Thursday, July 26, 2012

More cars on the streets of Tenafly

Peter Rustin, the mayor of Tenafly, New Jersey, is against the current plan to restore passenger service to the Northern Branch of the Erie Railroad through his town. "The preferred alternative for this project will put more cars into the streets of Tenafly than it will take off," he told the Northern Valley Suburbanite (which is apparently a newspaper).

I would be inclined to dismiss that as typical demented NIMBY rantings, except that it's actually confirmed by the planners (PDF, page 9-28): "During the AM peak hour, which represents the worst-case scenario for traffic congestion, it is projected that 16 vehicles would park at or near the station during the peak hour. An additional 96 vehicles are projected to drop off passengers at the station, resulting in additional travel to and from the station during the peak hour, for a total of 208 trips. The reverse is expected to occur in the PM peak."

I've criticized traffic projections in the past, and Chuck Marohn, who's a trained engineer, echoed that criticism this week. The software that makes those projections for the Northern Branch, like most other traffic projections, is a state secret. In March I emailed Thomas Marchwinski, Senior Director Forecasting & Research at New Jersey Transit, asking very nicely for more information about the NJTDFM and how it was used in this project, and I have not heard anything yet.

So these are not the rantings of a demented NIMBY, but a demented computer. It may well be that the projected 208 car trips will not materialize, but Mayor Rustin is still justified in his opposition. In an earlier post, Matthew the Walking Bostonian made this astute observation:

The other problem is that they plan to do traffic "mitigation" in the vicinity of the parking lots. For example, Fort Lee Road at Grand Ave in Leonia is going to get widened, along with the construction of the 500 car garage. It's already a crummy place to walk, this will make it worse.

Matthew nailed it. Here's the map of "improvements" planned for Leonia, from Figure 9-10 of this PDF:

The key here is to notice the space between the green lines (the "existing curb") and the red lines (the "proposed curb"). It's supposed to be filled in with orange ("proposed widening"), but sometimes it's hard to see the orange. Take a look at the south side of Fort Lee Road between Spring Street and Station Parkway. That sidewalk is pretty narrow, and they just took out the whole thing for most of that block. They also did this weird thing where they shaved a few feet off of the eastern side of Station Parkway.

These "improvement" means that walking to the train station site will go from kind of unpleasant to downright hellish. This is not just true for commuters and anyone else who might want to take this train, but for people going to the large park there, many of whom are teenagers and families with small children. Oh, and here's Tenafly, from Figure 9-25:

Unfortunately, Mayor Rustin is not at all out of line here. Downtown Tenafly would be a much less pleasant place to walk around after the "improvements" planned by Marchwinski and friends. Rustin shouldn't be opposing the project or forcing New Jersey Transit to cut it short at Route 4, but he should be doing everything in his power to restore sanity to the traffic projections and their "mitigations." Anyone who can help him, please offer your services.

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