What will the next generation of Manhattan look like?
No cars on 42nd Street, for starters, if Vision42 is executed, an initiative for a cross-city pedestrian mall with light rail backed by seven NY elected officials, the Hilton Times Square Hotel and numerous organizations.
This is not just another social cause, it’s a significant economic one. With the overall economic trends of cities gaining in popularity and population, Vision42 recently completed a study concluding that business would grow by 35% to $1.49 billion a year, city and state tax revenue would thus increase by an additional $28 million a year, and property values would rise by $3.5 billion, translating into another $277 million in property tax revenue. This doesn’t reflect the fact that restaurants could also double their seating area into the street (now a pseudo piazza) at no cost, transforming a street and corridor into a place and destination.
The main obstacle? The group wants the City to invest an estimated $360 to $510 million to convert the streets and build a light rail system to connect commuters at the ferry terminals on either side of the street. Frankly, I’m not so sure a light rail system is not more a product of an outdated industrial economy (it’s a 19th century invention with a different skin), being replaced by the ‘just as cool’, flat-to-the-ground, ‘fraction of the cost’, flexible second generation BRT (not those ugly articulated buses aka bus rapid transit), and even ‘STVs’ (‘sports transit vehicles’). You could fund five of these streets with flexible mass transit rather than just one with an inflexible system, five times sooner, and with just as much if not more pizzaz and style.
…but the bus is still not as cool as rail. Light rail is simply easier, faster and more pleasurable.
Have you ever ridden a BRT? It is so far from “just as cool” as one could be. There is BRT planned for New York. It’s putting an articulated bus (keep in mind these busses have the same 2 foot aisles that all busses have today) and putting it on a bus lane. This does not bring the same level of development because it’s not cool. 5 of them aren’t cool. They aren’t comfortable, and they never bring what is promised by the ideal BRT. Streetcars and light rail, however, is pretty cool. And people actually like it, which really seperates it from a bus. So enough of the BRT bull.
Thanks David, Louis, that helped me clarify the entry, and the fact that the ‘just as cool’ link wasn’t working, which showed what modern BRT looks like.
Yes, you’re both absolutely right – there’s ultra-uncool, old school BRT which are basically ugly, conventional, articulated buses. However, I’m talking about the second generation, 21st Century, sleek European BRTs that look like this, except they aren’t confined to rails (or the costs associated with it). The knowledge economy is about flexibility, and fixed rails are anything but. There are tracks yes, but they’re painted on the street and electronically read by the vehicle. Now that’s pretty cool stuff.
Check out this video of riding on BRT in Vegas, which isn’t even as slick as the ones in Europe.