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Posts from the "Holland Tunnel" Category

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CB 2 Committee OKs Varick Street Traffic Calming, Punts on Bike Corrals

With two unanimous 9-0 votes, Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee took one step forward and one step back for livable streets last night, voting for safety fixes at a problematic intersection while punting on a proposal for bike corrals after local NIMBY extraordinaire Sean Sweeney showed up to squash it.

Just another day at the intersection of Carmine Street, Clarkson Street, Varick Street and Seventh Avenue South. Photo: Doug Gordon

A request for traffic calming and pedestrian safety fixes at the intersection of Clarkson Street, Carmine Street, Varick Street and Seventh Avenue South moved ahead after the committee agreed to drop further consideration of converting one block of Carmine Street to one-way operation. The intersection, which floods with traffic bound for the Holland Tunnel, would receive curb extensions on the northeast and northwest corners to reduce the crossing distance and daylighting treatments on the southwest corner through removal of on-street parking. The proposal was put forth by Brooklyn Spoke blogger Doug Gordon, who works nearby, and will move to the full board on January 24 before advancing to DOT and NYPD for agency consideration.

In a surprise move, the committee sent plans for three on-street bike corrals back to DOT for further study. Bike corrals were presented for three locations, each to be maintained by an adjacent business that had requested the bike parking: Spring Street Natural on the southwest corner of Spring and Lafayette Streets, Little Cupcake Bakeshop on the southeast corner of Prince and Mott Streets, and Organic Avenue at the corner of Sullivan and Houston Streets.

Sean Sweeney, winner of Streetsblog’s 2008 NIMBY of the Year award, pounced on these bike corral installations. “Why is SoHo DOT’s petri dish?” he asked. “Experiment somewhere else!”

Although DOT’s Inbar Kishoni pointed out that corrals are being installed in several other neighborhoods, and that the committee had already voted in support of a bike corral at Cafe Habana at Prince and Elizabeth Streets, Sweeney’s opposition scared away enough members from supporting the corrals. In the end, Committee Chair Shirley Secunda put forward a resolution asking DOT for more planning, education, and outreach before installing bike corrals.

So, thanks to Sweeney, instead of safer sightlines at intersections and on-street bike parking that would help relieve the spatial crunch on crowded sidewalks, SoHo and these local businesses will be getting nothing, at least for the time being. Chalk up another win for Sweeney’s SoHo Alliance.

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Hudson Square BID Sets Out to Reclaim Streets From Holland Tunnel Traffic

Every day, thousands of drivers, including trucks too large for city roadways, cross from the Manhattan or Williamsburg bridges, through the streets of Lower Manhattan, to the Holland Tunnel – all for a free ride (often to avoid the westbound toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge).

The Hudson Square BID wants to enhance SoHo Square by turning a short side street, Little Sixth Avenue, into a shared space that prioritizes pedestrians. Image: Hudson Square BID

The result is congestion, pollution, noise and dangerous conditions for everyone who dares to get in the way.

This week, the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District released a master plan [PDF] for the traffic-choked streets around the Holland Tunnel entrance, outlining $27 million in street improvements – from pedestrian space to bike lanes – aimed at making the neighborhood a less hostile environment.

The plan builds on work already underway to make the area a better place to walk. The BID has hired pedestrian safety managers to help with crossings at often-gridlocked intersections. Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee unanimously supported a DOT plan that was quickly approved by the full board in June to expand pedestrian space and provide clarity for drivers on Varick Street, Canal Street and Sixth Avenue.

The BID’s five-year master plan goes further. In addition to neighborhood-wide recommendations for streetscape features, it focuses on four key places: Varick Street, Hudson Street, Spring Street and “SoHo Square,” at the intersection of Spring and Sixth Avenue.

The plan for SoHo Square would convert Little Sixth Avenue into a shared street and construct raised crosswalks to slow vehicular traffic through the expanded plaza. For Varick Street, the BID wants to examine the feasibility of installing a planted median to separate tunnel-bound traffic from neighborhood traffic, to replace the strip of plastic white posts there today. Hudson Street would gain a protected bike lane —  an idea that Community Board 2 endorsed last year –while the entire neighborhood would see more trees.

Changes to Freeman Plaza, at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, have garnered the most press attention but are not included in the master plan, which aims to improve streets throughout the neighborhood. In 2010, the BID and the Regional Plan Association collaborated on conceptual plans for the plaza.

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Canal Street Report Recommends Wider Sidewalks, Smarter Parking

The only thing more congested than Canal Street might be Canal Street's sidewalks. Photo: via Flickr.

The only thing more congested than Canal Street might be Canal Street's sidewalks. Photo: Bertrand Duperrin via Flickr

Canal Street, to put it mildly, is due for a makeover. The street is clogged with traffic from the Holland Tunnel and the un-tolled Manhattan Bridge. Pedestrians jostle for space on the packed sidewalks, and they’re especially at risk of getting hit by a car, according to the city’s Pedestrian Safety Study.

Fortunately, the funds are in place for an eventual reconstruction and re-imagination of the street, thanks to federal World Trade Center emergency relief aid. To help determine how to design Canal Street, which must strike a balance between serving the local community and the regional transportation system, NYMTC, the region’s metropolitan planning organization, has been engaged in a nearly decade-long process of studying the area and drawing up recommendations for the corridor.

In a report released last Thursday [PDF], NYMTC recommends making Canal Street friendlier for pedestrians by adding significant amounts of sidewalk space. But larger changes, in particular the creation of a carpool lane in the Holland Tunnel, weren’t included. According to the NYMTC report, NYCDOT has agreed to use the recommendations to inform its plans, though a DOT spokesperson said only that the agency was reviewing the findings.

The Canal Area Transportation Study process began in 2002, and the first phase ended with some relatively small improvements to the area, like high-visibility crosswalks, new signage, and temporary improvements near Allen Street. Since 2005, the second, larger-scale phase of the study has been underway, bringing together all the regional transportation agencies as well as others with a stake in the project.

The NYMTC team studied a wide array of congestion-busting ideas for the corridor. Some, like two-way tolling on the Verrazano Bridge or congestion pricing, were dismissed because they required legislative approvals well outside the project’s scope. Transit expansions, like bringing the PATH train north from the World Trade Center or building light rail on Canal, were rejected as too costly. Some ideas were nixed because they lacked community support or because they conflicted with New York City’s Street Design Manual. Other ambitious proposals, like keeping traffic off side streets including Pell, Doyers, Mosco, and Mulberry, were referred to the appropriate agency for further study.

What’s left still has a lot to like.

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New York Transportation Officials: We’re Broke

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In the absence of funds, transportation agencies are looking for cost-effective ways to move people. The Port Authority suggested it would be open to increasing Holland Tunnel capacity with a bus lane, for example. Photo: keithlam via Flickr.

The state’s top transportation officials delivered some tough news to the construction industry Friday: Public agencies are so cash-strapped they don’t even have enough money to maintain existing infrastructure.

With budgets battered by rising maintenance costs and recession-ravaged revenues, an industry-sponsored conference offered little prospect of further expansions to the state’s transportation system beyond the projects currently underway. Some combination of new revenue streams, cost-saving measures, and public-private partnerships will be necessary simply to keep New York moving, most suggested. Meanwhile, the cozy relationship between public officials and construction industry heavyweights was on full display, at times contradicting the general message of austerity.

Speaker after speaker laid out the costs involved just to maintain the state’s aging infrastructure. Joel Ettinger, the head of the New York City region’s metropolitan planning organization, said that over the next twenty-five years, “an amazing 98 percent of the money is going to go just to state of good repair and operations.” That’s a full $950 billion through 2035, he said.

Port Authority tunnels, bridges, and terminals director Victoria Cross Kelly presented her agency’s top capital project priorities, including billion dollar replacements of the Goethals Bridge, the George Washington Bridge suspender cables, and the New Jersey approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, as well as a number of smaller projects. “Each and every one of these has somewhere in their title ‘rehab’ or ‘replace,’” she said. “There’s no new added functionality.”

New York City Transit’s chief engineer, Fredrick Smith, pointed to the system’s dire need for new track signals. Currently, a quarter of the subway’s signals are over 70 years old. “How reliable do you think that is?” he asked. Unfortunately, the MTA capital plan for 2010-2014 is only funded through next year and the bulk of the signal work is theoretically scheduled for 2012.

Even for the basic tasks of keeping bridges up, roads paved, and transit running, current funding is inadequate. “Increased, stable resources need to be provided,” said acting NYS DOT director Stanley Gee. Gee singled out the project to rebuild the deteriorating Tappan Zee Bridge and add transit access across it as particularly problematic. “There’s no way that existing tolls can build that bridge,” he said.

As for where that money might come from, Gee was open to any possibility. “Pricing obviously is one,” he said. He also suggested a mileage tax to replace declining gas tax revenue. Gee isn’t counting on help from one potential savior, however: the federal government. “We don’t expect a long-term extension of federal funding any time soon.” Gee ultimately urged the audience, filled with politically powerful firms, to convince elected officials to fund transportation.

From a sustainability perspective, the upside of the funding scarcity is that many transportation agencies are looking to do more with less — and that can mean prioritizing transit. “We need to focus on making the best use of what lanes and tracks we have,” said Port Authority Director of Regional Development Andy Lynn. Calling the Lincoln Tunnel’s exclusive bus lane a great success story, Lynn said “We need more of that.” During the Holland Tunnel’s evening rush, he noted, buses make up less than three percent of the vehicles, but carry 48 percent of the people. There is currently no exclusive bus lane in the Holland Tunnel.

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TSTC to Port Authority: Bus Service Across Hudson Needs to Improve, Fast

tstc_bus_graph.jpgAverage weekday eastbound trips, 2008. Source: TSTC/Port Authority of NY & NJ.
The Lincoln Tunnel Express Bus Lane is a congestion-busting powerhouse, moving 62,000 riders into Manhattan during the morning rush every day and enticing huge numbers of commuters to leave their cars at home. It is now "the most efficient roadway in the country," according to an analysis by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. One shudders to think of the traffic nightmare we'd have without it.

The Lincoln Tunnel XBL was established all the way back in 1971. In the last 38 years, bus ridership crossing the Hudson has boomed, especially this decade, but capacity for buses hasn't kept pace. Unless provisions are made to accommodate more bus travel -- and soon -- riders will face slower trips, the ridership gains of recent years will flatten out, and traffic troubles will deepen as more commuters choose to drive.

The good news is that it doesn't take all that much time or money to deliver some significant enhancements for bus riders. In a new report, "Express Route to Better Bus Service" [PDF], Tri-State lays out a strategy to expand on the success of the Lincoln Tunnel XBL and make bus travel more attractive for all trips across the Hudson. It's a wake-up call for the Port Authority to get moving on some long-overdue improvements.

"A population nearly the size of Cincinnati travels by bus across the Hudson River every weekday, but plans to enhance service for these riders are stalled," said Tri-State's Veronica Vanterpool, co-author of the report. "With bus travel anticipated to grow, we need to stop treating bus riders like second-class citizens and provide them with faster commutes and better access to information."

Tri-State recommends creating a westbound Lincoln Tunnel XBL during the evening rush and moving full-speed ahead with plans for a new high occupancy/toll lane for the morning commute (which has been stuck in the study phase for way too long). The report also touches on strategies to speed bus service across other Hudson River crossings, organize on-street loading for the city's growing volume of private bus operators, and make it easier for riders to plan their trips.

Follow the jump for the full slate of Tri-State's major recommendations.

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