Monday, July 26, 2010

Straphangers Questions Flushing Commons

Responding to the questions that were raised by Brian Ketcham of the Flushing Coalition concerning the impact of Flushing Commons on mass transit, the Straphangers Campaign has sent off the following letter to the mayor, the city council speaker, and the chair of the MTA:

Hon. Michael Bloomberg Hon. Christine Quinn Jay Walder

Mayor Speaker, New York City Council Chair, MTA
City Hall City Hall 347 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10007 New York, New York 10007 New York, New York 10017

Re: Flushing Commons and Transit

Dear Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and Chairman Walder:

I write to express my concern about the possible impact of the Flushing Commons project – along with other planned Flushing-area developments – on the 7 subway line and the numerous buses serving the downtown Flushing area.

My concern is simple: When taken in context with other planned development, the project may well generate tens of thousands of new riders on an already staggering transit system operating near capacity.

I have been contacted by Brian Ketcham, a traffic engineer who is currently consulting with community groups and businesses raising concerns about the project. While I have not conducted an independent review of his detailed analysis, it troubles me greatly. I have known Brian for more than 25 years and have much respect for his analyses.

At a minimum, his numbers raise alarm bells that should be addressed either through considering lowering the density of these projects or through mitigations.

Mr. Ketcham studies new development that might be completed by 2017 as reported in the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) for the Willets Point Development Plan and in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Flushing Commons project. He finds:“… [added] subway trips could total more than 92,000 on weekdays and bus trips more than 70,000. …the estimated auto and truck trips, more than 144,000 that might be generated by more than 90 new projects identified in the environmental impact statements referenced above.”

Looking at the afternoon rush-peak hour for subways, he finds that in 2017 some 9,020 would be generated by these developments. For buses, it would be 6,772. Can the7 Flushing line absorb all these riders? According to the MTA in mid-2007, the average passenger load as a percentage of train capacity was 83% on the 7 line. In addition, the line cannot currently add any more trains at rush hour. This is why the MTA is planning to embark on an expensive project to computerized signals on the 7. My understanding is that this will only allow a few additional trains to be added to the line.

I do not have similar numbers for buses. But given the present day tumult and long lines – coupled with Mr. Ketcham’s estimate of 144,000 more vehicular traffic and 70,000 more bus trips – that’s a recipe for gridlock and poor bus service.

Hence, I am worried.

I would appreciate a response to the issues I have raised in this letter.


Gene Russianoff

Staff Attorney
We await their response-and the city council revisions that are purportedly being worked on as we speak. But clearly, if nothing is to mitigate this development, Bloomberg's entire notion of sustainability-along with Chair Burden;'s catechism to it-will fly right out the window. The people who will pay the price are the train and bus riders of Flushing-as well as all of the voters who cast their ballots for the current council member, but will be forced to experience a painful bout of buyer's remorse.