Metro-North Survey Provides Insight into Westchester’s Emerging Mobility Needs

The Harlem Line's third track is part of the reason why Westchester job centers have had success in attracting reverse commuters. | Photo: Peter Ehrlich

The Harlem Line’s third track is part of the reason why Westchester job centers have had success in attracting reverse commuters. | Photo: Peter Ehrlich

Starting in 2007, the MTA undertook customer surveys on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, as well as in New York City (for New York City Transit). As MTR previously reported, the MTA’s New York City survey showed large income and age differences between bus and subway riders.

The 2007 Metro-North on-board survey — the railroad’s first origins and destinations survey — highlights the differences between those traveling from Westchester County to Manhattan (for both work and non-work purposes) and those traveling to and within Westchester. The survey had a 45 percent response rate, with 206,000 surveys distributed and 93,000 returned. The survey asked riders about the trips they were taking at the time surveyed, and riders’ planned return trips.

While work travel from Westchester to Manhattan comprised the largest share of the railroad’s passengers — 60 percent — more than one in five Metro-North passengers surveyed were either traveling from New York City into Westchester or traveling within Westchester (what the survey calls “Intermediate Travel”).

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NYC Bus Riders Tend To Be Older and Poorer than Subway Riders


Photo: James Estrin/The New York Times

If you ride the subway, bus or train every day, you’re surrounded by others. But just what do you know about your fellow transit riders?

Turns out, the MTA was wondering this too. Starting in 2007 and continuing through 2014, the MTA undertook surveys of Metro-North customers (2007), New York City residents (2008, for NYCT) and Long Island Rail Road customers (2012-2014 – results forthcoming). The surveys shed some light on the demographics of the region’s transit riders, including why they’re using it and where they’re going.

The New York City survey was conducted from May through November 2008 and covers all respondents’ travels “for a 24-hour period, regardless of what mode was used.” The MTA’s results provide data for over 16,000 residents and more than 13,000 households. While it’s true that the survey is a little less than six years old, unlike more recent data available through the Census or American Community Survey (as well as related Census Transportation Planning Products, which use Census and ACS data), the MTA’s survey is especially useful in that it includes all travel, not just travel for work.

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Good News (and Bad) from Washington

The good news is, people who commute using bike share may be eligible for a tax benefit. | Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

The bad news is that the House Budget Resolution guts tranportation funding, even though transit and Amtrak ridership are on the rise. | Photo:

Last week brought some good news [...]

USDOT: Highway Trust Fund Shortfall Anticipated for Late July

It seems likely the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway Account will run out of money in late July, According to the US Department of Transportation. | Image: USDOT

It seems likely the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway Account will run out of money in late July, According to the US Department of Transportation. | Image: USDOT

It’s not only states that are running out of money to fund transportation projects; the federal government is too.

According to the US Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund Ticker, updated last Sunday, it is likely that the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway Account will run out of money in late July, just over a month before federal fiscal year 2014 ends. The Highway Trust Fund “is the principal mechanism for funding federal highway and transit programs” through revenue generated by user fees like the federal gas tax. The Highway Account is projected to end the fiscal year in September 2014 $700 million in the hole. Politico notes that the newly-updated Tracker shows a shortfall “two weeks earlier than last month’s figures, which showed the anticipated red ink in the second or third week of August.”

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States Spend on Expansion While Roads Decay

According to Repair Priorities 2014, most state DOTs “are spending more money building new roads than maintaining the ones they have.” | Image: Smart Growth America

With people driving less and federal largesse not what it used to be, it would make sense for state departments of transportation to shift away from building [...]

Mapping New York Pedestrian Fatalities and the Legislative Districts Where They Occur

Between 2010 and 2012, more than 900 pedestrians were killed on roads in New York State. To highlight how broad-based these fatalities are, Tri-State released an online map that shows the locations of New York* pedestrian fatalities with clickable layers that display boundaries for counties, congressional districts and state legislative districts. Viewers can turn these administrative boundary [...]

Crowd-Sourced Data for Crowded Cities

It’s the inherent conflict of cities: we choose dense urban environments for the proximity to other people and places, yet being too close to too many people creates stress and anxiety. You don’t have to be a social scientist to know this is true – just ask anyone riding the 6 train or walking through Times Square.

A new startup, Placemeter, is working to address this conflict.

Placemeter uses live streams from video cameras to “read” a street. These streams run into a computer that’s trained to recognize what it is “seeing.” Footage of pedestrians and vehicles is then coupled with other data, such as weather information, maps and event calendars, providing the “world’s first real-time dynamic data layer.” Or, as COO and Co-Founder Florent Peyre puts it, Placemeter ultimately intends to cut down on the “super anxiety” of urban life, specifically by being able to let its users know how a destination will be before they arrive.

So what are Placemeter’s broader implications for transportation and urban policy?

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How the Tri-State Region’s Universities are Trying to Reduce Driving

Rutgers University shuttle bus in New Brunswick. |Photo:

Rutgers University shuttle bus in New Brunswick. |Photo:

Colleges and universities across the nation are pioneering methods to reduce vehicle ownership and use on their campuses, according to a U.S. PIRG/Frontier Group report, released earlier this month. The report highlights strategies like free transit services, car-sharing, and even new infrastructure like biking and walking paths.

Initiatives aimed at decreasing driving on campuses were spurred by a number of reasons, not least because building and maintaining parking is expensive. Stanford University, for example, “has avoided more than $100 million in parking construction costs over the past decade due to its efforts to discourage driving.”

In addition to showing ways colleges and universities are reducing car use, the report also makes clear that municipalities should look to these institutions when seeking to implement policies that discourage driving. Fortunately, municipalities in the tri-state region don’t have to look very far. While the report does not mention any specific examples from the region, MTR did a little digging into the transportation and parking policies of four schools in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut:

Rutgers University  New Jersey’s state university employs almost all of the innovative strategies the PIRG report mentions. There are shuttle buses providing transit to and on the campuses, as well as walking and biking paths. There is a campus bike rental and bike exchange, and the university also provides student discounts for NJ Transit fares and a Rutgers Rideshare program.

SUNY Purchase  According to its website, SUNY Purchase’s adoption of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, as well as its “dedication to overall environmental sustainability,” led Purchase to “offer a variety of convenient alternatives to individual car ownership.” This includes the Purchase Shuttle, Zipcar membership for students, faculty and staff, and Zimride, an online platform that facilitates ridesharing.

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Analysis Identifies the Region’s Most Dangerous Roads for Walking

MDR-web-headerA new Tri-State analysis finds that more than 1,200 pedestrians were killed on roads in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York in the three years from 2010 through 2012.

Tri-State’s annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report finds that Route 25 (Middle Country Road, Jericho Turnpike) in Suffolk County is the region’s most dangerous road for pedestrians, displacing Hempstead Turnpike as the most deadly road for walking for the first time since the Most Dangerous Roads analysis was launched in 2008. Sixteen pedestrians were killed along this stretch of roadway, with half of the fatalities on an 11.5 mile stretch from Centereach to Ridge.

Over the years, Suffolk County’s Route 25 (Jericho Turnpike) has consistently been among the region’s most dangerous for pedestrians, but this is the first year it has topped the list. Following close behind Route 25, is Burlington County, New Jersey’s US-130 (Burlington Pike) and Nassau County’s Route 24 (Hempstead Turnpike) each of which were the site of 12 pedestrian fatalities.

The Campaign found that arterial roadways — multi-lane roads that often have speed limits of 40 mph or more with little pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure — are the region’s most deadly for pedestrians. About 15 percent of the total lane miles in the three states are classified as arterials, but nearly 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred on this type of road.

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Zero-Car Households on the Rise Across the Region

Between 2009 and 2012, the percentage of occupied housing units with no vehicles available increased in counties across the tri-state region. A TSTC analysis of 2010-2012 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates of vehicle availability for occupied housing units for the 41 Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York counties with the same estimates from 2007-2009, found that over one third of these counties saw an increase in zero-car households.

Of the 14 counties that experienced a statistically significant difference between the 2007-2009 and 2010-2012 data, almost all saw an increase in the percentage of occupied housing units without vehicles available. The percent changes ranged from 2.3 percent (Manhattan, where units without vehicles increased from 77 percent of occupied housing units to 78.8 percent) to 47.1 percent (Putnam County, where occupied housing units without vehicles available increased from 3.4 percent to 5 percent). Only two of the 14 counties saw a decrease in the percentage of zero-car households: New Jersey’s Hudson and Sussex Counties.

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