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Transportation & Environment

Implementing a Surface Transportation Plan Study for Midtown Manhattan

Dear Manhattan Borough Commission Forgione:

The Manhattan Central Business District has the nation's largest concentration of commercial activities and is the primary economic engine for the greater metropolitan area.  It is the focus of a subsurface rail transit system that is among the most extensive in the world. Nevertheless, Manhattan's streets are frequently overwhelmed with motor vehicles, and for many hours of the day, traffic congestion is severe.  Pedestrians and surface transit in particular are negatively impacted, resulting in both substantial amounts of wasted time for vehicles and pedestrians as well as reductions in potential economic development.


A number of independent efforts have been attempted in order to improve the situation.  Last year, for example, New York City tried to advance a congestion pricing plan that would have reduced vehicle-miles of travel in the core.  New pilot programs aimed at reconfiguring street space to favor pedestrians, cyclists and buses also are being implemented.  Missing, however, is a comprehensive plan for optimizing transportation, parking and pedestrian thoroughfares in the Central Business District.


This project that Community Board Five proposes, and which has appeared in a number of our recent District Needs Statements, is a comprehensive Surface Transportation Plan for the portion of the Manhattan Central Business District between 60th Street and 14th Street - the area overseen by our Community Board as well as Manhattan Community Boards Four and Six. The plan should include specific recommendations for optimizing the share of street space allocated to pedestrians, cyclists, cars, taxis, trucks and surface transit over this entire area. 


Community Board Five would like to suggest that the planning effort incorporate some or all of the following: (i) assembling a data base of existing pedestrian and vehicular travel volumes; (ii) mapping the current allocation of street space for different categories of users; (iii) establishing a set of goals and objectives for the plan; (iv) devising alternative street space scenarios; (v) developing and deploying an analysis methodology for evaluating these scenarios at a "sketch plan" level of detail; (vi) consulting with stakeholders; and (vii) preparing a final set of recommendations.  Alternative scenarios might focus on larger-scale changes in street space allocation -- like pedestrian-only street segments, dedicated transit lanes and protected bike lanes. It is important in any case that the evaluation of planning scenarios include consideration of district-wide impacts of broader city and regional proposals, such as congestion pricing and transit service enhancements.  A project oversight committee could include representatives from both the NYC Department of Transportation, the NYC Department of City Planning, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York City Transit Authority division of Surface Transit, along with perhaps three representatives from the midtown Manhattan community boards, each of whom has been selected by the Executive Committee of his/her respective board.  


We know that you share our concerns and hope that you will act on our suggestion.  We look forward to assisting you in any way that we can to initiate the preparation of this vital project for midtown Manhattan.

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