Chairman Degnan. Director Foye. Commissioners. Today I would address the economic impact of creating a linear park on the GWB.
A linear park, simply, is one that is substantially longer than it is wide: rail trails, towpaths, repurposed industrial tracts and expanded bike-ped facilities on bridges:
- High Line attracts 3.0 million visitors a year.
- Brooklyn Bridge, 2.6 million.
- The recently re-opened High Bridge is drawing visitors to dozens of amenities in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan.
- Walkway over the Hudson attracts 500,000 visitors a year.
Walkway Over the Hudson
A linear park for which we have an economic impact statement is the Walkway over the Hudson, a 1.2 mile long, 24 foot wide, decommissioned railway bridge which connects Poughkeepsie to the Highlands .
In 2009 and 2012, Camoin Associates, a consulting firm based in Saratoga Springs, performed before and after studies, including a survey of Walkway visitors. They determined that the Walkway would double the annual number of tourists to Ulster-Dutchess:
- 240,000 new visitors per year from outside the region
- Daily average spending, $64.36
- New annual spending $15 million, with multipliers $24 million
- New jobs created 290, with multipliers 383
Walkway Over the Hudson. Image: WOTH
George Washington Bridge
Using the Walkway study as a model, I asked Camoin to project the economic impact of a comparable facility on the GWB, based on 675,000 total cyclists and pedestrians in 2013 and an annual growth rate through 2024 of 5%. They determined there’d be:
- 289,000 new visitors per year
- Daily average spending, $94.26
- New annual spending $27 million, with multipliers $42 million
- New jobs created 511, with multipliers 675
Besides the GWB, a family staying in upper Manhattan could hike the Palisades, tour the Cloisters or have lunch in Harlem. The Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens and Yankee Stadium are within easy reach. Proximity to the GWB Bus Terminal, mass transit, and hopefully bike share, would provide ready access to attractions in the region.
Benefits to widening the GWB already include enhanced resilience, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining access to a growing constituency of cyclists throughout the region. Now add to that a world-class destination to spur spending and job creation.
PA’s current planned version of the GWB, with its claustrophobic walkways and compromised view and will not realize this potential. That objective would be served by a facility that creates discrete paths for pedestrians, runners and cyclists and maintains the unobstructed panoramas of Manhattan and the Palisades.
Port Authority’s Plan: (1) 6.75′ path for pedestrians and runners) and (1) 6.75′ path for cyclists. – Image Amman & Whitney
Cyclists’ Proposal: (2) 10′ paths for cyclists plus (1) 6.75′ path for pedestrians and (1) 6.75′ path for runners. Image by Joseph Lertola.
The current 6.75′ wide South Path on the George Washington Bridge is wholly inadequate for even current levels of cyclist-pedestrian travel. However, if the pedestrian, runners and cyclists paths were each developed as discrete facilities, the GWB has potential to function not only a first-class non-motorized transport facility, a local amenity but as a permanent magnet for tourists to attract spending and spur job creation.
– Brooklyn Bridge Park, has been named one of the “2011’s Coolest New Tourist Attractions” by Travel and Leisure Magazine. BBP has received $316M in funding from NYC, including $85M from the Port Authority. The Brooklyn Bridge by itself attracts 2.6 million commuters and recreational visitors annually.
– In its publication, Measuring the Economic Value of a City Park System, The Trust for Public Land, determined that San Diego‘s 1.3M residents (roughly the population of Bergen and Washington Heights) derived $261M annually in enhanced property value from its parks system plus net income of $40 million from 1.3 million tourists.