Sandy Side Effects: Where Do We Put All The Cars?

First, let me express my deep sympathy for our friends and colleagues in the path of Hurricane Sandy last week. I know many were and continue to be affected, and our hearts and prayers go out to you.

I was watching continuous news coverage of the event last week, when one story in particular caught my attention. On Wednesday, the national news reported that people were beginning to make their push back into work in Manhattan and that the lack of subway services and reduced transit were causing hundreds of thousands of people to take to their personal automobiles to enter the city. The news was reporting the effects on congestion and traffic, but my first thought (as a Parking Geek) was, “Where in the world are all of those people going to park?”

Mayor Bloomberg did the right thing requiring everyone to carpool into the city. The requirement that all cars have at least three people to enter the city via the four East River bridges will effectively reduce congestion by more than half the potential capacity. The problem still remained that the number of people driving into New York was still likely larger than on a normal operating day.

As I grew more interested, I found the following research from local Transportation Planner Michael Frumin, from 2009. During primary morning peak hours, the New York Subway system carries nearly 400,000 people into the City. At the same time, the average vehicle occupancy entering the City was 1.2 people per vehicle, meaning that if the subway capacity was converted to vehicles, an additional 324,000 vehicles (and parking spaces) would be needed to handle the added capacity. Then, with an average of 325 square feet per parking space, the additional vehicular capacity would require almost four square miles of parking–that’s three times larger than Central Park.

While there are likely many more important lessons we will learn from Hurricane Sandy, it would be prudent for our transportation and parking planners to understand what happens when we take our country’s largest transit infrastructure offline. If that’s not a case for a renewed emphasis on improved TDM and transit infrastructure, I don’t know what is.

 

About Brett Wood, CAPP, PE

Brett Wood, CAPP, PE, is a parking and transportation planner with Kimley-Horn and Associates. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, Awards of Excellence Committee, and the Parking Matters® Committee.

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