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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Did the Indiana Minivan Get a Good Deal?
Last weekend, the omnipresent photoblogger Joe Schumacher wrote in on March 26 to note that he attempted to visit the minivan from Indiana that was parked in the same 1-hour space for a week. Sadly (from the perspective of spectacle), the vehicle had been moved or removed by that time he got there. Starts & Fits' roving correspondent Gary Roth fills in the blanks with an e-mail from March 24:
Got in to work today … and the car was gone. When I left last night at 6:00, it was still there — so it was sitting there about 13 to 14 days.Always yearning for information about parking policies and the odd case study, intrepid Mr. Roth even took the liberty of studying the tickets on the vehicle to see how strictly the two parking regulations at this prime location were being enforced.
Not that strictly. On his last tickent count before the car disappeared, Gary noted zero of the $115 tickets for violating the half-hour early morning parking ban to make way for the street sweeper. Here's what he did see:
As of last night (3/20) at 9:00PM, the guy had four parking tickets. All of them were for expired meters ($65). I would guess he removed three or four others.Given these findings, let's assume that over the course of 14 days, this errant parker had racked up 12 $65 tickets (don't forget pay-to-pray: the one-hour rule is not enforced on Sundays) and zero $115 tickets. This guy's tab was $780, or $55.71 per day to use 300 square feet of prime space on Fifth Avenue. That's a $5.57 per square foot per month. Any real estate experts out there might know this better than I do: How does that rate compare to renting an apartment on Fifth Avenue? What about renting a hotel room? What about leasing office space?
- What About the Plastic Animals?
- Welcome to New York [S&F]
- Parking Math: Tow It Yourself [S&F]
- Automobile Worship [Naparstek]- Posted at 10:52 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |
Friday, March 24, 2006
NYC Is Best City to Live in During an Oil Crisis
A national group has just issued a press release stating what Starts & Fits has known for years: New York City is the best place to live in case oil gets more expensive. In the words of CNNMoney:
New Yorkers may complain endlessly about the city's public transportation system, but the network of subways and train lines may be the city's saving grace in the case of an oil crisis.Despite the efforts of people planning the new Yankee Stadium, we're less automobile dependent than any other city in the nation, including Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia. Woo-hoo! And here is some good thoughts from the Mayor of third-ranked San Francisco:
Public transportation is a key element in city planning, and it is critical in this time of global warming and volatile petroleum availability that we work to make our transit options not dependent solely on fossil fuel. By putting transit first, we're helping San Francisco and the Bay Area maintain a livable and strong economy. Residents spend less on gas, which is often processed from foreign oil, so more money stays in the local economy. And as a side benefit, by taking public transit we are able to reduce our contribution to the emissions that cause global warming.- Ten U.S. Cities Best Prepared for Oil [SustainLane]
- Best cities for an oil crisis [CNNMoney.com]
- Yankee Stadium Rail Station 'Not in the Cards' [S&F]- Posted at 10:59 PM | Permalink | Comments: 3 | Post a Comment |
GM Sponsors News of SUV-Rollover Injuries
This is a sign of GM's desperation for advertising, or just the logical result of the ubiquity of car ads?
An 18-year-old who swerved on the highway because someone cut him off rolled his Chevy SUV over, hospitalizing two teenagers, a 4-year-old and a 4-month old, the latter two of whom were ejected and seen laying on the pavement. Take a look at the upper right of that screenshot. This sad news, coming on the heels of a much-spun study on SUV rollover accidents and children, is brought to you by none other than the maker of the SUV, everyone's favorite dying corporate behemoth, GM!
Check out this video. It's surreal. A smoothly polished ad trying to get you to buy a Cadillac gives way to the grim tone of a TV newsman describes your typical daily mayhem on the highways. It's sort of a two-sided coin of our automobile-based economy: car ads and reality.
- Dallas Police Investigate I-30 Crash [CBS11 TV Dallas]
- The Allderblob: Because it's past time to ban automobile advertising
- SUV's Either Are or Aren't Safer For Children [S&F]
- Raargh! [S&F]- Posted at 10:06 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |
We're This Close on a Central Park Car Ban
Transportation Alternatives is having a big rally at City Hall at noon on Sunday in support of a summer's worth of 24/7 traffic-free bliss in Central Park. (We're talking about banning traffic from the loop drive, where you walk, jog, rollerblade and cycle, not the sunken transverse roads, which will continue to have all the crosstown speeding cabbies and honking, pollution-spewing traffic that we've come to love.) In preparation for that rally, TransAlt sent out an e-mail to their many members:
Come and show the Mayor a sea of Central Park Green as we unfurl banners showing the names of our 100,000 supporters across the steps of City Hall.Ooh, tantalizing! C'mon out on Sunday and help us improve the park and reduce the city's overall traffic burden.
In the early 20th century, cities were associated with air pollution because of all the factories they had. In time, James Howard Kunstler notes in "The Geography of Nowhere," this association was one of the things that led people to conclude that suburban life was preferable. Now that we've managed to outsource most of our manufacturing to China and India, and Mayor Bloomberg has banned nearly all indoor smoking, emissions from automobiles are the worst remaining pollutant. We pay a price for auto congestion, as detailed in this Daily News report:
You might want to breath carefully: The polluted air in New York State is the deadliest in the nation, federal officials said yesterday.We gotta figure out ways to reduce traffic in New York City. Congestion pricing is one way. Banning cars from Central Park is another.
- Cars Out for Summer: Give Us One Hour, We'll Give You Three Months [TransAlt]
- An airing for N.Y. pollution [Daily News]- Posted at 1:12 AM | Permalink | Comments: 7 | Post a Comment |
Coolest Subway Map Ever
Every once in a while you come across something on the net that is exactly what you wish you could have done, if only you had the technological skills. I came across on NY Turf today (I know, I'm probably behind the curve on this, and now I recall that I checked this site out briefly after the Times mentioned it last October). I was over at OnNYTurf because I was fixated by that site's geographic explanation of the new Yankee Stadium plan. Well, that site's also got the greatest map of the New York City subway that I've ever seen (pictured above).
Most road maps that you can buy at the store or get at Google or Virtual Earth show streets in a way that are useful for motorists but useless for the millions of people who travel throughout the city by train. Highways are given huge prominence and streets are shown according to how much traffic they have. OnNYTurf fades the highways into the background by graying them out. In its place with top billing are the city's 23 subway lines, two shuttles and five PATH lines, places to scale atop the city's street grid. Unlike the official maps made by agencies that have an institutional pressure to include only their own routes, this map places PATH on equal footing with the MTA's subways. Also unlike these maps, it relates the stations to the streets around them, so with its search function you can see exactly where you are going above ground, determine the line and station that are closest, and then plot out a walking route to your destination. The icing on the cake is that it allows you to roll your mouse over particular stations to learn information about service at each station (as seen above), or you can click on a station for more details. Big-time kudos to Will, over at OnNYTurf for putting that together. There are other subway maps as well.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Yankee Stadium Rail Station 'Not in the Cards'
Starts & Fits' correspondent Juan "Coney Island" Rivero sends along a link to an article detailing transportation plans for the new Yankee Stadium.
Starts & Fits has spent a number of very enjoyable afternoons and evenings at the House that Ruth Built, leading me to question whether new stadium would really be that much more fun. The beer will taste the same, right?
But given that a new stadium seems to be "needed," at least we will have a great opportunity to connect it to a rail line that — what luck! — runs right next to the site: Metro-North's Hudson Line (mapped at right). A temporary station was put up there to serve commuters during the recent transit strike and it should be made a core component of any plan to build a new Yankee Stadium.
One of the best times to take mass transit is to attend a large scale spectator sporting event where thousands of people leave the place at the same time. Under the car-and-parking-lot transportation model that prevails at most major league ballparks and football stadia, after the game you end up sitting in traffic, going nowhere but fighting other drivers for the most minuscule advantage — capping a fun day at the game with a major downer and a headache. Even before the game is finished, you stress yourself out deciding whether to leave early and "beat the traffic" or catch the last out. But under the mass transit model that reigns at Yankee Stadium, when the game ends and the stadium disgorges its thousands of fans, the D train waits with open doors for everyone to climb aboard. Fans travel downtown together in a festive, communal atmosphere, sharing the excitement of the game after it has finished. The ability to have this kind of experience is a big part of what makes New York New York.
I've written before about the uncanny connection between the fact that the winningest team in baseball, with the highest revenue and the most fans attending its games, happens to use the stadium that has the best subway service of any major league ballpark. Is that a mere coincidence? I thought not.
Unfortunately, the latest indications are that the transportation for the new stadium will include expensive parking garages, but no Metro-North station.
"The plan calls for taking lots and building multi-level structures that will multiply the number of cars coming into the same area," said Bronx Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo. "Where now it’s 140 cars, it could be 400, 500 cars coming into the same lot. What traffic-management plans does the city have to ensure that traffic in the immediate community is not going to become worse than it is?"$70 million for new parking garages but the Metro-North station is "not in the cards"? Are we planning for Phoenix, or for New York City? I'd urge public officials to rethink this plan. As a matter of public policy, we should be encouraging people to take the train to baseball games, not drive. Between the Bruckner, the Major Deegan, the Cross Bronx "Expressway" and all the other highways that connect Manhattan to the northern suburbs, the Bronx suffers from more than its fair share of traffic as it is. Why create even more?
- Stadium funds eyed [Metro]
- The Transportation/Winning Connection [S&F]
- Save Our Parks
- Make [the temporary Metro-North station] permanent! [Save Our Parks]- Posted at 12:46 AM | Permalink | Comments: 1 | Post a Comment |
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Downtown Brooklyn's Pedestrian-Only Corner
Usually when I find myself in Downtown Brooklyn it's during the off hours, the evenings or weekends, it seems. But last week, I had a business lunch there. Walking through the packed streets and looking up at the Marriott hotel tower under construction, I thought about the many fading downtowns in the northeast United States that have been hollowed out by flight to the suburbs and the south and west. I also thought about the newer cities in the growing parts of the nation where the automobile is the guiding force in development, and how those places often lack a coherent, vital city center. I thought about how Downtown Brooklyn truly is a healthy, lively downtown that many cities could only dream of. This vibrancy is always overshadowed by Midtown and Downtown Manhattan, but it is still there. And there's reason to be optimistic that it's going to get even better in the future.
Later in the week, the New York City Department of Transportation, which earlier this month had disasppointed a number of Brooklynites by failing to attend a Park Slope meeting on traffic and transportation, pleased many of the same folks by announcing a plan to make a short block in Downtown Brooklyn a pedestrian-only zone with many amenities to attract people to what is now a pretty dull spot. This idea reminds me of great city space in Downtown Boston. Hopefully, this plan will be implemented, the DOT will find that it has been successful, and will replicate the results elsewhere in the city. Other blogs and websites have given ample coverage to the plan, summarized below.
This is the view of the whole thing. The Adams Street service road is at left, and the city-owned building that would be put to use for this project is at center.
This is a detail of the Willoughby Street side on a cold, dreary weekend day.
Here's the Willoughby side again, looking toward Borough Hall. Imagine the cars gone and a sidewalk cafe operating out of the big bay windows in the building at right.- Posted at 8:50 PM | Permalink | Comments: 2 | Post a Comment |
Parking Math: Tow It Yourself
As of 3:30 this afternoon, our friend from Indiana was still parked on Fifth Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets, collecting more parking tickets after occupying the same one-hour space for a week. How long can this situation continue? Hopefully Starts & Fits's correspondent, Gary Roth, who has a particular interest in parking rates and works in the adjacent building, will keep us updated on how long this car remains parked there. Meanwhile, I'm starting to think the driver of this car is getting off easy. No tow after a week? What's up with that?
Let's start thinking about the costs associated with the ill timed losing of the keys to this vehicle. As you can see at right, the regulations for this space dictate that there is no parking between 8:30 and 9 a.m. six days a week. Parking tickets in New York City are $115. For the week, that's $690 in fines for violating the street cleaning regulations alone, and the car is subjected having a florescent green sticker plastered on the window that reads "This car interfered with the cleaning of the streets" or some such. But beyond the street cleaning regulations, the car is in a 1-hour parking zone good from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. It costs $1 to park for the first hour, but after 10 a.m., you're subject to a $65 ticket per day or $455 per week. But what about the meter?
One is prohibited from parking for more than an hour, period. But in the real world, it's unlikely that you'll be ticketed after the first hour as long as there's still time on the meter. So the driver of this car could conceivably stave off those potential late morning and afternoon tickets by slipping a dollar (in quarters) into the meter every hour during the day. That comes out to a mere $10 per day. A bargain compared with the $65 fine for overstaying at a one-hour space. So assuming the driver is able to manage to go undetected for the half-hour street cleaning period, he or she could feed the meter and try to avoid additional fines. But that's a tremendous inconvenience, so unlikely to happen. But then again, there was a guy selling jewelry at a table he put up next to the car on Saturday. Maybe he could be persuaded to feed the meter on the driver's behalf, for a fee.
Meanwhile, this whole fiasco would have been avoided had the driver lost his or her keys after having first parked around the corner at the ImPark lot on 17th and 18th Streets between Fifth and Sixth. There, parking for 24 hours costs $35.48, or $42 with tax. Unless this minivan-SUV combo or whatever it is is considered "oversize." If that's the case, it's $52 per day including tax. For seven days in there, parking would cost $294 for a regular size vehicle and $364 for an oversize. Both charges are far better than the eight grand you're charged with the hourly fines, but worse than if you manage to succeed with the feeding-the-meter gambit, and a lucky streak on the street cleaning mornings. I suspect that what's happened is that the car has just been stuck there waiting for a week for keys to be mailed from back home in Indiana (why not go for FedEx?). If the parking enforcement been up to snuff, the car has incurred one $115 parking ticket for six mornings, and then a $65 fine for seven days, for a total of $1,145. Ouch.
But why hasn't the city towed this car away? Why hasn't the owner towed it away? What does a tow cost these days? Whatever it is, the driver would have probably saved money by having this car towed over to ImPark. Unless he or she plans on skipping out on the tickets, in which case, the week of parking will have been free.
Here's a recap of the various possibilities and prices for this situation:
- Parking Has Value, So Why Is It Free? [S&F]
- Welcome to New York [S&F]
- Parking & Vehicles: Violation Codes, Fines, Rules & Regulations [NYC Dept. of Finance]- Posted at 6:34 PM | Permalink | Comments: 3 | Post a Comment |
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Welcome to New York
New York's built environment is unique in the United States for being the only place in the country where a car is more trouble than it's worth, and where it's easier to get around without one. The transit-heavy infrastructure allows the feeding and continuing viability of what Kurt Vonnegut calls "Skyscraper National Park." Many people come to visit us because people like to see a place that's different than their own. And we're different because of that weird transportation inversion that makes walking useful and a car a burden.
This whole dialogue is pretty esoteric however, and a lot of the visitors probably fail to make the connection between the place they're coming to visit and the fact that's it is made possible by the fact that very few people drive. (As a percentage. Obviously, lots of people drive.) So there are also a certain number of people who express interest in coming to the city, and are warned by native New Yorkers: Do not drive there. Fly. Take the bus. Take the train. Anything else, but trust me, you do not want to drive. Probably some of those people ignore those warnings and drive anyway, thinking: Aww, how bad can it be? I drive everywhere else? It's not like I need a passport to get there.
So how bad can it be? My friend Gary Roth spotted a car with out-of-state plates (he wasn't sure but guessed Indiana) parked at a meter in front of his office on Fifth Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets. It has been parked there for a week. As you can see above, tickets are piling up (and there were others placed and since removed since Gary snapped this photo). We're talking at least $115 a day and interference with street cleaning operations. The driver of the car filed an apologetic written response, below. But apologies only go so far in New York. Especially for someone with out-of-state plates.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Congestion Pricing and Underused Subways
Besides fouling the air and clogging the streets, congestion in New York City costs every man, woman and child in the city real money as prices of goods delivered by trucks stuck in traffic rise to make up for added fuel costs, as meetings are delayed and missed, and as the need for costly road maintenance increases. London-style congestion pricing would reduce congestion by assigning a price to something that is now free but valuable: Driving in the traffic-clogged city center.
Though it makes economic sense, it will take a political battle to win a congestion pricing plan. One of the objections to the notion of congestion pricing is question: "How will people get around if driving becomes too expensive?" Peakguy has drawn our attention to a recent study of Manhattan traffic patterns. The study indicates that congestion pricing in New York City wouldn't decrease the mobility of the vast majority of the region's residents:
For most commuters who work in the Manhattan CBD, driving is a matter of choice, not necessity.But wait, a skeptic might ask: If you discourage people from driving, they will pack onto the subway, making the trains unbearably crowded. An answer to whether that would happen is provided by Kate Ascher of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, who has a fun book out called The Works: Anatomy of a City. Among its many topics, the book explains how natural gas is delivered to the city, how rail freight moves through the city, how the Port Authority cleans the soot off the roof of the Holland Tunnel every two days, and how that cool pneumatic tube system for moving mail used to work before it was abandoned in 1953. One section compares New York's subway system with those of Moscow, Tokyo and London, and includes this chart that summarizes their vital statistics.
New York's subway has 468 stations compared with Tokyo's 276, but Tokyo's system carries 2.7 billion passengers per year, compared with New York's 1.4 billion. Compared with Tokyo and Moscow, New York's subway system has more cars, more stations, operates during more of the day and covers more distance, but has fewer passengers. (The figures from London are probably from the period before London began it's congestion pricing program, and ridership has risen since the plan too effect.)
New York City's relative rail underuse is a function of policies that have encouraged the use of the automobile from decades of street widenings to a gas tax that is among the lowest in the OECD to zoning's minimum parking requirements to underinvestment in mass transit. These policies have led us to have unused capacity on the rails, which could carry more people who ought not to be hurting the region's economy by creating costly congestion on the streets and highways. Granted, there's no unused capacity on the Lexington Avenue Line, where the 6 train runs every 2 minutes and 30 seconds during the morning rush and is still packed. But there is some slack on the many lines that run less frequently, like the B train, which only runs every 9 minutes during the morning rush. There is are also unused tracks. For example, on the Sea Beach Line in Borough Park, Bensonhurst and Gravesend, Brooklyn, N-line express tracks have sat idle since 1968. The city needs congestion pricing, and has a good amount of unused rail capacity that stands ready to provide auto-free mobility for New Yorkers.
- Necessity or Choice? Why People Drive in Manhattan [Schaller Consulting]
- Urban Renewal for the 21st Century [The Oil Drum: NYC]
- Urban Renewal: Getting Cars Out of the City Center [The Oil Drum: NYC]
- The Works: Anatomy of a City [B&N]
- Sea Beach Line [NYCSubway.org]- Posted at 1:10 AM | Permalink | Comments: 4 | Post a Comment |
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
One Result of Undercharging for Curbside Parking
I always thought that the alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations that enable street cleaning (and somehow seem to take on a culture of their own here in New York City), probably discouraged people from owning cars. As if the difficulty finding parking spaces in Manhattan wasn't enough to get people to think twice about it, the hassle of having to move one's car twice a week would surely cause people to abandon their cars. But over at The Oil Drum: New York City, PeakGuy documents the alternate-side-of-the-street parking dance on his Upper East Side block (warning: slow-loading photos). He arrives at a different conclusion, and takes issue with the temporary abandonment of the prohibition on double-parking or double-standing, as it were.
On the day when the street cleaning happens on one side of the street, people simply do a quick sidestep and double park across the street. This gift to drivers is in not only a theft of valuable public space from pedestrians, but causes increased ground level pollution and noise.With all the talk recently about congestion pricing, and pricing for curbside parking that encourages turnover, maybe PeakGuy is on to something. Whatever the case, I think the very fact that people are willing to spend hours of their lives sitting in their cars simply to move them to the other side of the street and back is a clear sign of irrational behavior induced by oversubsidization of a good: curbside parking spaces are clearly worth far more than they cost to use.
- The Destructive Alternate Side Dance [The Oil Drum: New York City]
- The Automobile, Our Salvation [S&F]
- Parking Has Value, So Why Is it Free? [S&F]- Posted at 11:34 PM | Permalink | Comments: 6 | Post a Comment |
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Hummer in Harlem Open Thread
The news that Potamkin has opened its Hummer dealership in East Harlem is all over the blogosphere: Joe Schumacher posted his photos of the new dealership at What About the Plastic Animals, which Curbed picked up as well, inspiring a few pro-and-con comments (mostly con). Meanwhile, Rachel Natalie Klein visited the grand opening of what is known as the East Harlem Auto Mall, and opines, "Shopping malls and car dealerships are nausea-inducing enough on their own - so imagine my horror upon learning that these two establishments have joined forces a few blocks from my East Harlem apartment."
Is this a good thing or a bad thing for East Harlem? This being a blog dedicated to channeling economic growth to the city AND reducing automobile dependency (particularly gas guzzling, road-hogging automobile dependency), I have mixed opinions about this news. So, what do you think?
Food for thought: Above is a photo of the block where the dealerships now stand. They are between Second Avenue on the right and the two red buildings that face Third Avenue on the left, from 127th to 128th Streets. This is the "before" shot. The other blogs have the "after."
- Opening Today: Hummer in Harlem [Curbed]
- New in East Harlem [WATPA]
- Spilled Milk [Bagel in Harlem]- Posted at 10:49 PM | Permalink | Comments: 8 | Post a Comment |
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