Expressway Plans (1964)

The following report appeared in the May 1964 edition of Regional Plan Association News, a publication of the Regional Plan Association (RPA). The report was developed as part of a three-year joint effort between the RPA and the Tri-State Transportation Commission, a Federally-financed highway planning agency made up of representatives of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL:

INTRODUCTION


Expressways have raised sharply the distances in the New York region that can be traveled quickly and conveniently by car. Our daily relationships to jobs, recreation and friends are changed by the new "time-distances" that expressways create: subdividers along expressways advertise for buyers willing to commute 50 miles to Manhattan; corporations look along expressways for factory locations; shopping centers locate almost exclusively at expressway exits.

Nowadays, most of the investment in roads in the region goes into "limited-access" highways: highways whose opposing streams of traffic are separated, which no other roads cross and few roads join, merging gradually when they do.

Fully limited-access highways usually are called freeways by highway engineers. In this region, they have been spoken of generally as expressways or parkways, although official names include turnpike, thruway and skyway. New Jersey's newest routes will be named freeways. Parkways usually are limited to private automobiles because they were originally designed as much for the pleasure of the ride as for the achievement of a destination, but this difference has become fuzzy, especially on weekday mornings and evenings. In this report, the word "expressway" will be used to include parkways and other limited-access highways.

Expressways can move three times as many cars per lane as other highways, at twice the speed and with a fifth the accidents. Because they use much more space - an interchange between two expressways covers 40 to 50 acres - and because at interchanges one pavement goes over or under the other, expressways are costly, particularly in land-short metropolitan areas with a thick network of local streets to be crossed. For example, the recently completed Cross Bronx Expressway - through an intensively developed area - cost about $23 million per mile; the Clearview Expressway, in a completely but less densely developed area, cost $7.5 million per mile; and the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway, through a newly developing area, cost about $3 million per mile.

As to appearance, designing an expressway in a suburban or urban setting offers more opportunity for grace than a highway that allows direct access to landowners at the edges. Limited access prohibits strip development: stores, hamburger stands, gas stations or houses next to the right-of-way. On the other hand, expressways can achieve an ugliness and dullness perhaps more depressing than other highways if they are poorly designed because they cut such a broad swath through the landscape or cityscape.

HOW THE EXPRESSWAY EVOLVED


The New York metropolitan region has about 1,150 miles of expressways completed or under construction, not much less than the entire state of California, which has about the same population as the region and 23 times its area.

The region has the earliest as well as the most metropolitan expressways. The Bronx River Parkway was begun in 1916, opened in part in 1921, and completed in 1924. It was not completely limited access, but there were many roads that bridged rather than intersected it. For many miles, the parkway ran through a park, and by doing so, the public controlled access to it. (Legally, abutting property owners have access to a public thoroughfare unless control is specifically obtained for the public. It was so successful that by 1934, the Westchester County Park Commission, the Long Island State Park Commission and the City of New York had completed 114 miles of parkways with few intersections or access roads. Little of this was divided in the middle, however. The world's first cloverleaf interchange was built in Woodbridge, New Jersey in 1928. The first road that conformed fully to the expressway standards of today was the Meadowbrook State Parkway to Jones Beach, opened in 1934.

Not until 1940 did the capital of the "freeway," Los Angeles, open its first. After World War II, 3,000 miles of toll expressways were built in 19 states.

In 1956, Congress approved the 41,000-mile Interstate highway program through which the Federal government would contribute 90 percent of the cost of high-standard expressways that were to connect all the major cities in the country by 1972. The states build the roads and contribute 10 percent.

The Interstate highway system is about 51 percent completed or under construction in about 45 percent of the scheduled time, but much of this mileage was already built or underway before the Interstate program began and was just covered into the system. This was done, for example, with sections of the New Jersey Turnpike, the Connecticut Turnpike and the New York State Thruway. In fact, there are serious delays in building the Interstate system, and some observers believe that the program will not be completed on time unless there is more pressure from interested citizens to speed the progress. In this region's three states, New Jersey has completed or has under construction 44 percent of its Interstate program, New York 75 percent and Connecticut 77 percent.

Most of the expressways recently built in the New York region and most of those now being designed are part of this Interstate system. But because the New York area expressways system was started before the Interstate program, a number of regional highways that would have been in the free Interstate system are toll roads. Also, important Long Island routes are excluded from the Interstate program because there is no major eastern terminus. The Long Island Expressway outside of New York City, for example, is financed only 50 percent by the Federal government instead of 90 percent, even though it carries one of the greatest highway loads in the nation.

THE EXPRESSWAY PATTERN IN THE REGION


When the Regional Plan Association's predecessor, the Committee on the Regional Plan, began to devise a metropolitan highway network, the main planning goal was to free people from having to crowd into the region's center. The Committee did not, however, anticipate the extent to which jobs and other activities of the center also would locate in the suburbs. So the highways the Committee proposed in the 1929
Plan of New York and Its Environs focused on Manhattan and principally radiated from it. But the Committee also conceived the "Metropolitan Loop," connecting the radials about a dozen miles from New York City Hall. The George Washington, Throgs Neck, Verrazano-Narrows and Goethals bridges are major points on the loop. It soon will be completed via the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn and Queens, and the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey - just about where the 1929 Plan recommended the loop - but only for automobiles. A loop now exists for commercial vehicles closer to the center, via the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Committee saw the loop as a way of reaching a particular part of the Manhattan central business district (which lies between 60th Street and the Battery) without cutting through the center. It would also connect the four other boroughs and New Jersey cities, and act as a magnet for new activities.

A metropolitan bypass was proposed further from the center. All the highways fitting into a metropolitan bypass similar to the one recommended on the 1929
Plan are on the ground or are part of the Interstate program scheduled for completion by 1972. The basic pattern proposed in 1929, which consists of radials with a major loop and circumferential highways connecting the radials, is being followed for the most part.

This pattern fits a fairly centralized metropolitan area. In Los Angeles, where the center of the region exercises less magnetism and dispersal is more general, the expressway network is more of an even grid of parallel highways. It is focused on downtown Los Angeles, but not as much as the New York region's network has been focused on Manhattan. However, even here in New York, as the expressway network stretches out, the pattern on the edges is becoming more like a grid of parallel highways than like a spider web focusing on the center.

EXPRESSWAY GAPS


The need to cross the region quickly and efficiently is increasing as the metropolitan area spreads in all directions while activities remain linked. A strong regional cohesiveness still exists despite the growing size, resulting in more travel between outlying parts of the region, particularly New Jersey and Long Island. Since the primary expressways bring people into the center, the main gaps - now that a great deal of traffic must go from one side of the center to the other - lie between arteries leading to Manhattan from the east and from the west.

Of the vehicles using the Holland Tunnel on a typical working day, 59 percent (23,000 cars and 11,000 trucks) are just passing through Manhattan. Of the vehicles using the Lincoln Tunnel, 34 percent (about 23,000 per day) neither begin nor complete their trip in Manhattan.

Expressways crossing both downtown and midtown were proposed on the 1929
Plan, but there have been disagreements on the design even where there is agreement on the need. The design disagreement reflects different answers to two questions: (1) how much is it worth to keep neighborhood disruption and ugliness to a minimum, and (2) should the use of cars in Manhattan be discouraged as much as possible, even though route across Manhattan are improved?

The Lower Manhattan Expressway (I-78 and I-478) was proposed on the 1929
Plan to connect the Holland Tunnel with Brooklyn. In 1941, it was included in New York City's master plan; in 1955, it was included in the recommendations of a joint Port of New York Authority-Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority "study of important links in the arterial highway system" of the metropolitan area. The next year, it was scheduled as part of the Interstate highway program, and in 1960, it was added to the official map of the City.

The Lower Manhattan Expressway would allow vehicles to cross in three minutes a two-mile stretch that now takes about 30 minutes. By speeding the increasing traffic from Long Island to New Jersey and to the significant industrial area in the Lower West Side of Manhattan, the Lower Manhattan Expressway probably would improve prospects for more industry in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Hudson County-Newark area. The economic and real estate tax base could be strengthened in the older areas of the region, and jobs provided for the many blue-collar workers living there. Faster connections to the mainland would help to add and diversify jobs in Nassau and Suffolk counties, now highly dependent on quickly fluctuating government defense and aerospace orders.

Nevertheless, in 1962, the Board of Estimate rejected a budget appropriation for the Lower Manhattan Expressway, apparently because of protests by residents and property owners along the route. However, expressway opponents failed to have it erased from the official map, and the City Council and Board of Estimate have just included a sum for the right-of-way in the capital budget, in effect giving the mayor the opportunity to decide whether or not to build the expressway.

The opposition to the Lower Manhattan Expressway typifies a growing resistance to the disruption of neighborhoods and the blighting effects of urban expressways. The current proposal calls for a ten-lane elevated section along Broome Street - 160 feet wide, more than three-quarters as wide as a typical Manhattan north-south block in width, and rising in places to 40 feet - from the Holland Tunnel to the Bowery. So the resistance of people living and working in the area is understandable. Many of these objections could be alleviated by putting the highway below grade in a cut, underpassing the subways. In view of extra costs and engineering difficulties, this may or not be considered feasible.

Some opposed the Lower Manhattan Expressway because it would make it easier for people to drive their cars to Manhattan as well as across, and they feel that Manhattan-bound traffic should not be facilitated. However, the expressway could be designed to be of primary value to those going across Manhattan, and the river crossings into Manhattan need not be enlarged. Gradually, through traffic would increase, competing for space heading for Manhattan itself. This would tend to crowd some Manhattan-bound cars from the bridges and tunnel because there is a better public transportation alternatives to Manhattan destinations than across Manhattan. As a result, traffic on downtown streets would be reduced.

The Mid-Manhattan Expressway (I-495) is not yet on the official City map. First proposed in 1926 and designed in the 1930's as a twin tunnel under 36th Street and 37th Street, for which connections were provided to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, the current Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority proposal is for an elevated expressway along 30th Street (because property values are lower at this location). The elevated expressway is on the Port Authority-Triborough program and the Interstate schedule, but there is opposition to the elevated plan. A 36th Street-37th Street tunnel remains a feasible alternative.

The Port Authority-Triborough program also studied a 1929
Plan recommendation for a Cross Harlem Expressway and a new Hudson River crossing at 125th Street, connecting to a second deck of the Triborough Bridge. They recommended waiting for the changes in traffic flow following the completion of the second George Washington Bridge deck, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Throgs Neck Bridge before deciding whether this route is needed. Though Robert Moses declared it necessary in 1962 and again in 1963, there has been no major effort to put the Cross Harlem Expressway on the construction schedule.

The most apparent gap in the expressway network outside of Manhattan is in Brooklyn. Several proposals have been made to remedy this, most important the Cross Brooklyn Expressway (I-695) and Bushwick Expressway (I-78). Two alternate alignments for the latter have been proposed. The Astoria Expressway (I-678) either to the Triborough Bridge or along Northern Boulevard also has been proposed. The Hoboken Freeway (NJ 85) also would fill an important gap by connecting the approaches to the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, allowing traffic flow to be adjusted between them during peak periods and providing a through route in a highly congested part of the regional core. The Bergen-Passaic Expressway (I-80) will close another gap, connecting the George Washington Bridge to the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway before continuing west.

An entirely different kind of expressway gap is visualized by some businessmen and civic spokesmen on Long Island. They are asking for a bridge to the east, a direct connection to New England. They argue that it would benefit Long Island by opening all of eastern Long Island to industry and by connecting two major military electronics production centers (Long Island and the Boston area). Some bridge proponents emphasize it as a way of avoiding New York City's traffic bottlenecks for Long Island trucks going south and west as well as to New England, and claim that speedier access to New England is necessary if Long Island's manufacturing is to be diversified. Comparison has not been made to the cost and benefit of improved expressway travel through New York City, or to other bridge locations between Long Island and the mainland.

EXPRESSWAYS FOR AREAS WITHOUT THEM


To some degree the expressways that will close the gaps in Brooklyn and New Jersey also will bring large numbers of people into convenient range of the expressway network for the first time. A large percentage of the homes of Brooklyn's 2.5 million residents are now a tedious drive from an expressway. New Jersey's three new radials - I-80 (Bergen-Passaic Expressway) west from the George Washington Bridge to Pennsylvania; I-280 (Essex Freeway) from North Newark through West Orange to I-80; and I-78 (Philipsburg-Newark Expressway) from a large interchange at Newark Airport west to Pennsylvania - will fill in the New Jersey expressway grid in the suburbs, though expressways will still be more widely spaced than in Westchester or on Long Island.

Where urbanization already is intense, as in some New Jersey and Long Island areas where expressways are planned, it is difficult to follow the optimum routes. Differences in development intensity vary the cost and political difficulty of acquiring the rights-of-way so that highways often follow the path of least resistance rather than a logical and clear system. Compare, for example, the location of the Long Island Expressway with the more even grid proposed for Long Island by the 1929
Plan. Future New Jersey plans also follow rather irregular network.

HIGHWAYS TO SERVE NEW DEVELOPMENT


Although the center of this region retains a great deal of magnetism, not only as a job location but also for shopping, services and special activities, more and more people in the region, particularly those living on its outer edges, satisfy all their needs outside Manhattan. Because there are few major centers of activity or great variations in population density beyond the inner suburbs, there are few natural points to connect with transportation. Barring topographic considerations, which are of decreasing importance because of modern earth-moving methods, the only logical expressway pattern is a regular grid that brings an expressway within a few miles of almost any home, job or shopping center.

Some experts suggest that an expressway network may not fit this "spread-city" pattern of development well, and that a closer mesh of regular highways or partially limited-access parkways might be more suitable where people go in every direction almost equally. Though the 1929
Plan called for a skeleton of major expressways, within this skeleton it envisioned a closer mesh of arterial boulevards and parkways designed for slower speeds.

To a large extent, the new and proposed expressways do not form an even grid, nor do they form a skeleton on which some pattern of urban development other than an even spread of housing and scatter of other facilities could be created. By and large, these new expressways are merely meeting traffic problems that development has already brought or clearly is about to cause, modified by right-of-way obstacles, or they connect two cities on the Interstate system, simply passing through the region as they do.

CONGESTED EXPRESSWAYS


Roughly speaking, all the radial expressways leading to the core of the region - New York City, Newark and Hudson County, New Jersey - appear to be congested during rush hours, except perhaps the Major Deegan Expressway from the north. So also is Westchester's Cross County Parkway, a circumferential of obsolete design connecting four of the five expressways into New York City from the north. Some of the radials are clogged quite far out, particularly the Long Island Expressway and a portion of the Garden State Parkway. This is partly true because they serve secondary job centers as well as Manhattan.

If more drivers try to jam onto an expressway than it was designed to handle, the flow usually slows and becomes erratic; the total number of cars passing a given point drops. More accidents may result because cars usually run closer together than at other times without slackening their speed commensurately.

(The Los Angeles freeways customarily move large numbers of cars at high speeds and much closer to each other than safety rules suggest. But the result might be inferred from a remark of a Los Angeles newspaper editor: "I know this metropolitan area is inter-related because if a dog crosses the freeway in downtown Los Angeles, a woman in Anaheim 20 miles away crumples a fender.")

Most indicators point to increased commuting toward the center from outlying parts of New York City and the suburbs, so congestion of the radials must be seen as a continuing and spreading problem.

Part of the cause of congestion in this region is the old-fashioned design of the early limited-access highways. Some curves are sharp; there are no acceleration and deceleration lanes or shoulders to which disabled cars can limp; often the pavement is broken. Even some later expressways were designed skimpily to save money, resulting in lowered capacity. Until recently, expressways were built no wider than six lanes in the New York region. In comparison, freeways in Los Angeles and Chicago typically have eight lanes, and occasionally widen to 10, 12 and even 14 lanes.

What can be done now to relieve congestion? Highway capacity can be expanded by operating adjustments, such as electronic control of the number of cars entering the expressway, since fewer cars actually reach their destination in a given time when it is overcrowded. But for substantial increases in highway capacity, new construction would be needed.

New York City Traffic Commissioner Henry Barnes has proposed continuous frontage roads along the Long Island Expressway in inner Queens to provide for overflow traffic. This would require bulldozing some houses, but it would be a relatively painless way to enlarge its capacity. Frontage roads now exist now exist from central Queens outward to Suffolk County, although there are some interruptions.

Barnes also has suggested double-decking the Long Island Expressway, with the cars that are traveling long distances using the upper level and relatively local traffic using the present roadway. Technically, building on top of an existing right-of-way is quite difficult, very costly and more disruptive of the surrounding area than it would seem, because of the space needed for access roads to reach the height of the second deck. In addition, the expressway capacity would be reduced substantially during the construction period. Furthermore, it would be unattractive and blighting.

Alternatively, the last bits of green in some areas could be commandeered for extra highway lanes, as was done along the Grand Central Parkway through Kew Gardens. Tremendous sums of money could also be spent to retain rights-of-way while adding lanes, but with the expectation that the families and business owners to be displaced will delay if not block construction.

Finding room of the cars once they get into the center would still be a problem. If everyone working in a typical office building drove his car to work, it would take another building about the same size to store the cars. Picture the Empire State Building, for example, with a 102-story parking garage next door. In somewhat less crowded parts of the core, parking is less of a problem, but it is costly nonetheless compared to the alternative uses of land. If large tracts must be given over to parking, the closeness that some central functions seem to thrive on is broken up.

ALTERNATIVES TO INCREASING EXPRESSWAY CAPACITY


There is an alternative to increased highway capacity to the core, however: peak-hour highway demand could be cut instead. This could be done in three ways: (1) staggering work hours so the rush is spread over a longer period and fewer people try to enter at the same time; (2) dispersing jobs from the center; and (3) encouraging drivers to shift to public transportation. The first two ways seem unlikely unless transportation becomes a good deal worse. The trend, in fact, is the other way. More office space has been added in Manhattan since World War II than in all the rest of the country combined, and the Hackensack and Newark Meadows appear to be close to development, further centralizing jobs.

The possibility of staggering working hours is still under study by the City of New York, but since people crowd into Manhattan to work together, little staggering of jobs seems unlikely there. Jobs in other parts of the core and blue-collar Manhattan jobs conceivably might be staggered somewhat, but most people are tied to similar schedules by all sorts of non-work activities, and organizing systematic staggering of hours could be a huge and not particularly popular undertaking. In any case, staggering of working hours, though it might save considerable public transportation costs, probably would not be very helpful in saving highway space because the highway peaks already last a long time, and traffic origins and destinations are so diffuse that organizing effective staggering of hours would be difficult.

Public transportation could help with highway congestion to a substantial degree, however, because most of the excess traffic is going to and from the region's core, the kind of traffic that public transportation can serve efficiently. The possibility of relieving rush-hour congestion on expressways by switching some automobile riders to bus, train or subway, or some bus riders to rails, as long as they are going to the core, might be demonstrated by the fact that highway congestion is greatest in those sectors where public transportation is now least adequate.

Not much change from automobile to bus, train or subway would be needed to relieve a great deal of highway congestion. For example, in the peak hour, five motor vehicles out of six entering the central business district of Manhattan are automobiles or taxis, each carrying fewer than two persons on the average. Altogether, these cars and taxis bring less than a tenth of those entering the district in that hour. So an increase of only about 1 percent in peak-hour public transportation riders to Manhattan's central business district would reduce the number of vehicles entering the district by 10 percent. On the other hand, the cost would be staggering to relieve congestion by adding 10 percent to the highway capacity into Manhattan.

In other words, if all forms of transportation to the region's core are seen as a single system, there is an opportunity to get a good deal more transportation for the money.

Why do people undergo the stresses of expressway driving on overloaded roads when public transportation is available in and to the core? Different people seem to have different reasons, but a major one certainly is speed. For those who live or work far from an express bus, train or subway stop, an automobile even on crowded highways usually saves time. For example, the New Jersey resident who lives three miles from a train, which takes him to a ferry, which brings him to the West Side downtown from which he has to reach the East Side midtown, is quite likely to be able to drive faster than he could be train under almost any highway condition. (This does not consider the possible usefulness of the train or bus time for reading, dozing or working, however.) If he works outside Manhattan's central business district, public transportation may be slower yet, and the bulk of the rush-hour automobile traffic on radials toward the center does not go into the central business district, but gets off rather in Newark, Queens and Brooklyn. In addition, few suburban railroad stations, bus stops or outlying subway stations have adequate parking.

Other people probably choose a car to travel because public transportation is uncomfortable, or because trains and buses are too infrequent. Still others need cars during the day. And others find catching a bus or train too much effort compared to getting into their private car alongside the house and trundling it to a garage or lot alongside the office. Finally, there are those for whom driving to work represents prestige as well as comfort, and riding on an unkempt train, bus or crammed subway seems degrading.

All of these causes can be overcome to some degree, and at probably much less cost than cutting through the core with new highways. For example, Philadelphia officials have proven what they suspected several years ago, that a small investment in better train service could save a great investment in additional highways downtown. By increasing the number of trains and decreasing the fares, the net loss incurred by railroad service has been cut, service has improved and many people have been diverted from their cars. Ridership of the rail lines in the program is up 40 percent over the year before the program began on each line, and most of the additional riders are thought to be former motorists.

Better public transportation - faster runs terminating in more convenient points in New York City, more parking along the way, more comfortable trains, and much more frequent and dependable service - would seem a reasonable alternative to highway congestion. Some Federal grants have been given to demonstrate the effect of some of the changes in this and other metropolitan areas, including the establishment of express stations and large parking lots on long New York Central (Metro-North) runs from Westchester and Putnam counties, and a large parking lot at a new station outside New Brunswick.

One method of inducing more people to use public transportation to the center without improving the service or the fares would be some method of rationing highway access more tightly. This could be done by the price system - charging substantial sums for the use of roads entering Manhattan during rush hours, or through cutting down on parking in the central business district, or by allocating expressway lanes to buses - slowing automobile travel and speeding bus schedules, or by closing access roads near adequate public transportation stops with parking lots - speeding travel for those far from public transportation by siphoning from the highways those who live near it.

Further congestion can be predicted on circumferentials within the inner suburbs as well as on the expressways to the center. Suburban jobs are increasing, and few can be reached by public transportation. Housing and job location patterns that can be projected on the basis of present trends, as well as of public and corporate policies, would mean trip-to-work traffic going in all directions through most of the inner suburbs. Public transportation improvements by themselves would not be sufficient to avoid this, because suburban jobs generally are too scattered to be served by public transportation. In order to keep down traffic enough to avoid adding highways in the inner suburbs, job locations would have to be planned to fit public transportation at least for some workers.

SOME CONSIDERATIONS


This region is well ahead of the country in expressways because it was ready to build at the time when a great deal of highway money became available, during the Depression when the government was looking for useful public works for the unemployed to carry out. New York had the Regional Plan Association and a "master builder," Robert Moses.

Today, a plan and a hard-driving expediter are not enough to get highways built. Currently, highway construction in New York State and New Jersey is limited by the lack of funds. Perhaps an even more important obstacle to highway construction has been the resistance of neighborhoods through which the roads would pass. There is also a growing indifference, even opposition, by some who assert exaggeratedly that expressways do not solve metropolitan transportation problems because they constantly attract more traffic. The congestion remains, they assert, while the city disappears.

Therefore, cost, including the intangible cost of human disruption and neighborhood blight, plus the influence of highways on the region's development pattern, must be considered in making plans.

COST


An eminent transportation economist, Professor William S. Vickrey of Columbia University, has said about urban transportation "that in no other major area are pricing practices so irrational, so out of date, and so conducive to waste…" Most economists try to put a price on choices roughly equal to the real costs that the choices will entail, so that people are free to make decisions as they will but the decisions bear their full cost.

It is during the weekday rush hours in metropolitan areas that charges are most at odds with the full cost of providing transportation. In rush hours, a great deal of travel capacity must be provided that otherwise would not be needed at other times of the day: extra lanes of expressway, extra railroad and subway cars, extra buses, and extra transportation-related personnel. So any form of transportation costs far more to provide during these brief periods that during other times of the day. However, rush-hour travelers in the region do not pay the extra costs they entail. In fact, low-priced commuter tickets for public transportation and for toll facilities are used principally during the rush hours, such that most peak users pay less than do most off-peak users. In other words, prices are exactly the reverse of costs.

This affects transportation choices in three ways: (1) there is little pressure to avoid using scarce transportation space during rush hours; (2) there is little encouragement to use buses or rail during rush hours even though it is much cheaper than providing enough peak-period highway space for automobiles, all costs considered; and (3) transportation planners get no indication of when it is worth the money to users of a highway to expand its capacity. Not recognizing the full costs, motorists demand expressways to satisfy the rush-hour demand; they might not if the full costs were charged to them. Now they are partly subsidized by motorists traveling during other hours of the day, or traveling outside of metropolitan areas.

The extend of the added investment for expressways to handle the rush-hour driver is high, according to Vickrey. Looking at typical new housing subdivisions in the Washington, DC area, for example, he found that if the home buyers worked in the center of the city and chose to drive their cars to work, each one was in effect asking for $23,000 more transportation investment by the public than would be needed if he were to use express bus service. The continuing cost of servicing the debt caused by this extra driver coming and leaving in the rush hour would be $9 per day.

Because there is no habit of choosing transportation service on the basis of its full cost, highway plans sometimes fail to reflect costs and benefits adequately. J. Douglas Carroll, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Commission, has given a good example of this: "A quick mental assessment indicates that in city after city, the first or second freeway built was directed to the airport, yet a very small and select segment of the urban population travels by air. In Chicago, for example, of 10 million journeys made on an average weekday, only 0.3 percent were to the airport, and less than one-half of these were made by persons who were going to fly."

More consideration has been given recently to the relative costs of public and automobile transportation. In the New York region, the commuter railroads have been aided by all three states on the assumption that if the railroads stopped carrying employees into Manhattan and Newark, the region would be "one big spaghetti bowl of highways," in the words of New Jersey Highway Commissioner Dwight R.G. Palmer.

City subsidies for the New York subway system were raised without protest this year. Even the National Good Roads Association newsletter has supported the Federal aid to public transportation bill (introduced by New Jersey Senator Harrison A. Williams, Jr.) now pending in the House of Representatives.

One final cost is receiving growing attention: air pollution. Automobiles are thought to contribute somewhere in the neighborhood of half the pollutants in the metropolitan area. During the two-day ban on cars in Manhattan after the 1961 blizzard, the Air Pollution Control Department recorded a marked decline in pollution. Scientists have not detailed the dangers or costs except on days when pollutants are pinned near the ground by a layer of cold air. On those days, statistics have shown unusually high death rates. However, it is generally accepted that air pollution is a cumulative danger to health, to crops and to trees: even a little can eventually add up to damage.

DISRUPTION AND UGLINESS


Many highway planners are becoming discouraged by the increasing resistance of neighborhoods to expressways that would cross through. The idea of maintaining a neighborhood, with its informal relationships, known shops and services, and old friends, seems to be increasingly important to many people, and not just to those affected. Usually, urban expressways have been cut through the lowest-priced land, meaning the poorest houses. Picking the cheapest land and the least valuable housing to destroy is defensible highway policy. But recently, attention has been directed to the special problems of lower-income groups who live in these areas, and particularly to the problems of the poor if they also are Negroes or Puerto Ricans. On closer look, we first find that these people have great difficulty finding new places to live in this metropolitan area, not only because of housing discrimination, but also because there is a shortage of low- to middle-income housing. In addition, some sociologists have found that people in lower socioeconomic groups are more dependent on the social fabric of the neighborhood, and feel more threatened by wholesale changes in it than families with higher incomes. Much easier to remedy, but still a problem in some instances, the full loss of those moved by a new highway is not always compensated, particularly for small businessmen and especially for those who rent quarters without a long-term lease.

More care and investment in design and location might protect neighborhood values in some instances. For example, there are sometimes fairly clear neighborhood boundaries. The sense of community in these neighborhoods could be strengthened rather than disrupted if the expressway ran along these boundaries. Also, raised expressways usually create a feeling of blight around them, and expressways at grade level set up a barrier and cause maximum noise and fumes. Expressways below ground level also cause a physical barrier, but if covered over in places by walkways, parks, local streets and even intermittent buildings, the least possible ugliness and disruption are created. The possible danger of air pollution in buildings set over expressways is not known, however.

Neighborhood groups are increasingly successful in thwarting expressway construction, according to reports from several parts of the country. As long as they are, the realistic cost of a highway project is the cost of a design that is satisfactory to the neighborhood and of relocation assistance that is acceptable to those moved. In many instances, the expressway probably is worth the investment, even including the heavier costs that more care in preserving the neighborhood and adequate financial assistance for the displaced would entail. Without this additional cost and effort, there may be no new expressway.

The appearance of expressways raises the same issue. Ugly design apparently has diluted support for expressways. The selection of Tunnard and Pushkarev's book,
Man Made America, Chaos or Control, for the National Book Award this year, and the stir caused by Peter Blake's God's Own Junkyard certainly herald a rising concern for urban appearance. Man Made America has a pioneering section on highway aesthetics by co-author Boris Pushkarev, chief planner of the Regional Plan Association.

EFFECT ON THE REGION'S DEVELOPMENT


Regardless of how much money people will spend to drive places, there is a limit to how much space can be allocated to highways without a radical change in the appearance in the region and how we live in it. Cars take a great deal of space. The pattern of development suited to easy and fast automobile travel is quite different from one designed for public transportation and walking. For example, every study has demonstrated that the central business district of Manhattan cannot work if most people insist on driving cars there during the day. Even between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM the next day - before and after the morning rush - only two persons out of five entering the district come by car or taxi.

The point is that each transportation decision we make today affects the choice we will have tomorrow, as when we do not have regularly use bus or train service and find when we need it that it has been discontinued. Furthermore, our decisions cumulate with everyone else's until they affect the location of jobs, recreation and open space. If most people choose automobiles for most trips, the pattern of development will have to be more spread out than if many choose public transportation, because automobiles require a great deal of space to work efficiently while public transportation requires compact development to be efficient. Yet we each make our transportation and living choices without any reference to their effect in the aggregate on the transportation and the overall appearance, convenience, efficiency and tone of the metropolis.

Furthermore, highway locations themselves affect the way other things are located. For example, if highways are close together with frequent access points, locations are likely to little affected by them. If highways are far apart or have widely spaced entries, access points will draw activities (shopping, jobs, etc.) and intensive residential development so far as the zoning will let them, just as the railroad stations did in the early days of suburbia.

As wealth and leisure have expanded, and transportation has become more evenly distributed, the influence of transportation on urban development has declined. Nevertheless, transportation continues to exercise an influence on the way land is used, and it can be designed to manipulate land development to some extent.

So the final element to be considered in highway planning is the desirable shape of the metropolitan area. All of these considerations - cost in relation to benefits, neighborhood disruption, and the effect on the way we live in the region - should be part of the highway planning process.

GROWING NEED FOR HIGHWAYS


Admittedly, there are no accurate studies encompassing all of these elements. There is not even clear argument among the region's residents, nor among officials, nor even among planners on the best pattern of growth for the metropolitan area. Fortunately, there are facts, though perhaps not always decisive facts, to evaluate current proposals.

In 1960, only one-third of the employees of this region used cars to get to work, as compared to two-thirds of the employees in the country as a whole. However, the trend is toward the automobile. Much of the development of the region since World War II has been in a pattern that requires automobile travel, too spread out for walking and too scattered for public transportation except to New York City and Newark. About seven million people now live in areas that are virtually dependent on the automobile, except to get to and from work, and an increasing number of jobs are located outside of job centers large enough to be served by public transportation.

In addition, the pattern of homebuilding is not closely related to the pattern of job location. Homes are being pushed out faster than jobs. On the average, employees will be traveling longer distances to work. Furthermore, the spread of homes and scatter of jobs make carpooling difficult. The result of these three trends - more jobs that public transportation cannot serve, greater distance from home to work on the average, and a spread between homes - would be a burst of added car-miles driven.

Present development trends could change, however. There are many proposals for grouping homes, jobs and transportation in closer relation to each other, in order to cut the average trip to work and allow public transportation for those who want it. Nevertheless, even assuming some sharp shifts in development practices over the next generation, the journey-to-work demands on the highways cannot help but increase.

Non-work trips by highway probably will be rising even more rapidly. With increasing incomes and increasing leisure, the region's residents will be driving for recreation more: to beaches and ski slopes, woods and picnic grounds, museums, theatres, restaurants and department stores. This normally will not coincide with journey-to-work highway peaks. Some of the capacity needed for recreation will be the same as that needed during other hours for work trips, such as highways to cultural activities or professional sports in New York City. Much may not, such as highways to the mountains.

Already, many miles of highway in the region are jammed on summer Sunday evenings, even in remote areas such as Rockland County and Suffolk County in New York, and Warren County in New Jersey. The Long Island Expressway somehow manages to jam up at many odd hours, including 1:00 AM on Sundays.

Clearly, it is necessary for highway planners to consider journey-to-play as well as journey-to-work peaks, especially in this region where still only a minority of employees use automobiles to get to work. Already, the peak use of the George Washington Bridge comes during weekends, not work times.

While personal preference for leisure trips seems very heavily in favor of automobiles, traffic problems in New York City and the inner suburbs, and the continuing low percentage of car ownership in New York City (only 42.5 percent of households own cars) probably point to continued and perhaps growing demand for public transportation in non-work hours as well as for highways. Nevertheless, the highway demand even in the crowded cities is great and growing.

The clear trend is for more use of automobiles for both work and non-work trips over the next quarter-century. The projection of automobiles in the region reflects this increased dependence on and use of the car: four cars for every ten persons in the region by 1985, compared with three for every ten persons now. Conceivably, the growth in car rentals could reduce this figure without changing its implications for highway use.

SUMMARY


A highway engineer commented recently that the present network of expressways in the New York metropolitan area will be completed by the early 1970's. However, citizen resistance to new expressways is growing: resistance to the human disruption caused by cutting through a neighborhood and resistance to the ugliness that often results from expressway construction in urban areas. Public funds also lag behind highway demands.

Highway planning has become an amalgam of considerations of economic costs and benefits, and of community impacts and aesthetics. This means looking at transportation as a whole, public as well as automobile, and at land development in relation to both.

The Tri-State Transportation Commission, a planning agency established by the three governors of the region and assisted by the Federal government, and the Regional Plan Association are now studying highway requirements and possibilities for the region's next 30 years.

Google
 
Web nycroads.com