Case Study 5: Church Avenue Project Corridor, Brooklyn, NY

Traffic and parking congestion, combined with conflicting demand from a wide variety of users, led to the need for an improved freight delivery system, including the use of time-specific freight parking and loading zones (i.e., delivery windows).

Planning Guide Initiatives Discussed:

Overview

In 2011, the New York City DOT implemented a successful time-specific freight parking and loading zone (i.e., delivery window) project along the Church Avenue corridor from East 16th Street to East 21st Street (see Figure 21). Church Avenue is a major east-west corridor though the center of Brooklyn. It is a two-lane arterial with curbside parking on both sides of the street. The corridor includes significant commercial, residential, and retail development. Truck delivery operations in the larger Church Avenue area range from 150 to 700 per day. In addition to autos and delivery vehicles, the transportation system serves pedestrians, bicycles, and transit riders (subway and bus). The city’s sixth busiest bus route, with 38,000 weekday riders, is along this corridor.

The project was developed in conjunction with the local community board, business improvement district (BID), and the New York City DOT. Traffic studies and surveys were conducted prior to the development of this block-by-block plan, which balances the need for deliveries with the demand for parking. The project resulted in improved conditions for businesses, residents, shoppers, truckers, and others in the corridor.

Figure 13: Church Ave. Corridor

Figure 21: Church Avenue Corridor.

Conditions Before Implementation

In advance of the delivery window implementation, studies of the corridor were completed to quantify the levels of congestion and parking supply and demand. An extensive community outreach effort also was conducted to help identify issues and potential solutions.

 The results showed that the main issues were:

  • Chronic Congestion: Daily traffic on this two-lane street (one lane in each direction) was approximately 14,000 vehicles/day in 2010. Travel speeds varied between approximately 6 mph and 10 mph during weekday and weekend peak periods, and were projected to decline further in the future. High delay, poor traffic flow, and recurring congestion were issues in the corridor (see Figure 22).
  • Lack of Loading/Unloading Spaces: Most businesses in the corridor do not have off-street loading spaces. Street parking typically is occupied by cars. Curbside parking occupancies were observed to be 50% during the weekday a.m. peak, 91% during the weekday midday peak, 83% during the weekday p.m. peak, and 103% during the Saturday midday peak. This situation left little room for commercial loading/unloading.
  • Double-Parking: At least one travel lane was blocked or partially blocked by a double-parked delivery vehicle about 25% of the time on a typical weekday, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The double-parking caused significant congestion, with drivers having to edge into the opposing lane to pass the double-parked vehicles. This was a particular issue during the midday and afternoon time periods, as shown in Figure 23. On each observation day, more than 30 double-parked vehicles were observed, resulting in a total of 4.5 hours to 6 hours of lane blockages.
  • Sidewalk Congestion: Pedestrian volumes are high in the Church Avenue corridor, with some areas experiencing sidewalk congestion.
  • Pedestrian Safety: A 3-year crash inventory indicated a total of 296 crashes within the larger Church Avenue corridor, over 100 of which involved pedestrians.
Figure 14: Chronic Congestion

Figure 22: Chronic congestion

Figure 15: Typical Double Parking Activity

Figure 23: Typical double-parking activity

Economic Impacts

The congestion on Church Avenue affected freight carriers, local businesses, the local population, and through travelers (bus and auto modes). Freight carriers were impacted by increased citations and delivery times, including time spent looking for a place to park.

In New York City, the majority of the $550 million paid per year in parking tickets is borne by commercial firms, with some delivery firms paying well over $4 million per year. Local businesses are affected through increased delivery costs and reduced customer convenience, which potentially translate into higher costs and lower revenues.

Impacts on the local population include additional time costs as drivers search for parking spaces, and potentially higher parking costs if they choose to pay more for parking or park illegally (with the strong possibility of tickets). The road and bus user costs center around increased travel times through the corridor. Without action by the New York City DOT, these various costs would not just continue, they would increase over time.

Regional Approach/Initiative

The implementation of freight parking and loading zones as well as loading and parking restrictions (i.e., delivery windows) along Church Street between East 16th Street and East 21st Street was selected as one of the main solutions to the issues identified. That portion of the corridor has 90 metered parking spaces (including some on side streets). The new parking regulations reserve 40 of these metered spaces for weekday truck deliveries during the hours of 7:00 a.m. to noon. Surveys indicated that 65% of deliveries to the area were already occurring before noon, which was one reason for selecting the morning hours for the primary delivery window (see Figure 24). In addition, many of the retail businesses needed customer parking primarily in the afternoon, making the afternoons the most congested time period. For businesses that need deliveries after noon, truck loading and unloading spaces are available until 3:00 p.m. on weekdays on the north side of the street between East 18th and 19th Streets. After the designated loading periods, normal 1-hour metered parking resumes for all vehicles. Figure 25 presents a map of the designated time-specific loading zone (delivery window) spaces. These delivery window spaces are identified by curb regulation signs and parking meter decals, as shown in Figure 26.

Figure 16: Commercial Delivery Activity

Figure 24: Commercial delivery activity

Figure 17: Map of Delivery Windows Figure 18: Delivery Window Signs

                     Figure 25: Map of Delivery Windows                                                   Figure 26: Delivery Window Signs

The project was developed in close coordination with the community, including residents, businesses, transportation providers, community board members, elected officials, local government agencies, and various interest groups. Due to the continued involvement of these groups and individuals during the development phase, implementation was well supported.

Information on the new parking changes was well advertised on the following websites, both before and after the January 17, 2011, implementation date: New York City DOT website, the Church Avenue BID website, the Brooklyn Community Board 14 website, and streetsblog.org.

Figure 19: Corridor after Delivery Window Implementation

Figure 20: Travel Speeds after Delivery Window Implementation

Figure 27: Travel speeds after delivery window implementation

An important part of the implementation process was to step up enforcement of traffic laws and regulations through coordination between the New York City DOT, New York Police Department (NYPD), the MTA, and other key agencies to ensure that maximum benefits would be achieved. The freight parking and loading zones and loading and parking restrictions were implemented along with other corridor traffic and street improvements, so it is difficult to isolate the benefits of the delivery window project with respect to traffic flow and travel speeds (see Figure 27). However, for the overall corridor improvement project, corridor travel speeds improved substantially.

  • Between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., travel speeds increased from 7.5 mph in January to 9.1 mph in April; a 21% increase. Figure 27 shows the higher speeds in the corridor after implementation.
  • Travel times are also more reliable, with a 19% lower standard deviation.

 The construction cost of the Church Avenue delivery window project is estimated to have been less than $10,000. There were additional soft costs, such as 1 year of planning and outreach, consultant costs related to a curb utilization survey, and printing costs related to outreach and initial implementation.

Stakeholder Engagement

New York City DOT was responsible for implementing the delivery window program, including the study, design, signs, striping, and public coordination. The NYPD was responsible for enforcement of the new regulations, including ticketing and towing. The local community board and other public or nonprofit entities assisted the DOT with publicizing the changes, so that all businesses were aware of the changes in advance. This project presented the DOT with challenges that included extensive local stakeholder engagement, identifying the correct operational issues, and developing and implementing a low-cost feasible solution. One of the most significant challenges, however, was to develop a solution that balanced the needs of the various stakeholders: business owners, delivery drivers, local residents, transit riders, pedestrians, passenger car drivers, and others. These stakeholders all competed for use of the available roadway and curb space. The solution had to take these different users into account, balancing their interests to successfully reallocate curb space among them while improving safety and traffic flow. Accomplishing these goals was both a technical challenge and a public engagement challenge.

Business owners, residents, and commercial drivers were very pleased with the outcome of the project. “We are delighted that this important and thorough study has come to fruition, thanks to the Department of Transportation’s very close collaboration with Community Board 14, the merchants on Church Avenue, and the community at large,” said Doris Ortiz, district manager for Community Board 14. “Now the city of New York is delivering exactly what Church Avenue needs to keep it thriving!” Other comments received included:

  •    “I can’t say enough about it” (truck driver)
  •    “One of the finest programs” (MTA bus manager)
  •    “Best thing done east of Flatbush” (traffic agent)
  •    “Pedestrian crossings [are] not blinded by congestion” (MTA bus manager)

Emerging Issues

BID staff spoke with several merchants and store employees after implementation of the delivery windows project. In general, they felt that the windows had improved delivery access, positively impacted delivery employees, and had little or no impact on their customers. However, a few issues were mentioned:

  • Non-Commercial Delivery Vehicles: This was the most common complaint. Many stores receive deliveries from non-commercial vehicles, including stores whose owners have several stores and use personal vehicles to deliver goods between those stores. The non-commercial delivery vehicles were getting tickets for using parking spaces during the delivery window.
  • Impacted Customers: Although most businesses did not report any negative impacts on their customers, a few who had a higher proportion of customers arriving by car noticed that their customers were receiving tickets for parking during the delivery window, and were concerned that they might not return.
  • Continuing Congestion: According to a few merchants, congestion continues to be an issue between 18th and 19th Streets after delivery windows end. Deliveries continue to occur throughout the day, and trucks are still double-parking (even though the delivery window is extended to 3 p.m. on this block).

Concluding Observations

Some of the lessons learned from this case study include:

  • Collecting detailed freight activity information, including vehicle loading type, location, and duration data, is valuable for accurately assessing problems and developing the best solutions.
  • Involving a wide range of stakeholders through early and ongoing public involvement can create project partners and advocates, and can improve project outcomes.
  • Developing a simple, focused solution that addresses the critical issues and key geographic area can improve the chances of project success.

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