New York, New York, More Than Ever, A Big Transit Town

By Micheline Maynard

Fewer vehicles, more transit in New York City.

Depending on your view of New York City, it’s a walker’s paradise, a traffic nightmare, or a place where it pays to ride the subway.

Now, the city has come out with its annual Sustainable Streets Index report, and the results show The Big Apple is mirroring the rest of the country in the way it gets around.

Since 2003, citywide transit ridership has grown 9.5 percent, while citywide traffic has declined 3.9 percent. Subway and bus ridership is growing, while driving remains essentially flat.

The changes are most noticeable in the Manhattan central business district, which is the area below 60th Street (the southern border of Central Park). Over the past 10 years, transit use here is up 11.3 percent, while car traffic has declined 6.5 percent.

Meanwhile, there was a 4 percent increase in cycling during 2012, before Citi Bikes arrived on the scene. There has been a 58 percent increase in year-around cycling since 2008, and an 86 percent increase in people cycling during the winter. (As a side note: New York City gets snowstorms, but not the hammering that cities like Chicago and Boston are accustomed to getting.)

The report is well worth a read, for some fascinating developments through New York City.

  • Subway ridership increased by 2.5 percent in 2011, and another 1.5 percent in 2012.
  • Traffic is moving a little more quickly. The average taxi speed in Manhattan was 9.3 miles per hour last year, compared with 8.9 miles per hour in 2011. Okay, those might sound slow to people used to traveling on the highway, but Manhattan’s speed limit is 30 mph and there aren’t many spots in the city where anyone regularly goes that fast.
  • The fastest traffic day in 2012? Christmas, when the average speed was 14.8 mph.

Although the report focuses on 2012, there are also some new statistics on Citi Bikes, which kicked into action this spring.

Through August 26, riders had taken 2.5 million trips on the bike sharing system. That equates to 5.5 million miles traveled. The highest single day in the system thus far was August 23, when 44,083 trips were taken.

The city has received 65,000 recommendations for Citi Bike locations, thus far. And, notably, there have been just eight accidents involving Citi Bikes — and no serious injuries.

Do you walk, drive, or ride in New York City? What would you tell us about transit in the five boroughs?


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