Every day, millions of New Yorkers are on the move—commuting to their jobs, dropping kids off at school, visiting family and friends, or racing to the airport to catch a flight.
The ways we get around town are familiar: we walk or take a bus, hop on the subway, or grab a cab. Increasingly, we are also biking, taking ferries, and using apps to hail taxis and for-hire vehicles. We also drive when necessary.
While never perfect, transportation in the city has always gotten us where we needed to go. Over the past few years, however, things have changed. Even though New Yorkers have more transportation options than ever before, getting to a doctor’s appointment, work, or a ball game on time has become more difficult, and frustrating. The subways are frequently delayed, overcrowded, and unreliable. Buses get stuck in congested streets, and car and truck traffic is harmful to our neighborhoods. At the same time, more of us are competing for the same amount of space on sidewalks.
To meet the demands of a growing population and a thriving economy, it is urgent that we invest in and better manage our neglected transportation infrastructure. Public transit must be made reliable, and our roads, bridges, tunnels, and airports modernized. We must also invest in sustainable transportation modes such as walking, biking, and mass transit, and encourage a citywide transition to sustainable fuels. We will work toward creating a safe, affordable, energy efficient transportation system worthy of a global city in the 21st century.
New York City’s vast transit system, coupled with the city’s density, has enabled our sustained growth, advanced health equity, and allowed us to maintain a smaller per capita carbon footprint than any other big city in the United States. However, the declining reliability of our subways and bus systems poses serious threats to a city existentially reliant on public transit. As more than half of New Yorkers get to work using transit, delays and disruptions can cascade across the city. Over the past five years, subway delays have almost tripled, deteriorating on-time performance. Over the same time period, ridership has decreased, particularly on weekends, even though the population and economy are growing. While new revenues sources identified in the State budget help address gaps in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) capital program, sustainable long-term funding will always be needed.
Technology and new transportation options are transforming how we get around the city, and will continue to do so. While autonomous vehicle technology is still nascent, its potential future deployment could have impacts on the city. We must ensure that it serves residents equitably, helps achieve Vision Zero goals, and accounts for its impacts to communities, workers, and infrastructure. Already, app-based for-hire vehicles (FHVs) have attracted significant numbers of riders away from subways and buses. They have also contributed to increased congestion, especially in Manhattan below 60th Street, where travel speeds have fallen by more than 20 percent since 2010.
Subway and bus ridership have decreased since 2015, while ferry and cycling show growth amidst City investment.
Source: MTA, DOT
Ferry ridership is measured by fiscal year, other modes by calendar year
Slowed by congestion, buses have seen ridership decrease to below 2010 levels. Between 2016 and 2017, annual bus ridership decreased by almost 40 million rides, while for-hire car trips increased by nearly 40 million. The City has worked with the MTA to improve bus service on the busiest routes, doubling the pace of Select Bus Service routes since 2015. But given these challenging underlying conditions on the streets, the City must continue to expand and improve bus service.
With New York City’s population projected to exceed 9 million by 2050, and with capacity already stretched thin on congested roads and subways, we must prioritize and invest in efficient and sustainable transportation modes: biking, walking, and mass transit. By doing so, we will be able to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, support sustainable growth, and achieve the ambitious goal we set in 2015 to have 80 percent of all trips in the city taken by sustainable modes by 2050. The city will prioritize sustainable modes in the planning and design of the built environment, and help make them the default choice in New York City so no one needs to rely on a car.
What We Heard from New Yorkers
Approximately 57 percent of the more than 14,000 respondents to our citywide survey cited transportation-related concerns as among the City’s most pressing needs. In particular, many were concerned about the reliability and efficiency of the MTA subway system, along with the need to improve the speed and frequency of bus routes, support mass transit, and reduce congestion.
Others cited the need to make our streets safer and transportation more accessible. One respondent recommended “limiting free parking, encouraging cycling, and making driving more expensive.” Another suggested, “The subway and bus system should be updated with a tap system, permanent cards, and a mobile pay app.”
In addition, during a February 2019 discussion with more than 50 New York City small business owners, we heard a need for new strategies to reduce congestion and better manage curb space given the competing demand from private vehicles, delivery companies, for-hire vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and buses, including through technology and new regulations that create priority zones.
We have made progress over the past years to improve the city’s transportation network. Vision Zero, the City’s initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries, has reduced the annual death toll to its lowest level since 1910. Investments through Vision Zero have improved our quality of life by making city streets more navigable and pleasant places to be. We have expanded the bicycle network, adding 244 miles of bike lanes—including 77 miles of protected lanes—since 2015. With new infrastructure and the dramatic expansion of bike share, daily bicycle trips rose to nearly half a million by 2017—three times more than in 2000.
Since 2015, the usage of app-based FHVs and ferries has increased. New FHV services have provided improved transportation options, especially in outer borough neighborhoods, but have disrupted traditional taxi services and exacerbated congestion. The City is taking steps to improve regulation of the FHV industry to maximize benefits while minimizing adverse impacts. NYC Ferry offers a new option to the transportation network, cutting travel times from many parts of the City, while connecting more New Yorkers to the waterfront. Since its launch in 2017, NYC Ferry has served close to eight million riders and will expand with new routes and stops.
The City does not control the subways but does manage the streets on which the buses run. Since 2015, in partnership with the MTA, the City upgraded nine corridors to Select Bus Service (SBS). To date, SBS has improved service and shortened travel times for about 300,000 daily riders. Further efforts are underway to optimize and expand the bus network and to use enforcement measures to increase the priority of buses on City streets. At the same time, the state budget enacted new revenue sources which will allow the authority to make needed upgrades and improve service and accessibility across the system.
The number of app-based FHVs licensed by TLC has increased dramatically since their introduction in 2012.
TAXIS AND FOR-HIRE VEHICLES LICENSED BY NEW YORK CITY
App-Based FHVs are those affiliated with TLC-licensed bases owned by four largest companies by trip volume.
WHAT WE WILL DO
OneNYC 2050 will prioritize expanding sustainable transportation modes—public transit, walking, and bicycling—to limit GHG emissions that contribute to climate change. We will continue efforts to eliminate traffic injuries and fatalities and foster a livable streetscape in all our neighborhoods. We will reduce traffic congestion, increase bus performance, modernize our subway system, and improve connections to the region and world—because an efficient transportation network values reliability, accessibility, safety, and sustainability, and enables us to embrace our status as a city in which New Yorkers do not need to rely on a car.
64% of New York residents live within 1/2 mile of a MTA subway station or Select Bus Service stop and 97% live within 1/4 mile of a bus stop.