nerdy.nel’s new york transportation improvement plan (NYTIP)

UPDATE (10.30.2020): Updated several NYTIP posts and added a link to the latest Enhanced NYC Subway service guide – see below! More updates coming soon as I work on major revisions.

Over the years, I’ve given much thought to New York’s transportation infrastructure and how to improve it. While I mainly focused on subways, given my love of trains, I recently began thinking beyond the rails. It’s no secret – NYC’s subway is in crisis. NY is always stuck in traffic. NY’s highways are a chief source of pollution and misery. Politicians blame bikes for car-caused congestion.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) presented a golden opportunity to rethink transportation in NY. Stay-at-home orders and the resulting decrease in traffic reduced air pollution in cities worldwide; along the Eastern Seaboard, cities normally inundated with pollution from Interstate 95 enjoyed an unusual respite. However, despite the usual rhetoric, politicians have largely failed to seize the moment – traffic hell is slowly returning, with no meaningful solutions in sight.

So how do we fix all this? How do we get NY moving again post-pandemic, in a way that also achieves environmental justice for all?

Enter the New York Transportation Improvement Plan (NYTIP)!

What is NYTIP, you ask? Simply put, NYTIP is my informal collection of ideas for improving New York’s transportation systems and infrastructure. I’ll present these ideas in a series of blog posts.

My motivation for starting this blog series came from many places – studying transit and highway maps, researching formal subway plans, proposals from the Regional Plan Association, discussions on Transit/Urbanist Twitter, ideas from The Brown Bike Girl, Transit Ninja, Second Avenue Sagas, vanshnookenraggen, and others, and of course, my own ideas. This post will serve as an index for NYTIP; as I publish new posts on NYTIP, I’ll link to them here.

First, a disclaimer. I am not affiliated with any transportation agencies. However, I am a member of the Rail Passengers Association, and also support Transportation Alternatives.

Now let’s get to the fun part!

VOLUME I: A NEW NYC SUBWAY SYSTEM

This series of posts will address the broken NYC subway system. NYTIP prescribes a three-point plan for the NYC Subway, in this order:

  1. Enhance. Improve the NYC subway’s frequency and regularity by “de-interlining” subway lines, reducing merging conflicts throughout the system, and leveraging existing infrastructure.
    1. UPDATED! Central Park West
    2. UPDATED! South Brooklyn
    3. UPDATED! Broadway and Queens Boulevard
    4. Eastern Parkway
    5. UPDATED! South Bronx
    6. UPDATED! Enhanced NYC Subway summary
    7. UPDATED! Overnight service and subway maintenance
    8. UPDATED! The low-hanging fruit
    9. UPDATED! Enhanced NYC Subway service guide (Microsoft Excel file)
  2. Extend. Extend NYC’s subway lines to increase the system’s reach.
    1. SAS Phase 2X and LaGuardia Airport
    2. Concourse and Pelham line extensions to Co-op City
    3. Utica Avenue subway
    4. Flushing line extensions
    5. Southeast Queens
    6. Brooklyn extensions
    7. Extended NYC Subway summary (Post taken offline temporarily due to major updates in progress)
  3. Expand. Build new subway lines to serve areas that the existing system doesn’t serve at all.

The goal of this three-point plan is two-fold. First, immediate improvements made possible by enhancing the NYC Subway will allow each subway line to run at least every 4 minutes during peak hours and at least every 8 minutes during off-peak hours, including weekends. Second, with additional infrastructural improvements, baseline service on each line improves to 3 minutes or better during peak hours and 6 minutes or better off-peak. Regardless of current loading guidelines or service levels, this will be the new baseline for subway service, with higher-ridership routes receiving more frequent service.

To make weekend subway service more reliable under NYTIP, most maintenance work will shift from weekends to the overnight hours through targeted line closures – essentially an expanded FASTRACK program. In exchange, each subway line that operates overnight will run every 15 minutes or better instead of every 20. Proper street management is key to making this transition a success, as line closures will require adequate substitutes (such as frequent shuttle bus service).

More posts coming soon!

VOLUME II: TRANSFORMING COMMUTER RAIL INTO REGIONAL RAIL

The Tri-State Area (NY, NJ, and CT) is home to some of the largest commuter rail systems in the United States. Existing tracks form a well-connected network; however, MTA’s Metro-North Railroad (MNR) and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and NJ Transit, operate entirely separate services with different fare regimes and little interconnectivity. Building on the Regional Plan Association’s Trans-Regional Express (T-REX) proposal, NYTIP prescribes policy and infrastructural changes that will transform commuter rail into regional rail, improving travel throughout the Tri-State Area.

Posts coming soon!

VOLUME III: RETHINKING ROADS, REBUILDING NEIGHBORHOODS

The “master builder”, Robert Moses, is often credited with building large swaths of parks, beaches, and highways throughout New York. However, many of his projects have come at great cost – costs which many New Yorkers (especially in The Bronx) still bear today in the form of scarred neighborhoods, asthma, air pollution, heavy – and often dangerous – traffic conditions, and more.

To undo the damage wrought by urban highways in NYC, NYTIP proposes a radical rethinking of the road network. In moving toward a new philosophy of urban highways – namely, that interstate through traffic should travel around cities, not through them – NYTIP calls for outright removal of the most deleterious highways and highway stubs to allow full restoration of the neighborhoods destroyed by their construction. NYTIP also explores converting other highway segments into pedestrian-friendly boulevards. The resulting road network retains connections to the national road network while achieving environmental justice in communities blighted by highways for decades.

Posts coming soon!

VOLUME IV: STREETS FOR PEOPLE AND BETTER BUSES FOR ALL

For far too long, NY streets have prioritized the automobile – think free curbside parking, parking lots, wide roadways, and car-oriented amenities like drive-thrus and garages – while neglecting the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and mass transit users. The result – crowded sidewalks and absurdly-slow buses.

The road to better buses requires a twofold approach. First, NYTIP seeks to replicate the 14th Street Busway‘s success by implementing a citywide network of busways to usher in real Bus Rapid Transit. A robust network of local buses will overlay this busway network, dramatically improving service. Second, NYTIP proposes reforms to the citywide express bus network that will increase its utility and reach, especially for those with few transportation alternatives.

For streets, NYTIP proposes changes to street design that prioritizes movement of people and goods over movement of cars and parking.

Posts coming soon!

VOLUME V: CONCEIVING A COHESIVE BICYCLE NETWORK

Bicycles have existed in some form for over two centuries. More recently, the number of people commuting by bicycle has increased substantially in NYC. Despite this, cycling infrastructure remains woefully inadequate. Quite frankly, it shouldn’t be.

Recently, the Regional Plan Association released their plan for a Five Borough Bikeway, a cohesive network of protected bicycle lanes and greenways in NYC. Using this proposal as a model, NYTIP will explore several options for building a citywide network of greenways and the connections between them.

Posts coming soon!

VOLUME VI: MICROMOBILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY

This series of posts will explore options for integrating micromobility into NY’s streets. Micromobility options include bikeshare, E-bikes, scooters, and mopeds. Rather than serving select communities or parts of the city, NYTIP calls for citywide micromobility. All options must be accessible to those with disabilities; to this end, NYTIP also explores design options that achieve this goal.

Posts coming soon!

VOLUME VII: FIXING FERRIES AND FREIGHT TRANSPORT

In 2017, Mayor Bill deBlasio introduced the NYC Ferry service. While the ferries offer a new way of getting around NYC, they are heavily subsidized and serve whiter, richer commuters than other modes. Splurging money on the ferries while buses and subways crumble is not sound transportation policy.

Nevertheless, ferries will have a place under NYTIP. As a luxury service, NYTIP proposes increasing ferry fares (except for the legacy Staten Island Ferry service between St. George and Whitehall Terminal) to match the express bus fare. OMNY integration will allow free transfers between ferries and other modes. NYTIP also calls for a network redesign that will allow better interconnectivity between the ferries and bus and rail links.

This volume will also include posts on shifting freight mode share from trucks (currently about 90% in NYC) to other modes such as rail and maritime.

Posts coming soon!

VOLUME VIII: THE NYTIP COST VOLUME

This volume will provide ballpark cost estimates for each of the recommended proposals under NYTIP. The estimated costs allow for proposal prioritization based on feasibility, benefits, risks, and possible incorporation with other proposals as single projects.

Posts coming soon!

NYTIP INSIDER

Get the inside scoop on the drafting of NYTIP!

18 thoughts on “nerdy.nel’s new york transportation improvement plan (NYTIP)

  1. I’ve always thought that during off-peak hours, it may be inefficient for MTA to run full-length trains at higher frequency on some lines… So they should do so with half-length trains. Especially overnight. And especially on the Staten Island Railway.

    I think SIR has the potential to be much more useful if there were 2-car trains every 15 (or 10) minutes rather than 4-car trains every 30. Get the bus system to make SIR connections with these higher frequencies, and we have a framework for improving public transportation in Staten Island.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Concerning shorter trains: it might work for overnight service, but I wouldn’t consider it at any other time; off-peak daytime ridership (even with the current ridership drop) is too high for short trains.

      As for Staten Island, the forthcoming ferry route to West Midtown may catalyze SIR service/ridership increases, so they should keep 4-car trains. That said, I do wonder if SIers would trade shorter trains for more frequent service until the new ferry route launches?

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      1. Even then, with the SIR, I think that they should shoot for six- or five-minute headways before forming longer trains. Frequency is useful, y’know? In time, the frequency in itself might further catalyze ridership to justify bringing back longer trains, but let’s make trains more useful now.

        With regards to the subways, how ’bout the weekends? Not for all lines (the L is fine, for example lol), but I think they can stretch it out on some lines. This weekend, both my F train and my R train ran every 12 minutes. The J is similar.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Totally agreed on high frequency being useful, and I can see the SIR being a good test case for this. Weekends get tricky. My thinking for NYTIP was running full-length trains more frequently to encourage ridership and discourage driving, but I can see the merit of your points (and as someone who once regularly used the D – hardly a paragon of frequent service! – I feel your pain).

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  2. Have you done the abandoned line from Steinway Street? It is a tunnel that went from 57th Street-6th Avenue, continued under Central Park, turned under East 76th Street, went under Roosevelt Island, continued under 34th Avenue in Astoria, and ended up in Steinway Street. There is an entrance north of Steinway Street, along with the catwalk there is a door. If you look down, you will see an abandoned lower level tunnel from a 76th Street connector. The tunnel is allegedly used by the NYPD as a firing range. The 76th Street tunnel was moved down to 63rd Street due to geological concerns. What stations would you put down? Because a lot of people don’t know the stations in that proposal.

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    1. Hi Joseph:

      No, I haven’t done that line. I didn’t even know about the 76th Street tunnel proposal (nor was I aware provisions for such actually exist) – I only had vague recollection of a proposal for a tunnel in that vicinity. From what I’ve read, there were plans to route what eventually became the 63rd Street line through either 61st or 64th Street. Do you know if this 76th Street connection would’ve utilized the Queens Blvd express, QB local, or some other line?

      Haven’t thought about where this line could go, but after Steinway Street, I could see 31st Street and 21st Street in Queens, as well as 2nd Avenue and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, as potential station sites. Though I wouldn’t use the 76th Street alignment – might be easier to use 79th Street due to its width.

      I took a look at that “Lost Subways” link and it’s very interesting! Some of those routes are indeed among those I’ll consider for new trunk lines, which I’ll explore once I’m done with the series on subway extensions (two posts left there – one of which is a summary post).

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      1. I think the 79th Street would be okay. But how many stations in Manhattan would it be and would there be a station in Roosevelt Island?

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      2. If it weren’t for the L train on the 10th Avenue line and the 63rd street line was kept with the line you assigned, would the V be brought back?

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      3. You could possibly have a station at Roosevelt Island as the line would likely pass near “The Octagon” apartment complex.

        As for Manhattan, the number of stations ultimately depend on where this line goes. I’d say either SAS or a new line entirely (and I wouldn’t introduce a merge with SAS here because I have other ideas for a full-length SAS and branches). Only other option for a new line without introducing too much redundancy is Amsterdam/10th Avenue. Now, you mentioned the L extension on 10th Avenue. If you opt instead for a one-stop extension of the L to 10th Avenue – 14th Street, meeting a hypothetical 7 train extension as I proposed in my post on Flushing extensions, you’d likely have room on 10th for the new line.

        To re-introduce the V on 6th Avenue, you’d have to remove the M, and I doubt that’ll fly given how popular the Chrystie connection is. As such, I’d prefer a new line. Incidentally, the 34th Avenue alignment fits nicely with a hypothetical Northern Boulevard subway, so there are quite a few possibilities. I’ll probably explore these in a future post.

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  3. I think a new line besides the V would be a good idea since I could put it on the Canarsie, Crosstown, or Second Avenue Line. There would have to be something different. Besides the T has been forgotten. Lets think of a letter.

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  4. I would start from 57th Street-6th Avenue, go to 5th Avenue-76th Street, Lexington Avenue-79th Street, 2nd Avenue-79th Street, Roosevelt Island-Octagon Terminal, 21st Street-Ravenswood, 31st Street, Steinway Street, 46th Street, Northern Blvd, 67th Street, 74th Street, 82nd Street, Junction Blvd, 103rd Street, 108th Street, 114th Street, Seaver Way, Flushing-Main Street, Elder Ave, 57th Avenue, Horace Harding Blvd-Main Street, Kissena Blvd-Queens College, 164th Street, 172nd Street, Utopia Pkwy, 188th Street, Peck Avenue, 200th Street, 209th Street, 216th Street-Bell Blvd, 221st Street-Springfield Blvd, 227th Street-Cloverdale Blvd, Hampton Blvd, and Marathon Pkwy.

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    1. Looks good, though I might space some of the stops a bit farther apart. If the Northern Boulevard line extends beyond Flushing, then I’d only build the College Point branch of the 7 train extension and let the Northern Boulevard line capture the eastern segment. If Northern isn’t a trunk line, however, you could turn it at Flushing and let the 7 take care of points east as I proposed here.

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  5. About bringing back the V. But you’re right. I can move the M and H to Second Avenue. I can use the H from Rockaway Park to Staten Island, the M from Northern Blvd to Metropolitan Avenue, and the T you forgot about on it’s normal route. Though, I would expand it to Lefferts Blvd and Move the A for the stations 76 St, 87 St, Cross Bay Blvd, and 105 St and let it continue on it’s normal route to Far Rockaway. I would leave the light blue M on the 53rd Street Line with the E and let the Light Blue H go from Rego Park to Northern Blvd – Queens Plaza and continue on 63rd Street to go to Second Avenue and meet up with the T.

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    1. I’ve also thought of linking the Rockaway Beach line to the SAS. Funny enough, I was also thinking of using the “H” for such a route, as one idea I have is a full-length SAS (H/T/U/V) with express and local service. Of course, what letters ultimately get assigned depends on where they go, so nothing finalized yet. SAS via Fulton Local is some low-hanging fruit; you could then run the C express, streamlining A/C service over their respective routes.

      Lot of room to explore, that’s for sure!

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      1. I agree. I could have the H go from the Rockaway Beach to Staten Island, The T go with the Q from 125 St to 72 St and go til St Marks Pl and go on the S 4 St Line. I also thought of extending the K on the Worth Street Line to the S 4 St Line. I would have the U go the same route as the N til 72 St, then continue til Hanover Sq and go via Fulton Local. We might replace the C with that or not. I would have the V go on Rockaway Beach and take the Winfield Spur to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Av, then go on the line we were talking about, but join up with the T and U and then the H. Then, it will replace the B from Grand St to Brighton Beach, but move the B til the S 4 St line since the old V was discontinued 10 years ago. If it didn’t we would have the H as the Winfield Spur and move the M to SAS on Rockaway Beach til SAS and then go on the Winfield Spur but have the T go to Staten Island. When the W was brought back, it wrongly said “This is Canal St. Transfer’s available to the 6, J, M, N, Q, R, and Z trains.” and when there is an R68 for the Orange M, it just says V by mistake. But the M is the new V.

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