Case Study 6: Columbus Avenue, First and Second Avenues, Manhattan, NY

A reduction in parking spaces, resulting from the implementation of larger scale projects geared toward improving conditions for transit and/or non-motorized users, led to the need for specialized freight delivery allowances, including the use of time-specific freight parking and loading zones, combined with loading and parking restrictions (i.e., delivery windows). 

Planning Guide Initiatives Discussed:


As multimodal projects are implemented along commercial corridors, a common outcome can be a reduction in parking spaces. Although the intent of such projects is to encourage travelers to use other modes besides the personal automobile, an unintended consequence is a reduced capacity for delivery vehicles. This case study describes two such projects designed to address these issues.

Columbus Avenue Bicycle Path and Mobility Enhancements Project
Figure 21: Columbus Avenue Configuration with Added Bike Lane

Figure 28: Columbus Avenue configuration with added bike lane

Columbus Avenue is a major north-south corridor on the west side of Manhattan. In 2010, a parking-protected bike path was installed from West 77th Street to West 96th Street. The project placed great emphasis on providing a safe environment for bicyclists while maintaining vehicular traffic capacity. The proposed concept maintained, but narrowed, the existing moving lanes, and created a “floating” parking lane with a 5-foot buffer and a 6-foot bike lane between the parking lane and the curb (see Figure 28). As a result of moving parking away from the curb, well over 50 of the existing 257 parking spaces were repurposed as turn lanes, mixing zones, or pedestrian islands, essentially reducing the parking capacity by more than 20%. Time-specific freight parking and loading zones (i.e., delivery windows) were implemented to minimize the impact of this loss of parking space. Subsequently, in 2013, the bike path project was extended north to West 110th Street and south to West 59th Street. With the extension project, some parking spaces were gained (because of the conversion of a rush-hour travel lane to parking north of West 96th Street), while other spaces were eliminated, mainly south of West 77th Street. Again, delivery windows were part of the initiative to minimize delivery impacts on businesses, with new delivery windows implemented in both extension areas.

First Avenue/Second Avenue Select Bus Service Implementation Project

On the east side of Manhattan, First Avenue and Second Avenue are parallel roads, 1 block apart. First Avenue traffic is one-way northbound, Second Avenue traffic is one-way southbound. The study area extended 8.5 miles along both avenues between South Ferry Station and 125th Street. The primary issues driving the overall SBS project were the need to improve bus travel times and customer service. One of the main components of the project was to provide a continuous bus-only lane along First Avenue and Second Avenue between Houston Street and 125th Street. Before that, bus lanes were only present along certain segments of each street. Along some blocks in these corridors, the newly designated bus lane replaced an existing vehicular travel lane. On other blocks, however, the bus lane replaced the curbside parking area. To help mitigate the loss of parking, delivery windows were designated in certain areas.

Conditions Prior to Implementation

In both project locations, but particularly along the First Avenue/Second Avenue corridor, due to its length, land uses can vary significantly from commercial to residential, and many areas are mixed. Thus the transit, traffic, parking, and delivery demands vary throughout the corridors. Furthermore, most of the businesses and residential buildings do not have off-street loading areas, so access to curb space for delivery vehicles is vital.

Peak Weekday Parking Demandtable53

Data collection performed before implementation indicated that parking and loading space demand is high in both project locations. Survey results reported that business owners along the Columbus Avenue corridor receive from eight deliveries to more than 60 deliveries per week. In addition, a parking inventory, conducted before construction of the First Avenue/Second Avenue project, indicated a total of just over 1,800 spaces on each avenue. The inventory also collected usage data. Table 59 shows, by community district (CD), the busiest hours of the day and how many spaces were occupied during those hours. As shown in the table, some areas had available parking capacity, while two areas exceeded their legal capacity during peak demand hours.

Economic Impacts

Along both corridors, some business owners viewed the respective projects as potentially negative. Reductions in parking would limit delivery vehicle and shopper parking options, with possible impacts on both revenues and costs. Fewer spaces would likely mean increases in freight delivery parking violations as well, increasing parking ticket costs for freight delivery firms. Time spent looking for parking would increase for both commercial and non-commercial drivers. Therefore, time-specific freight parking and loading zones (i.e., delivery windows) combined with parking and loading restrictions were considered to limit the potential impacts of the proposed changes in both of the project corridors.

Regional Approach/Initiative

In both corridors, the project sponsors recognized that providing sufficient freight parking and loading zone space, coupled with loading and parking time restrictions, was very important to achieving the desired project outcomes. Extensive outreach efforts were undertaken for both projects to collect data and information from businesses.

Columbus Avenue

The Columbus Avenue time-specific parking and loading zone (i.e., delivery window) program seeks to restrict the parking spaces along particular blocks to commercial vehicles only during certain times of the day, as shown in Figure 29. The time allotted per delivery vehicle is 30 minutes. The exact regulations, including which hours and days are restricted, vary by location, as noted in the figure.

Figure 22: Delivery Windows

Figure 30: Delivery windows

To implement the delivery window/loading zone portion of the project, New York City DOT staff collected detailed before-implementation data, including parking and loading space inventory and usage information. Site visits took place with Columbus Avenue businesses and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in May 2010. New York City DOT staff specifically visited businesses in the corridor to review their need for loading and delivery spaces. Overall, New York City DOT spoke with 189 businesses before implementing the project. A Truck Loading Delivery Initiative was developed, as well as an AMNH draft-loading plan. The delivery window/loading component was implemented with the overall bike lane restriping project.

When the implementation was complete, the New York City DOT collected after-implementation data. For the overall bike lane project, 6-month and 12-month assessments were completed to determine the impact of the project. The after-implementation data showed that the majority of vehicles using the delivery window spaces were single-unit trucks (>60%), followed by a smaller number of commercial vans (30%). Tractor-trailers also were observed using the spaces, but in far fewer numbers (<10%). The average duration for commercial vehicles using the delivery window spaces ranged from 15 minutes to 40 minutes, depending on the location. (The maximum legal duration is only 30 minutes).

Based on the before-and-after data, the first phase of the bike path project appears to have encouraged increased cycling activity without substantially impacting traffic flow. In fact, average corridor travel times decreased. The safety-related findings did not appear to be conclusive.

Figure 23: Decrease in Commercial Parking

Figure 30: Decrease in commercial parking

The project also seems to have reduced the total number of commercial vehicles parking in the study area, with a 20% decrease (from more than 180 to approximately 140) for a six-block area (Figure 30). The vast majority of this reduction was in vehicles that were illegally parking in travel lanes. With the new delivery windows, the percent of commercial vehicles parked in a travel lane (or mixing zone) decreased by nearly half, while the number of legally parked vehicles remained relatively constant.

Given that a number of changes were made in the corridor, the decreased travel time likely resulted from numerous factors. The delivery windows are, however, considered to have been a contributing factor. The improved travel times are illustrated in Figure 31.

Figure 24: Increase in Travel Times

Figure 31: Increase in travel times

The Columbus Avenue BID that overlaps with the project area was also found to have 100% occupancy in March 2012, approximately 1 year after the project was completed.

The second phase of the parking-protected bike path project included two sections, one to the north and one to the south. To the north (West 110th Street to West 96th Street), the right-most lane was used as a through lane during the weekday a.m. peak period. Because of low usage, it was determined that this lane could be converted to full-time parking, returning 105 parking spaces to that part of the corridor.

Daytime Loading Zonestable54

In both the northern and southern bike path extension sections, loading zones were incorporated into the design. Certain locations were identified where these zones should be implemented. Approximately 30 regular parking spaces were eliminated to add these loading zones; however, the zones are available for overnight and weekend community parking. Table 60 identifies the blocks where the loading zones were implemented and the main business served by those zones.

BBased on data from the New York City DOT, the cost of implementing delivery window projects is approximately $2,500 for 6 to 30 signs. The number of signs that can be installed depends on how many signs must be mounted on new posts, and how many can be mounted on existing poles and posts. This does not include the soft costs of planning, public outreach, data collection, and so forth.

First Avenue/ Second Avenue Project

Using the information gathered during the business outreach effort, time-specific freight parking and loading zones (i.e., delivery windows) were viewed as a potential measure to counter the loss of delivery/parking spaces. Weekday delivery windows were created within the curbside bus lanes to provide adequate curb space for loading and deliveries. The curbside bus lanes are in effect as bus-only lanes from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays (Monday through Friday; see Figure 32). During the midday time period (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.), selected portions of the curbside bus lanes are available for loading and deliveries only. These same areas are generally available for parking from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, as well as on weekends. These restrictions are enforced by both video and police presence. Fines for violations vary from $115 to $150. The locations of the commercial loading zones are shown in context with the other parking regulations along the corridor in Figure 33. Some segments of the SBS used offset bus lanes, which maintained a curb parking and/or delivery lane. Where these offset lanes were used, delivery windows were not required.

Figure 25: Bus Regulation Sign

Figure 32: Bus regulation sign

Stakeholder Engagement

The New York City DOT was responsible for implementing both projects (along with the MTA in the case of the First Avenue/Second Avenue Project), including the delivery window program components. The NYPD was responsible for enforcing the new regulations, including ticketing and towing. Local community boards also were involved in the development and implementation of both projects.

The major challenge associated with the First Avenue/Second Avenue project was how to achieve the project’s objective of significantly improved bus service against a background of a reduction in available curb space that could be assigned to loading and parking. Stakeholder engagement also proved challenging, especially with regard to the freight industry. Issues and challenges with this project resemled those present for the Columbus Avenue bike lane project. For that project, one-on-one interviews with truck drivers and business owners had provided feedback on specific issues. On both projects, city staff made numerous presentations and reached out to a wide range of constituencies.

To date, little feedback has been received on the delivery window component of the First Avenue/Second Avenue project. On the Columbus Avenue project, despite seemingly positive results, a number of concerns have been identified related to the project, as well as some criticism from local business owners. For example:

  • Complaints from business owner interviews
    •  The 30-minute delivery limit is seen as too short.
    • Business has declined due to bike lane and delivery windows.
    • Business has been hurt by loss of parking and increase in tickets.
    • Deliveries are “slower.”
  •  Complaints from truck driver interviews
    • Delivery window spaces are being used by cars with placards.
    • Delivery window signs do not specify the 30-minute time limit.
    • Double-parking is faster than trying to use the delivery window spaces
Figure 26: New Parking Regulations on First and Second Avenues

Figure 33: New Parking regulations on First Avenue/Second Avenue

 Emerging Issues

Both delivery window projects seemed to address the issues related to the loss of delivery spaces; however, there were some unresolved issues. Notably, the delivery window maximum duration did not seem to match the delivery demands on some blocks. In addition, the maximum duration was not posted on the signs, leading to confusion on the part of some delivery drivers. Feedback highlighted additional issues that were still perceived as unresolved.

As New York City develops its SBS program throughout the city, delivery windows have been considered one potential initiative for providing sufficient access for business loading and delivery activity. For example, midday delivery windows were incorporated into the retail core of the new SBS corridor on Fordham Road to facilitate pick-ups and deliveries during the late morning and early afternoon. These delivery window times and locations were set up in coordination with the local businesses. Delivery windows have also been considered for the Nostrand Avenue SBS project. In each case, the delivery window implementation concepts have been slightly different with regard to time and location, but the general principles have remained the same.

Concluding Observations

The major lessons learned from these projects include:

  • Designing time-specific freight parking and loading facilities into street improvement plans from the beginning can yield improved outcomes and increased effectiveness.
  • Working closely with local businesses and community groups to identify the specific delivery and parking needs provides better information for assessing potential problems, developing plans, and implementing improvements.
  • Involving the public and corridor stakeholders extensively can benefit the project, but it does not guarantee that all parties will be pleased with the final plan or project.
  • Quantifying delivery activity through surveys and other data-gathering activities provides the information necessary for project development with regard to delivery window locations, timeframes, and allowable loading durations.
  • Developing and signing delivery window times and durations to meet the observed local freight loading needs is very important.
  • Post-implementation data gathering is useful for assessing the effectiveness of a parking and loading zone plan.
  • Publicizing the delivery window guidelines/regulations is vital, and partner organizations can help with this effort.

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