COVID Place making
October 29, 2020

Motordom Redux: The Reality on Our Roads

PT: We’re in a sudden, massive, global real-life experiment in how we live and move in our cities.  While there is lots of theorizing going on (we’ll now work mainly at home – except when we won’t), the reality on our roads will tell us what we’re really doing.

Here’s an ominous report from New York:

Traffic jams are a familiar sight again in (New York City). “This traffic is just ridiculous,” said one driver waiting to turn onto traffic-choked Morris Avenue in the Bronx. “We live in this neighborhood, it doesn’t make sense for it to be this way.”

Traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, better known as Gridlock Sam, said car traffic is now 85 to 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels.  Truck traffic is at 100 percent, and some days more.

The increase appears even more striking considering that only 15 percent of workers have returned to their Manhattan offices, according to Partnership for New York City.

The biggest problem, experts say, is that many New Yorkers are not yet comfortable riding buses, the subways and commuter railroads again…. “The same thing happened in other parts of the world,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said. “Riders had a multitude of alternatives to commute into the central business districts, starting with Wuhan and other parts of both Asia and Europe. So it’s not surprising.”

While the scale and complexity of New York is substantially different from us, we do share one thing in common: growth in population and business travel has been accommodated on transit, not through an expansion of road capacity.  There just isn’t a lot of room available on the asphalt to handle even a small shift from transit to car – and, as the report notes, only a small percentage of workers have returned to CBDs and other work spaces so far.  This is not looking good, especially if transit use permanently declines.

It’s easy to forecast one political fallout: there will not be an appetite to take road space away from vehicles if it’s already saturated.  Or worse, to return space reallocated for other uses – notably patios, slow streets, bike lanes, transit priority – to ‘reduce congestion’.

We need a similar update on what’s happening in Metro Vancouver – especially where congestion is emerging, how much and how fast.  It may be more in the suburban and ex-urban parts of the region (what’s it like out there, Abbotsford?) than in the Metro Core.

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Go to Times Square on the Red Steps:

 

RENEWAL OF VOWS

Say “I do” all over again.

At 6pm on February 14, 2020, couples are invited to celebrate romance, passion, and each other in a one of a kind tour-de-love — the Vow Renewal Ceremony, taking place on the iconic glass Red Steps. Couples of all ages and backgrounds will profess their love once again, with a special invitation extended to lovebirds whose kisses bridge boundaries, be they religious, political, racial, or national, as well as couples in wedding attire.

Friends of Price Tags, Michael & Dianne, happened to be in NYC, so of course:

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This clip from a local news station in New York City is labelled as “the city before gentrification.”  What now provokes nostaligia wasn’t all that great if you actually had to live in a city of rapid decline – and this illustrates how sad it was.  And now funny.

Worth listening to just for the accents and attitudes of the New Yawkers.

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TransLink was recently asking Vancouverites for suggestions on the best seating design for new SkyTrain cars.  Hopefully they saw this video from Cheddar on a study done for New York’s transit system:

Are the cars the MTA uses currently the best for the way we ride the subway? In 2013, researchers from Operations Planning Group at NYCT submitted their improved design to the Transportation Research Board.

(Click headline of post to show video.)

Yeah, it’s fodder for ELMTOTs*, but it also an exploration of human behaviour in confined spaces and how design affects us.

 

* Urban Dictionary: “Stands for Expo Line Memes for TransLink Oriented Teens. It’s a Facebook group for over 1300 kids-with-no-life to share memes of Vancouver.”

And doesn’t that screen capture above look like Vancouver?  It’s probably Long Island City, as the East River shoreline transforms into False Creek.

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Surprise: it built bike lanes.  This video shows how, from 2007, the Big Apple did it, and the results it got.  (Hey, Commercial Drive, retail sales went up.)

As the Transportation Commissioner at the time, Janette Sadik-Kahn, says at the end (definitely not a spoiler alert): “If you want to build a better city, you can start by building bike lanes.”

(For video, click Read More)

Thanks to Karole Sutherland.

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Now that Google’s Streetview has been in operation for a decade, and conveniently provides its available archive with each image, it’s possible to do what Guest suggests in the post below:

You could take a similar pic – but in reverse and with a future transition – of the former Granville 7 Theatre on Granville Steet.

i.e. bustling pic of the movie crowds in the 1990s, boarded up with chain link fence and homeless camped out for the past few years after the theatre closed, and in a few more years (hopefully) bustling again as a Cineplex Rec Room.

Here’s the result so far:

2007:

2011:

2018:

The current street scene, at least in these shots, is not as dramatic as it can be, when there are rough shelters under the canopies.  Whereas the difference in New York from the 1980s to now – in this case, the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bushwick – is unmissable.  Almost inconceivable.

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Two Vancouver urbanistas – Michael Gordon and Gordon Price – have decided to celebrate their birthdays in New York City.  Help us out.

  • What off-the-beaten-tourist-tracks should we hike?  (And remember, we’ve seen a lot of NYC.)
  • What’s new in the boroughs?  Even Jersey.
  • Shows, performances, galleries, museums?  (Middle of March through April.)
  • Restaurants, of course.  (Food carts too.)
  • Your favourite book about, set in or metaphorically referencing the Apple.  (Video series, movies or print articles included.  Even policy reports.)

Are you in New York?  Would you like to meet?  Would you buy us a beer or a cupcake with a candle?

And yes, of course we’ll use Citibike.

 

 

 

 

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This is a shot I took on my New York trip in August (see Urbanist Abroad) that I selected to illustrate a special feature of the city. (Nope, not the Citibikes nor the bike lane.)

This is the unit block of East 2nd Street, in a neighbourhood that doesn’t seem to have its own name yet; it could be one of six. Maybe the realtors have decided by now; I couldn’t really say.

But I could tell you the name of the tree just behind the white SUV (it’s a Japanese Pagoda), its ID No. (377062), its diameter (18″), and the value of its benefits to the city ($245.90).  That’s US$, folks.

I know all that because of this:

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