High-visibility crosswalks help prevent gridlock
Though the neighborhood is accessible by 17 subway lines, vehicular traffic on Chinatown's busy, narrow streets is as thick as ever, spilling over into adjacent communities and perpetually filling parking spaces on streets and in lots.
That's why the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) is exploring potential Chinatown traffic and parking improvements that could ease congestion and aid pedestrian flow for several decades to come -- all while stimulating business and accommodating residents.
NYMTC is a consortium of regional agencies and transportation providers including New York City and State Departments of Transportation, the Port Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and others that serve New York City and surrounding areas.
With member and community collaboration, NYMTC has headed up the Canal Area Transportation Study (CATS) since the late 1990s. In the past four years, CATS "Track I" implemented a series of short-term traffic changes that have already helped smooth Chinatown's circulation. Among them are repaving Canal Street, revising traffic-signal timing, installing high-visibility crosswalks, clearing "street furniture" from sidewalks, and soon, installing Muni-Metersalong Canal. (A list of Track I accomplishments appears below).
Now NYMTC is tackling long-term issues as part of "Track II," focusing on details like road and sidewalk capacity, delivery-truck access, trash collection, and parking. To get there, the group is surveying the area, collecting community feedback, and culling transportation and transit data that will shape its plans into the 2010s.
"We're not just looking at one set of issues," says NYMTC Planning Director Gerry Bogacz. "It's a pretty comprehensive program. It's not just about moving more cars through Chinatown."
|Pedestrians sometimes overcrowd Chinatown sidewalks
Recently, NYMTC took another step specifically toward Chinatown parking solutions by hosting a workshop with constituents. Roughly two dozen participants representing Community Board 3, Chinatown business groups, and city and state agencies explored parking problems and feasibility options.
Michael Kodama, the NYMTC consultant and parking-planning specialist leading the workshop, noted that many cities' downtown areas long for the "problems" Chinatown has -- that is, the thriving retail community that draws high traffic volumes. The challenge, however, is making access easy for customers while balancing the needs of residents, employees, and through traffic.
According to Bogacz, the workshop succeeded in drawing valuable ideas from those who know the neighborhood best and in getting stakeholders thinking and talking about parking challenges and practical solutions.
"We are giving the community opportunities for input into what Canal Street should be," says Bogacz. "And it's got to be recognized that [Canal] is a 'Main Street' and a regional thoroughfare, and balancing those two things is difficult."
CATS I Improvements:
- Repaving of Canal Street
- Installation of high-visibility crosswalks along Canal Street
- Installation of brick-style street crosswalk striping at Avenue of the Americas
- Signal timing changes based on study analysis
- Illumination assessment resulting in fixed lighting and cleaned lenses
- Improvements to roadway surfaces; pothole repairs
- Redesign of loop and signage at the Holland Tunnel
- Construction of information kiosk at the Baxter Triangle
- Installation of Muni-Meters along Canal Street (pending)
- Discussion of numerous enforcement issues with NYPD, PAPD, DOS, and DCA
- Discussion of NYPD/PAPD jurisdictional issues at the Holland Tunnel portal
- Development of a BID/LDC (Chinatown partnership)
- Pedestrian underpass demonstration at A/C/E subway station at Canal Street and Avenue of the Americas (under discussion)
- Signage to address speed for traffic exiting the Manhattan Bridge
- Pedestrian crossing explanatory signage for Canal Street (pending)
- Transportation elements of triangle park near Varick Street
- Allen Street short-term improvements (pending)
To learn more and to get involved with the Canal Area Transportation Study, visit http://www.nymtc.org/.