Remarks to PANYNJ 6.27.2019 – Micromobility
Micromobility is a rapidly growing category of transport comprising light, mostly two wheeled vehicles, such as bicycles, e-bikes and scooters.1 In 2019 alone, 16 states passed enabling legislation.2 Today I will review local developments and the implications for the Port Authority.
In May, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced Let’s Go!–a plan to consolidate city transport agencies.3 Modeled on the NY’s Water Board4 and Transport for London,5 the plan would create a “mobility czar” to supervise all modes and coordinate end-to-end service.
Its section on “Bicycling” calls for adding fifty miles of protected paths per year and cycling infrastructure to all 6000 miles of city roads by 2030.6
New York City
To this end, Speaker Johnson also introduced 1557-2019,7 calling on NYCDOT to implement a five year Bicycle Master Plan, including performance benchmarks and annual status updates.
Perhaps as prelude, DOT announced plans to narrow the roadway along 8th Avenue between 38th and 45th Streets by twenty foot to make room for wider the sidewalks and add a protected bikeway.8 DOT also proposed a protected bikeway along Central Park West, even though that would eliminate 400 parking spaces!9
New York-New Jersey
In the last session, New York State passed a bill codifying e-bike and scooters.10 New Jersey passed a similar law in May.11 This clears the way for a bi-state network that’s convenient, cheap, sustainable, resilient–and has demonstrated potential to draw down car trips. A 2018 Portland study found one third of e-scooter rentals were alternatives to driving and car-share.12
The Role of the Port Authority?
So how will the Port Authority respond–and specifically with regards to the George Washington Bridge? The Agency has long been successful identifying trends relevant to the region’s transportation needs and creating the infrastructure to support them.
Will it prioritize installation of docks and charging stations at entrances, or build mini-parks that encourage crowds to gather?
Will it restore the mile-long paths as walkways, or widen them to maximize throughput.13 And, in so doing, spur neighboring agencies to connect them–as is now happening with the Bayonne and Goethals Bridges?14
From its opening in 1931, the George would prove instrumental in facilitating car travel across the region. Ninety years later, its restoration affords the Agency an opportunity speed adoption of micromobility.15
Will it do so, or will it seek to perpetuate reliance on the automobile?
1 “A category of modes of transport that are provided by very light vehicles such as electric scooters, electric skateboards, shared bicycles and electric pedal assisted (pedelec) bicycles,” Micromobility, Wikipedia, https://tinyurl.com/y2reudlu
2 “Electric micromobility is sweeping the country and changing cities for the better. This year alone, 16 states passed laws authorizing the use of electric scooters., NY Better Get Rolling on Micro-Mobility,” Crain’s NY Business, 6/11/19, https://tinyurl.com/y46f6u7l
3 “Let’s Go, A Case for Municipal Control and a Comprehensive Transportation Vision for the Five Boroughs,” NYC Council, 3/5/19, https://tinyurl.com/yy3z5s8a
4 The Water Board collects water and sewer fees and reinvests them to maintain City’s water supply., Ibid, p. 39-40
5 “London,” Complete George, 5/23/19, https://tinyurl.com/y68n7oen
6 “Let’s Go!,” p. 79-85
7 “A Local Law … in relation to five-year plans for NYC streets, sidewalks, and pedestrian spaces,” Int. 1557-2019, City Council of New York, 5/29/19, https://tinyurl.com/yxbh9dmy
8 “Eighth Avenue To Get a Road Diet to Give More Space to Walkers, Cyclists,” StreetsBlog, 6/21/19, https://tinyurl.com/yyov7sff
9 “Central Park West Gets Protected Bike Lane (Yay!) And Loses 400 Parking Spaces (Yay!),” StreetsBlog, 6/12/19, https://tinyurl.com/y4omda6q
10 “E-Bike Legalization (S5294-A7431) Will Pass on Wednesday, Thanks to Greenway, Manhattan Scooter Exemptions,” StreetsBlog, 6/17/19, https://tinyurl.com/y3hynjnj
11 “New Jersey Legalizes E-Bikes and Scooters,” StreetsBlog, 5/14/19, https://tinyurl.com/y49ymqo3
12 “34 percent of Portland residents, and 48 percent of visitors, took an e-scooter as an alternative to driving or using ride-share, 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report,” Portland Bureau of Transportation, https://tinyurl.com/y4gntwb6
13 “Assymetric Approach”, Complete George, https://tinyurl.com/ya6vumqu
14 The commemorative plaque on the Goethals can only be viewed from the bike-ped path.
15 “Lyft said it would pour $100 million into CitiBike, expanding its reach into lower-income (and oft-neglected) outer boroughs, doubling its geographic footprint and tripling its number of bikes to 40,000 over the next five years. Lyft Bets Big on Bikes in NYC, and Uber Is None Too Happy,” Wired, 11/29/18, https://tinyurl.com/y3la27gu