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Posts from the Verrazano Bridge Category


A Verrazano Bike/Ped Path Doesn’t Have to Cost as Much as the MTA Claims


A Verrazano bike path would work perfectly well without this hulking ramp connecting to the Shore Parkway Greenway. Image via MTA/Parsons Brinckerhoff

How much will it cost to build bicycle and pedestrian paths on the Verrazano Bridge? A lot less than the MTA says it will, if the agency removes unnecessary ramps from the project, according to advocates and engineers who’ve reviewed the options.

Last year, the MTA and engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff released a preliminary cost estimate of $300 to $400 million for the bridge paths [PDF]. It was a steeper price than advocates with the Harbor Ring Committee, which has built momentum for the car-free paths, had been expecting. Back in 1997, engineering firm Amman & Whitney had pegged the cost at $50-60 million (in 2016 dollars).

In an interview published yesterday on Urban Omnibus, Harbor Ring Committee chair Paul Gertner attributed the MTA’s high pricetag to the design for the Brooklyn approach, which includes elaborate ramps connecting to the Shore Parkway Greenway. It’s not clear how much the ramp system adds to the MTA’s cost estimate, but the structures would be substantial, with concrete columns supporting a winding bikeway that touches down on the greenway.

“As far as we can tell, [Parsons Brinckerhoff] started with the assumption that it had to start at the waterfront greenway, and then proceeded to design this huge ramp system,” Gertner said.

A greenway landing isn’t worth the extra cost, Gertner told Streetsblog, since it would compel anyone who’s not planning to use the greenway to take a long detour. In the Amman & Whitney plan, the path touched down at 92nd Street by Fourth Avenue, a much more direct connection to the street network.

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Bike Racks on Buses Are Nice, But the Verrazano Really Needs a Bike Path

A preliminary MTA report pegged the cost of building bicycle and pedestrian paths on the Verrazano Bridge at $300 to $400 million. Image: MTA [PDF]

A preliminary MTA report pegged the cost of building bicycle and pedestrian paths on the Verrazano Bridge at $300 to $400 million. Advocates say it doesn’t have to cost that much. Image: MTA [PDF]

Later this year, the MTA will release a master plan for the Verrazano Bridge that’s expected to include the possibility of a bike and pedestrian path, but advocates worry the agency is needlessly driving up the cost of the project.

The Verrazano was built at the tail end of the Robert Moses era, and it infamously provides no way for people to cross by walking or biking. Recently, advocates under the banner of the Harbor Ring Committee have pressed the MTA to rectify that mistake, and their momentum is building: A path has the support of nearly every elected official on both the Brooklyn and Staten Island sides of the bridge.

The MTA has installed bike racks on some of the buses that cross the bridge each day, but while popular, the program is no substitute for a path. Each bus can only hold two bikes at a time.

On Saturday, advocates organized a direct action at the last Brooklyn bus stop before the bridge. To call attention to the limitations of the racks, activists lined up with their bikes at the S53 bus stop and asked the bus driver if they could put their bikes on the rack and board.

“We had a line down the block,” said Mike Lydon, who lives in Brooklyn and who serves on the leadership of the Harbor Ring Committee. “It was a real mix between locals in the neighborhood, cycling activists from across Brooklyn, and we certainly had a number of people from Staten Island.”

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Tomorrow: Rally for a Verrazano-Narrows Path, Now a Real Possibility

A preliminary report from the MTA shows new bicycle and pedestrian paths on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are feasible. Advocates want to work with the MTA on the details. Image: WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff for MTA [PDF]

A preliminary report from the MTA shows new bicycle and pedestrian paths on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are feasible. Advocates say they want to work with the MTA on the details. Image: WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff for MTA [PDF]

Supporters of building a bicycle and walking path across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are gathering tomorrow in Bay Ridge to rally for the project. The MTA released a preliminary report this week evaluating the prospects for a path, and it depicts a more complex undertaking than many advocates expected. The advocates working for walking and biking access on the bridge aren’t deterred and say the fact that the MTA is taking the idea seriously is a major step in the right direction.

The Verrazano Bridge opened in 1964 without bicycle and pedestrian access, an oversight that advocates have been trying to correct for a long time. In 1997, the Department of City Planning hired Ammann & Whitney, the firm that designed the bridge, to study the feasibility of adding a bikeway [PDF]. Since the bridge is controlled by the MTA, the city’s report largely sat on a shelf since its release nearly two decades ago.

More recently, a coalition of advocates renewed the push for a Verrazano-Narrows path under the banner of the “Harbor Ring,” a loop of connected bike paths around Upper New York Bay.

After advocates earned endorsements from elected officials, last year the MTA hired consultant WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff for its own feasibility analysis. On Tuesday, the authority briefed advocates and the press on the preliminary results of the study [PDF].

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Bike Racks Debut on Buses Across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

New Yorkers are finally getting to try out a multi-modal transportation option that’s old hat to residents of other major American cities — bike racks on buses. Sunday marked the debut of front-mounted bike racks on the S53 and S93 buses across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

One of the first bikes to cross the Verrazano Narrows by bus. Photo: Meredith Sladek

One of the first bikes to cross the Verrazano-Narrows by bus. Photo: Meredith Sladek

The MTA purchased 38 bike racks at a cost of $42,000 and installed them on 31 buses as part of a one-year pilot program. The agency will evaluate three different models: Byk-Rak 2 Position, Sportworks Veloporter 2, and Sportworks DL2. If successful, the MTA may expand the program, starting with other bus routes across bridges.

The racks have carried bikes on 12 trips so far, including two this morning, the MTA said.

Streetsblog reader Meredith Sladek used the racks on a Sunday trip to Bay Ridge from Staten Island. It was a cinch, even for a newbie, she says.

“I have never used a bus rack before — hard to believe but true — and it took me about five seconds, tops. The instructions were printed on the rack itself,” she wrote in an email. “The drivers were great ambassadors: Both were really genial, helpful, patient, and informative.”

The MTA has also released an instructional video on how to use the racks. Sadly, it does not feature lyrics by Mr. Theo — but Stephen Colbert’s smiling face does make an appearance.


MTA: Bike Racks Are Coming to Buses Over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

As of September 6, New York will no longer be the only major American city without bike racks on its buses. The MTA announced this afternoon that it is launching a one-year pilot of front-mounted bike racks on the S53 and S93 routes, which run across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

“Before this program, our customers had no direct way to travel with their bicycles on public transportation between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Now customers can take advantage of the city’s bike lanes and greenways without worrying about how to transport their bicycles,” Darryl C. Irick, Senior Vice President of Buses at MTA New York City Transit, said in a press release. “A future expansion will depend on results of this pilot and will most likely focus on routes that cross bridges.”

Adding bike racks on buses has been a goal of advocates who view it as a stepping stone to building a bicycle and pedestrian path on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Update 9:55 p.m.: “We are certain Bike & Ride will be a success, just as similar programs have been in cities all over the country that have long had bike racks as standard equipment across their vehicular fleets,” said the Harbor Ring, a coalition of path advocates, in a statement. “However, one bus carrying two bicycles is by no means a solution for our city’s overwhelming transportation deficiencies. We continue our campaign urging the MTA to create separated bicycle and pedestrian pathways across the Verrazano Bridge that would offer toll-free connectivity between Brooklyn and Staten Island.”

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MTA Tests Bike Racks on Bus Across Verrazano

An anonymously-sourced New York Post story yesterday might leave readers with the impression that new bike racks on the front of Staten Island buses will lead to late trips and a liability nightmare for the MTA. The MTA, however, says it’s still studying the racks — a tried-and-true amenity in every other big American city — on a route crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which currently has no bike path.

Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr

Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr

Here’s the Post story, in full:

City buses on Staten Island will soon sport bike racks as part of a New York City Transit program that bus drivers are already slamming as a surefire way to slow down commuters.

Drivers on the S53 bus line, which runs between Port Richmond and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, will be required under the pilot plan to wait for passengers to load their wheels.

“The consensus right now — no one’s crazy about it,” said a transit source who works at Staten Island’s Castleton depot. “If the bike falls off, it’s on us. If it gets damaged, it’s on us.”

Bike racks on buses are common in less congested cities.

New York is the only major city in the country without bike racks on its buses, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking, with cities as large and congested as Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco outfitting their entire bus fleets with bike racks — all without major liability or on-time performance problems.

So will Staten Island residents get to make multi-modal trips to Brooklyn? Not in the immediate future, according to the MTA. “It was a test, not a pilot program,” said MTA spokesperson Amanda Kwan. The test occurred on March 3, she said, and consisted of “one run, on the S53 route with a non-revenue bus. The rack equipment itself was also being tested.”

The MTA would not reveal further information about the test. “It is simply too early to have or release any more details,” Kwan said.

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The Growing Political Muscle of the Campaign for a Verrazano Bike/Ped Path

This Saturday, close to 100 people gathered at the Alice Austen House on the North Shore of Staten Island to demand a walking and biking path across the Verrazano Bridge. And in a sign of the campaign’s growing political potency, several elected officials came out to announce their support for the idea, including Assembly Member Michael Cusick, State Senator Marty Golden, and City Council Member Vincent Gentile.

The bridge path now has the endorsement of nearly every local elected official on each side of the Verrazano. The main question left is whether Governor Cuomo will fix a 50-year-old mistake by Robert Moses and commit to providing walking and biking access between Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Two years ago, when advocates started mobilizing under the banner of the Harbor Ring Committee, such favorable politics were almost unthinkable. James Molinaro, the Staten Island borough president at the time, called the bridge path “absolutely ridiculous.” Today it’s the resistance to a walking and biking path that seems absurd.

The Harbor Ring Committee, which notes that the Verrazano project is the missing link in a 50-mile bikeable circuit around New York Harbor, has gathered more than 3,600 signatures in support of a path. Its advocacy has won over nearly every elected official whose turf touches the Verrazano.

Molinaro’s successor, James Oddo, told the Times he supports a path if the costs are within reason and that the project “would provide an exciting new option for residents to combat our rising obesity epidemic or get to work.” Oddo’s counterpart in Brooklyn, Borough President Eric Adams, also supports the bridge path.

So do City Council members Vincent Ignizio and Debi Rose, Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis, Assembly Member Joseph Borelli, the three electeds who came to Saturday’s rally, and MTA board member Allen Cappelli, a Staten Island resident.

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Senate Joins Assembly in Rejecting Cuomo’s $40 Million Transit Raid

This week kicked off with news that Speaker Sheldon Silver would remove Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $40 million transit raid from the Assembly’s budget plan. Today comes word [PDF] that the State Senate has followed suit, rejecting the transit raid in its own budget resolution.

Photo: Matt Wade via Wikipedia

Photo: Matt Wade via Wikipedia

A united front from the Senate and Assembly provides a boost to advocates as the legislature begins two weeks of negotiations with Cuomo over the final budget, which covers a fiscal year beginning April 1.

It’s also a step up from last year, when a $20 million raid was rejected by the Senate but remained in the Assembly’s resolution and was included in the final budget. “We have a much stronger hand going into the negotiations [this year],” said Nadine Lemmon of Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

The governor’s office has claimed that this budget maneuver does not count as a raid because it’s taking taxes dedicated to MTA operations and diverting it to service debt that funds MTA capital needs. But Comptroller Tom DiNapoli calls it a transit raid, and advocates point out that it reneges on a commitment the state made over a decade ago and shifts funds away from the MTA to effectively create new money on the state’s balance sheet.

Even if the $40 million transit raid is removed from this year’s budget, Cuomo is likely to attempt similar moves in the future to pay off the state bond with MTA funds. His financial plan includes annual raids of $20 million, which would total nearly $350 million by 2031.

“Three hundred and fifty million dollars is a big chunk of change. You can’t bleed the authority in that manner and expect them to perform,” Lemmon said.

Another one of the governor’s hits to MTA revenues is also having ripple effects in the Senate. Cuomo’s plan to deepen Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll discounts for truckers and Staten Island residents would cost $14 million annually, with the MTA and the state splitting the cost evenly. That kicked off a flurry of press releases and events by Brooklyn legislators angling for a discount for their constituents, too.

Now, they’re using the Senate budget plan to call on the MTA to study and recommend VNB toll discounts for non-Staten Island residents who drive over the bridge. Wholesale reform of New York’s broken toll system, as the state begins to figure out how to fund the MTA’s next multi-billion dollar capital plan, is not on Albany’s agenda.


Cuomo Electioneering: Robbing From Transit to Pay Staten Island Motorists

Which governor is worse on transit issues, Chris Christie or Andrew Cuomo? Amazingly, New York’s chief executive could win this race to the bottom. The latest move from Cuomo would cut a guaranteed source of revenue for the MTA that Albany can never raid for its own purposes.

Ken Lovett at the Daily News had the scoop this morning that Cuomo will soon announce a gift to Staten Island car commuters: Verrazano Bridge tolls will drop to $5.50 from $6.00 or $6.36. (Current tolls vary depending on how often people use the bridge.) Tolls will also be cut for trucks that frequently use the bridge.

Any drop in toll revenue is going to weaken the MTA’s finances. So, while Verrazano car commuters get reduced tolls this election year, transit riders still have nothing but scheduled fare hikes to look forward to.

It remains to be seen exactly how much revenue the toll cut will divert from the MTA. Cuomo is expected to announce it this afternoon, and word is the governor will say that the state will shore up the agency’s budget with general funds.

Make no mistake, though, the governor is undermining the MTA. For one thing, revenue from tolls is the only raid-proof source of funds for the MTA. The money goes straight into the agency’s accounts instead of passing through the state first, so Albany can’t pocket it. Cuomo may commit to “making the MTA whole” at his press conference, but any general funds spent this year won’t necessarily be there in the future. Albany’s support for transit has a way of shriveling up over time.

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Verrazano Bridge Path Advocates Release Map, Ask MTA to Commit to Study

The Harbor Ring Committee, a coalition working to complete the missing link in a route around New York Harbor with a bicycle and pedestrian path across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, has released a map of the bike route, a 50-mile loop across four boroughs and Hudson County, New Jersey. Meanwhile, advocates are trying to get the MTA to firmly commit to a feasibility study they hope could pave the way for building the bridge path.

Advocates for a biking and walking path on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge have released a map for the Harbor Loop, a 50-mile route with a key missing link. Image: Harbor Loop Committee

In the spring, advocates circulated a petition calling on Governor Cuomo to support a bridge path. While the governor hasn’t come out with an endorsement, it did get the attention of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. “A feasibility study, addressing a host of issues including cost, structural issues, operational issues and impact on the surrounding neighborhoods would have to be conducted,” spokesperson Judie Glave said, adding that the agency “is considering studying this issue as part of a future reconstruction project” that would not begin until 2014 or later.

Advocates, who have been in touch with MTA Bridges and Tunnels President James Ferrara, say they hope the planned relocation of ramps on the Brooklyn side between the bridge and the Belt Parkway will include a path feasibility study. A separate ongoing capital project that could affect plans for a bike/ped path involves replacing and widening the upper deck to accommodate a bus and carpool lane.

“Honestly, this study I think would be a formality,” Harbor Ring Committee member David Wenger told Streetsblog. The bridge, designed by architects Ammann & Whitney, includes space for paths, but they were never built. In 1997, the same firm prepared a feasibility study for the Department of City Planning, including a preferred option for a path design that was similar to the path on the George Washington Bridge, another Amman & Whitney project.

The new feasibility study would likely update the old one, including more information about security and how the ramp would interact with reconfigured Brooklyn-side ramps. “There should be no reason why this should not be feasible,” Wenger said.

As advocates push for a study next year, the online petition has gathered more than 2,000 signatures, plus about 500 signatures on paper. Comments from petition signers have been very helpful in convincing elected officials and the MTA of the path’s value, Wenger said. Nearly a quarter of all commenters say they would use the path as part of their daily commute.

In the meantime, the effort continues to rack up endorsements from elected officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senator Marty Golden, and City Council members Deborah Rose and Vincent Gentile. Democratic City Council nominee John Mancuso has also endorsed the plan. The Harbor Ring Committee will soon reach out to borough president candidates, as well as more state legislators in both Staten Island and Brooklyn, Meredith Sladek of Transportation Alternatives said.

With the completion of a multi-use path on the new Goethals Bridge scheduled for 2017, Sladek said that the group might look at extending the loop route to include more of New Jersey, as well as the George Washington Bridge.

For those who can’t wait until a bridge path is built, the committee has already organized rides on the route and will soon print up to 5,000 copies of its newly-released Harbor Ring map for distribution to local bike shops. The map includes detailed information about the route, local bike shops, and transit. There’s just one pesky gap.