Queens DOT Study - Traffic Makeover in Jackson Heights
DOT Finds Inexpensive Fixes To Congestion
February 22, 2011 / Jackson Heights Neighborhood / Queens Buzz. Continued / If needed use the search function to find the story introduction.
DOT Study - Jackson Heights
I attended a feedback session for the proposed traffic and parking changes to be made in Jackson Heights in 2011 by the Department of Transportation [hereafter referred to as DOT]. I spoke with Maura McCarthy, Queens Borough Commissioner of Transportation, who gave me a brief overview of the work that went into the study, which began in May of 2009. Much of what will be discussed in this report is shown on DOT slides, which were presented at the feedback sessions. Photos of their slides begin with #9 in the slide show [you may use the fast forward buttons to flip through the slide show at your own speed]. Maura McCarthy is shown in the photo to your left.
DOT Examines Jackson Heights Traffic & Parking
She told me that the DOT worked with government officials, community boards, community groups, as well as the MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority], TLC [Taxi & Limosine Commission] and the FDNY [Fire Department of New York] and NYPD [New York Police Department] in assessing and putting together the current proposals. The DOT also met with with local residents and businesspeople while doing community walk throughs, workshops and open houses. Over 180 Jackson Heights residents and businesspeople also attended the feedback session to review the proposed changes. Some of the people who attended the feedback session in Jackson Heights are shown in the photo to your right.
During the first year of the project the DOT collected information including vehicle and pedestrian counts, vehicle turning movements on Jackson Heights streets and legal and illegal parking incidents. Travel times were clocked and pedestrian obstructions were noted. The DOT also conducted thousands of 'Origin - Destination' surveys with both motorists and pedestrians to evaluate how long it took for people to move through the community. Merchants were also included in the data gathering phase of the project, and over 75 businesspeople were surveyed, including delivery people. A map of the study area is shown in the photo to your left. The Jackson Heights traffic congestion study area runs from 69th to 82nd Street and from 35th to 41st Avenue.
Five categories of issues arose. The categories of issues included: 1) impeded vehicle mobility, 2) impeded pedestrian mobility, 3) limited parking availability, 4) impeded mass transit and 5) quality of life.
Traffic & Pedestrian Congestion In Jackson Heights
The first category of issues was traffic congestion. The causes of traffic congestion included problematic intersections and tight throughways which caused bottlenecks, lack of traffic signal coordination, and traffic blockage caused by vehicles dropping off or picking up people and goods.
The next category of issues was pedestrian immobility. It appeared a lot of pedestrian immobility is caused by the difficulty in crossing many streets. The difficulty in crossing the streets is caused by blocked walkways due to traffic back ups, short time frames during which to cross streets and complicated traffic patterns at a number of intersections. Pedestrian bottlenecks can also be caused by street vendor stands and commercial use of pedestrian walkways. A photo of traffic in Jackson Heights is shown above.
Parking Availability & Limits In Jackson Heights
Parking, the perennial problem of the modern American city, is also an issue in Jackson Heights. Illegal standing and double parking create bottlenecks and conflicts. There's not enough parking available, there aren't enough delivery / loading zones, and one hour parking can be too short for long term parkers. A slide showing the Early Morning Delivery Zones in Jackson Heights is shown in the photo to your left.
Public Transit In Jackson Heights
As a result of traffic congestion, pedestrian / motorist conflicts and bottlenecks caused by parking issues, mass transit users [buses] are delayed. The delays appear due in part to the routes currently used by the MTA. On some of the current routes making turns can be difficult, some of the streets used are more congested than other streets, and Jackson Heights currently does not have enough southbound traffic lanes.
Quality Of Life In Jackson Heights
The net result is that there's horn honking and motorist air pollution and conflict in the streets of Jackson Heights due to an entangled traffic flow. There also isn't much infrastructure in place to accommodate bicyclists. The first slide of the quality of life portion of the DOT presentation is shown in the photo to your left.
Solution - DOT Proposal
The DOT proposed the following solutions to the traffic congestion in Jackson Heights. The solution includes the following key elements: 1) commercial and residential public parking changes, 2) limiting the traffic flow and turning options at the most congested intersection in Jackson Heights, 3) increasing the number of southbound traffic lanes, and 4) re-routing MTA buses through less congested streets.
Commercial Parking In Jackson Heights
Some of the parking changes recommended by the DOT include the following. One was to set up free commercial loading zones which would be available until 10 am and on 82nd Street until 11 am. The remaining spots would be metered for residential / visitor use. After the free commercial parking expired, metered commercial loading zones would go into effect. Depending on the street, parking meters might remain in effect until 6, 7 or 8 pm. A slide showing the Commercial Loading Zones in Jackson Heights is shown in the photo to your left.
The allocation of commercial spaces will reduce the residential parking space availability. To offset the reduction in parking in the commercial zones, the DOT has proposed to increase the number of parking spots nearby, by establishing angled parking along 69th Street just east of the BQE. Angled parking, versus parallel parking will allow more cars to be parked in the same area.
Park Smart - Parking In Jackson Heights
The DOT also recommended the use of a 'Park Smart' program, wherein the parking meter rates will vary based location / time. Hence in high demand parking areas, parking meter rates will be higher, while in areas where parking demand is lower, parking meter rates will be lower. This is intended to have the effect of motivating people who park all day in a high demand metered spot to park in a lower demand / lower rate / longer time parking meter area. This will also have the effect of reducing traffic in the area, by reducing the 'circling' time of people looking for parking in the area. The photo to your left shows a slide on the Park Smart initiative by the DOT.
A Park Smart Park program was implemented in Brooklyn and reduced the traffic volume 10%, reduced the parking durations by 20% and increased unique parking users by 17%. This means that parking times were shorter, so parking was easier to find by more people, and hence traffic was reduced as motorists circled less.
Proposed Changes To Jackson Heights Traffic Flow
Another proposed change was to create a pedestrian mall, complete with bicycle rack, at 73rd / 74th Streets and Broadway / Roosevelt. This will have the effect of limiting all of the turns in that area. The DOT identified 37 vehicle to pedestrian conflicts and 21 vehicle to vehicle conflicts around that intersection. By converting some of the space to public pedestrian walkways and reducing the number of turns, the traffic should flow more readily as it will reduce to 21 the vehicle to pedestrian conflicts and reduce to 6 the vehicle to vehicle conflicts. This involves closing 73rd Road between 73rd and 74th Streets and eliminating the triangle turning in that area. The DOT proposed solution to alleviating some of the traffic congestion near 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue is shown in the photo to your left.
Changing Traffic Direction on 75th Street
Currently there is only one uninterrupted southbound through street for three northbound through streets in the mid 70's [streets]. The Department of Transportation proposal would modify the traffic flow to go north on 75th Street north of 37th Avenue [it currently goes south]. This should have the effect of reducing bottlenecks in southbound traffic. The DOT proposed solution to solving some of the north / south traffic congestion in Jackson Heights is shown in the photo to your right.
Re-routing Bus Lines To Less Congested Streets
The last major piece of the proposal was the re-routing of the Q47 and the Q49 bus route from a congested 73rd Street to 75th Street. Improvements would be made to the 37th Avenue intersection and signage would be cleaned up in the study area.
DOT Plan For Jackson Heights
The Department of Transportation plan for Jackson Heights is expected to go into effect sometime in 2011. The slide show below shows key slides of the presentation given in February and corresponds to the information provided above. You can also visit the NYC Department of Transportation website by clicking to this business listing where we have included a link to their website.
Click here to go directly to the photo album of the presentation by the DOT Department of Transportation Traffic Study for Jackson Heights.
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