is the original language Streetsblog NY piece):

[The map shows the . . . ] amount of space that would be needed for cars if subway-riding New Yorkers thought like, say, a certain assemblyman from Westchester.

Sure, knocking the MTA is a favorite local past time, particularly for the politicians and press who are practically guaranteed a "Hallelujah!" chorus for every barb (today's scandal: fat cat transit workers poised to rake in cost-of-living allowance!!). But despite the MTA's problems, as Michael Frumin points out on his Frumination blog, the city's streets and highways can't hold a candle to the subways when it comes to moving commuters into and out of Manhattan's Central Business District.

Parsing data derived from 2008 subway passenger counts and the NYMTC 2007 Hub Bound Report [PDF], Frumin writes:

Just to get warmed up, chew on this -- from 8:00AM to 8:59 AM on an average Fall day in 2007 the NYC Subway carried 388,802 passengers into the CBD on 370 trains over 22 tracks. In other words, a train carrying 1,050 people crossed into the CBD every 6 seconds. Breathtaking if you ask me.

Over this same period, the average number of passengers in a vehicle crossing any of the East River crossings was 1.20. This means that, lacking the subway, we would need to move 324,000 additional vehicles into the CBD (never mind where they would all park).

At best, it would take 167 inbound lanes, or 84 copies of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, to carry what the NYC Subway carries over 22 inbound tracks through 12 tunnels and 2 (partial) bridges.

At worst, 200 new copies of 5th Avenue. Somewhere in the middle would be 67 West Side Highways or 76 Brooklyn Bridges. And this neglects the Long Island Railroad, Metro North, NJ Transit, and PATH systems entirely.

Take a gander at the map above to get an idea of the real estate that would be taken up by all those cars. Think such a proposition would lead John Liu to base his stances on congestion pricing and bridge tolls on principle, rather than wind direction? Could Deborah Glick overlook her personal hatred for the billionaire mayor long enough to save her constituents from carmaggedon? Would the prospect of seeing his district literally transformed into a parking lot prompt Sheldon Silver to finally take an unequivocal stand favoring transit over car commuting?

Right. Probably not.


3. The lexicon

New York for Dummies Guide for non-New Yorkers

MTA is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority , the organization responsible for delivering public transportation for the New York Region. MTA subways, buses, and railroads provide 2.6 billion trips each year to New Yorkers -

NYMTC is the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council is an association of governments, transportation providers and environmental agencies that is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley. -

Individual local heroes named or hinted at: See links in article.

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Brad Aaronhas written extensively on government, business, education, the environment, urban planning and transportation, among other topics, began freelancing for Streetsblog NY in early 2007 and became Deputy Editor in February 2008. He lives in Inwood, at the northernmost tip of Manhattan, where he can always get a seat on the A train.

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