Monday, April 8, 2013

New York City: A Transportation Innovator, Past and Present

Established around one of the largest natural harbors in the world, transportation has been essential to New York City since it was settled in 1624.  The city’s five boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island – incorporated in 1898 to form the United States’ most populous and dense city, with over 8,000,000 residents in just over 300 square miles. Naturally divided by many water bodies, the urban fabric of NYC has been knit together over time with roads, bridges, and tunnels into one of the most complex transportation systems in the world. 

To serve the transportation needs of New Yorkers (plus millions of commuters and tourists that come to the city daily) NYC employs a multi-modal transportation system that carries cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, ferries, aerial trams, taxis, busses, and trains.  NYC relies heavily on mass transit, which carries over 50% of commuters daily.  Perhaps the most iconic transportation network in NYC is the New York City Subway, the busiest rapid transit rail system in the western hemisphere.  Operated 24/7/365 by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the subway system provided over 1.65 billion rides last year.  With 468 stations in operation, one in three of all subway stations in North America are in NYC. 

The streets of New York, in comparison, are known mostly for severe traffic congestion.  In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg’s administration released an aggressive plan to remake the streets of NYC into global icons once again.  The Sustainable Streets strategic transportation plan lays out many new policies to increase bicycling, provide bus rapid transit, make the streets safe and efficient for all users, and transform NYC’s streets into an integrated component of the public realm. 

Since 2008, the City’s Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has produced many groundbreaking publications.  The annual Sustainable Streets Index details the performance of the city’s transportation system through a wide range of indicators.  The Street Design Manual is arguably the best example of a comprehensive guide to complete streets design policy yet created.  NYC also took a leading role in the creation of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, the first US guide to providing world-class bike facilities. 

NYCDOT’s plan is remarkable not just for the plans and policy goals, but also for the speed and scale with which they are being pursued.  Within the first year of the plan, many high-profile projects were completed – including the complete closure of Times Square to auto traffic.  As the policy changes continue to play out on the streets of New York, it is clear that transportation innovation is still at the heart of the city.

Read More:

Check out the latest on NYC’s Sustainable Streets Plan and Related Documents –

Learn about The Street Design Manual –

See Cycling Infrastructure in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide –

Explore the raw numbers of Census Data (Enter New York City) -

Ponder these mind-blowing economic stats -

Dig deeper into the History(.com) of NYC -

Thanks to Brett Lezon for editing this post. 

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