Reworking Newark

Reworked Newark plans

Taking to the streets with cameras and imagination, 45 Newark high school interns participated in a two-day exercise with TSTC to re-envision downtown Newark as a “great place” for residents and visitors. The exercise is a result of an on-going partnership with the Greater Newark Conservancy’s Newark Youth Leadership Project. […]

SI Expressway’s Bus Lanes to Regain Efficiency In 2013

Bus in SIE HOV2+/bus lane

During a recent public information session, NYS Department of Transportation unveiled its analysis showing that carpools with at least 2 passengers (HOV2+) add to bus lane delays and congestion in the Staten Island Expressway bus lanes. The department’s questionable decision to open up the bus lanes to cars […]

Homeowners Will Reap $18B in Benefits from ARC

A ground-breaking new report from the Regional Plan Association confirms that the Access to the Region’s Core project will have immense economic benefits.  The $8 billion project broke ground last year, and when complete in 2017, will double rail service between Manhattan and New Jersey.

The report found that home values within two miles […]

FREIGHT Act of 2010 Could Offer Truck Traffic Relief

Last week Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ), Murray (D-WA) and Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the country’s first comprehensive freight bill that would fill the current policy vacuum surrounding federal investment in freight and port transportation projects.

Freight Act of 2010 would establish a first ever national multimodal freight plan.

The “Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance […]

Reactions to the Latest Bad News from the MTA

Today the MTA outlined proposals to deal with a $900 million budget deficit.

The options include an increase in the price of monthly Metrocard and commuter rail passes, a 50-cent toll increase, slashing $40 million in contributions to Long Island Bus, and labor concessions.  According to the MTA, labor costs make up two-thirds of its operating […]

What Does 2011 Hold for Transit Funding?

The Times Herald-Record recently asked state gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo and Rick Lazio about their positions on a few key issues, including the MTA mobility tax.

Lazio told the paper he was for repealing it.

Gubernatorial candidates for Governor, Andrew Cuomo (left) and Rick Lazio (right), offered their positions on the MTA payroll […]

Transit Options Discussed for Stewart Airport

The agencies will study a rail link between Stewart Airport and the Port Jervis Line as a long-term option.

At a time of drastic cuts to established transit routes, New York’s transportation agencies are keeping an eye on the future — specifically, a future where Stewart Airport in Orange County is a bustling […]

Questionable Data, Narrow Vision Still Mar Sheridan Study

Of the two alternatives being studied as part of the Bruckner-Sheridan project (besides the "no build" alternative), the only difference whether the Sheridan remains or is removed.

“We realize that we can’t just look at the highway facility itself; we need to look at the impact of a highway through the community it runs through, it needs to focus on not just moving traffic.” – NYSDOT Region 11 (NYC) Director Phil Eng on the Bruckner-Sheridan Interchange project,  New York Times, July 12.

Few projects demand the type of broad vision described above as much as the Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx. For over a decade, community residents have asked state officials to ease the burden on the South Bronx by removing the 1.25-mile Sheridan and using the footprint for open space and development. But despite Director Eng’s words, last Tuesday’s NYSDOT stakeholder’s meeting on the Bruckner-Sheridan Expressway, the first in 2 years, was a live illustration of an organizational silo at work.

The meeting was convened for the presentation of the Department’s traffic “micro-simulation analysis” results, a process in which future traffic patterns and volumes are projected for each of the project’s alternatives.  Besides a required “no build” alternative, NYSDOT is weighing two “build” alternatives, one which would remove the Sheridan (1E) and one which would keep it (2E).  Aside from the fate of the Sheridan, the two are nearly identical, each creating a new interchange from the Bruckner to direct trucks to the Hunts Point food markets and industrial areas and a new alignment on the Bruckner Expressway to widen a bottleneck over the Bronx River.

Projected to year 2030, the Department sees skyrocketing traffic volumes under any scenario, generally projecting higher volumes on local roads if the Sheridan is removed. These latest results appear quite specific, but need to be taken with a whole shakerful of salt because they are based on the same traffic modeling process and underlying data which the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance concluded was “junk science” after hiring Smart Mobility, an impartial out-of-state consultant, to review the state’s data. That 2007 analysis found basic errors, faulty assumptions, and a fundamental mismatch between the project and the traffic model used to analyze it.

Both then and now, the project team used the NYMTC Best Practices Model, or BPM, for studying traffic patterns and projections.  The Department used local traffic counts to calibrate the model, but the BPM’s design and underlying assumptions skew the latest results in the same way as the earlier numbers.

The BPM is a regional model, one which Smart Mobility called useful for analyzing “big picture land use and pricing assumptions.”  However, “it is of more limited use in evaluating the different traffic impacts of the [Bruckner-Sheridan] Build alternatives, because the differences are small relative to the accuracy level of the model. Use of the BPM for screening the alternatives is appropriate, but… the modeling is too coarse to calculate significant differences in future traffic impacts between the alternatives.”  Yet this is precisely what NYSDOT did and presented to the public.

Even if the BPM were an appropriate model to apply to the study area, garbage in still equals garbage out.  Our report also found that “about half of the purported benefits [of keeping the Sheridan] result from model coding errors rather than any real transportation effects.”  These included one-way streets mapped in the wrong direction and ramps coded with incorrect capacity numbers. The BPM also assumes that traffic steadily increases with population, unbounded by physical capacity constraints, producing “an implausibly high level of future traffic in the study area.”  In fact, the magnitude of the projected traffic growth dwarfs the differences between the remaining alternatives.

Because of the model’s uncertain conclusions and the errors underlying the Department’s projections, the decision to remove or retain the Sheridan should be based more on the potential community benefits of each alternative — including, but not dominated by, traffic considerations.  Unfortunately, study of the environmental, recreation, and economic benefits of a Sheridan removal is not part of NYSDOT’s plans.

» Continue reading…

Will Nassau County Have a Bus System in Two Years?

One of the largest suburban bus systems in the country could become a shell of its former self.

News reports are confirming the worst fears of Long Island transit advocates: that the MTA may cut all of its funding for Long Island Bus, decimating the system.  According to yesterday’s Newsday, the MTA has the […]

CT Leaders Bet Big on New Haven-Springfield Rail

The New Haven-Springfield Line will add commuter service and tie into a broader regional rail network, shown above.

Connecticut will issue $200 million in bonds for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Line in the hopes of winning an equivalent federal high-speed rail grant, the Hartford Courant reported last week. While the article focuses on […]