New York City is the most populous city in the United States, with a resident population of 8.4 million, and an additional 52 million visitors per year. New York City is a global finance and banking center, and has significant activities in media, fashion, entertainment, real estate, construction, manufacturing, and commercial property. As one indication of this business activity, the city hosts more Fortune 500 company headquarters than any other city in the United States. All of these residents, visitors, and businesses vie for space within the 302 square miles that comprise New York, New York.

New York City and its five Boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens) also form part of the wider New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) region, which includes Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley. The NYMTC region planning area covers 2,440 square miles and has a population of 12.4 million, which is approximately 64% of New York State’s population, based on 2010 Census counts.

The lead transportation agency within the city is the New York City Department of Transportation (New York City DOT). Its mission is to provide safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods, and to maintain and enhance the transportation infrastructure.

With a budget of more than $2 billion and with 4,700 employees, the New York City DOT is responsible for the operation and maintenance of 6,300 miles of streets and highways, nearly 800 bridges, 1.3 million street signs, 300,000 street lights, and 12,000 signalized intersections, as well as the nation’s busiest commuter ferry service, the Staten Island Ferry, which carries more than 22 million passengers annually.

To achieve its transport mission, the New York City DOT works with the New York State DOT and other regional bodies, such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), as well as with other New York City government departments and agencies such as the Department of City Planning, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the Department of Environmental Protection.

In 2007, the New York City DOT established an Office of Freight Mobility to improve public safety; provide a high quality of life for residents; balance goods movement with other uses of curb, street, and highway space; and support the city’s economy. This office manages the New York City truck-route network, which mitigates the impact of truck movements on residential communities.

New York’s highway network is constrained. Significant elements of the network, such as the parkways and the lower Manhattan street network, were not designed for today’s large freight vehicles, nor for the volume of traffic. The New York City–Newark region was ranked Number 1 in the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2012 Urban Mobility Report for the most congestion experienced by the freight industry, with nearly 33.5 million hours of congestion, costing $2.5 billion annually. The New York–Newark region also had the second highest number of corridors (nine) ranked for truck delay.

Trucks account for 81% of all goods movement in the New York City region, with barge, rail, and pipeline traffic carrying the remainder. The New York City area also is served by freight rail, though capacity and infrastructure constraints limit the amount of goods carried by this mode. A unique cross-harbor rail float bridge is used to facilitate the movement of rail cars between New York, Long Island, and New Jersey. Barge traffic is largely focused on the movement of bulk supplies, particularly fuels and aggregates. A number of the city’s aggregate and concrete plants are adjacent to navigable waterways and receive their materials by barge, thereby reducing the number of trucks on the city’s roads. Figure 19 illustrates the city’s major road and rail network.

Figure 11: New York City’s Major Road and Rail Network

Figure 19: New York City’s major road and rail network

Such geographic features as the Hudson River also dictate that the city’s traffic volume is funneled through Manhattan’s 20 river crossings. Many of these are major crossings, such as the George Washington Bridge, which carried an average of 20,790 trucks per day in 2011. Significant concentrations of warehouses and logistic facilities are located around the periphery of New York City, including those across the Hudson River in New Jersey, and those in close proximity to PANYNJ facilities. New York’s port is the third-largest seaport in North America, and John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) is the eighth largest air cargo airport in the United States.

The city streets host cars, buses, taxis, cyclists, and pedestrians, in addition to the freight activity that is vital for the prosperity and livelihood of its residents and businesses. Approximately 180,000 truck trips are generated daily by Manhattan’s 37,000 freight-related business establishments. The Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market (the largest food distribution center in the United States) generates approximately 3,800 truck movements to and from the market each day, serving the city’s 6,800 food establishments. Studies suggest that truck and commercial traffic in Manhattan accounts for 8% of peak period vehicle miles traveled.

The New York City DOT has implemented several freight initiatives during the last several years. Some of these initiatives have addressed specific issues, such as truck routing and the adaptation of freight activity into new transportation plans and studies. Three cases are summarized here, along with highlights of the major issues, selected solutions, implementation information, project impacts, and lessons learned. Figure 20 shows the locations of each project.

The issues addressed by these projects include:

  •  Church Avenue Delivery Window Project: Traffic and parking congestion, combined with conflicting demands from a wide variety of users leading to the need for an improved freight delivery system, including the use of time-specific freight parking and loading zones (i.e., delivery windows).
  • Columbus Avenue Bicycle Path and Mobility Enhancements Project; First Avenue/
    Second Avenue Select Bus Service (SBS) Implementation Project:
    A reduction in parking spaces, resulting from the implementation of larger scale projects geared toward improving conditions for transit and/or non-motorized users, leading 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).
  • Maspeth Truck Route Redesignation and Intersection Improvement Project: A heavy flow of truck traffic through a residential and local commercial district, leading to the need for a bypass study and truck-route redesignation with associated infrastructure upgrades, including the removal of intersection constraints.

The decision to implement freight projects like these is typically determined by the responsible public agency, such as the New York City DOT. That decision, and the scope of the initiative, may be based on a range of factors and considerations, including: the scale of the issue the project is seeking to resolve; alignment with the agency’s plans, policies, and strategies; community and stakeholder feedback; number and type of road users using the street; congestion impacts; compliance with road and parking regulations; ease of implementation; and cost and available budget.

Figure 12: Project Location in NYC

Figure 20: Project Locations in New York City

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