Frequently Asked Questions


Is anybody actually going to use a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge path?

How much is a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge path going to cost?

Will a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge path impact traffic?

Will building a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge path raise the toll?

Is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge too windy for pathways?

Is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge too steep for pathways?

Will a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge pathway encourage suicide attempts?

What about bike racks on buses?

Why isn’t the George Washington Bridge/Goethals Bridge/Outerbridge Crossing or Governor’s Island part of the Harbor Ring route?


Is anybody actually going to use a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge path?

Yes! Almost 4,000 people have signed our Change.org petition calling for a VNB multi-use path and over 100 supporters attended a recent rally. Although  it is difficult to estimate with any precision how many pedestrians and cyclists will use the pathway daily, the recent bicycling boom in NYC has been phenomenal and is based largely on people switching to bikes as bicycle infrastructure is improved and as cycling is made easier and safer. In addition, there has been a huge increase in tourist exploration of NYC by foot and by bike. The coming redevelopment of the North Shore of Staten Island, as well as  the construction of  the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets mall, will draw many more tourists to Staten Island and contribute to the VNB path use.

Here is some data that shows bicycle and pedestrian use on other NYC bridges and parkways. This is an indicator of the amount of usage the VNB path could expect.

  1. Cycling in NYC has increased by 250% between 2006 and 2013 (NYC DOT).
  2. Average DOT weekday bicycle counts (April-October) for 2013:
    1. Brooklyn Bridge: 2664
    2. Manhattan Bridge: 4173
    3. Williamsburg Bridge: 5288
    4. Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge: 2843
    5. Hudson River Greenway: 5122
  3. Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian count for one peak hour Saturday 5/3/2014: 3210 (DOT).
  4. Marine Parkway pedestrian and bicycle count for Sunday 7/13/2014: 954 (DOT).
  5. Shore Parkway path pedestrian and bicycle count, just south of bridge for Sunday 7/27/14: 2146 (DOT).
  6. George Washington Bridge, daily average for the period 7/17/2014 – 11/4/2014: 847 pedestrians and 1522 cyclists (Eco Counter).

 


How much is a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge path going to cost?

Currently, the cost of a VNB path is estimated to be approximately $45 million*. In 1997, under contract to the NYC Department of City Planning, Ammann & Whitney (the firm that originally designed and engineered the VNB)  completed a feasibility analysis and preliminary cost estimate for adding a pedestrian/bicycle path. A wide range of alternatives were studied and compared, including different bridge approaches and upper and lower roadway alternatives. Cost estimates were made on a life-cycle basis, and included annual maintenance. The preferred alternative was determined to be two upper roadway paths built between the suspender cables on either side of the bridge, each with their own access ramps. The cost estimate for this alternative was $26.5 million. This is approximately $45 million in today’s dollars*.

In December 2013, the MTA hired the engineering company of Parsons Brinckerhoff to conduct a new feasibility study. Recent press statements by the MTA indicate that this new study will be completed sometime in 2016.

*Calculated based on Turner Construction Company Building Cost Index for US non-residential construction.

 


Will a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge path impact traffic?

No. A bicycle & pedestrian pathway over the VNB would offer toll-free access between Brooklyn and Staten Island without increasing traffic congestion on the bridge at all. The Harbor Ring supports a plan that would situate a pathway on either side of the bridge between the suspension cables; similar to the George Washington Bridge. This offers pedestrians and cyclists separated space from the motor vehicle roadway without decreasing the number of travel lanes for drivers. Motor vehicle space would not be impacted at all, as each mode of travel would maintain its own dedicated space. If there were any change to traffic, the toll-free option is more likely to actually improve traffic flow by luring some motorists out of their vehicles and onto the pathway.

 


Will building a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge path raise the toll?

No, the MTA does not raise tolls to pay for a singular project. The MTA is huge — the largest transit system in the United States — and the tolls and fares are used to fund the entire system. The MTA is responsible for maintaining a quality level of service for the entire NYC subway system, bus system, Staten Island Railway, Metro North, Long Island Railroad, and all their bridges and tunnels.

The MTA itself can only affect their budget by raising fares or cutting services. However, city and state elected officials control how much the MTA receives in subsidies. and have been underfunding the MTA for years. As a result, transit riders are left paying the additional cost. This is why transit advocates having been calling for newer sources of revenue for the MTA, so they can maintain quality levels of service AND invest in new projects to increase access in underserved areas—like bicycle and pedestrian access across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. To read about an exciting new plan to help save New Yorkers from greater fare and toll hikes and increase funding of the MTA, visit Move NY.

 


Is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge too windy for pathways?

No. Although the VNB is occasionally subject to significant winds due to its height and location next to open ocean, pedestrians and cyclists can continue to use the bridge safely during windy conditions. Other NYC bridges, such as the George Washington Bridge, are also subject to significant winds and pedestrians and cyclists use the bridge paths on windy days without incident. At the start of the 1995 NYC Marathon, wind gusts on the VNB were as high as 58 mph, and at the start of the 2014 NYC Marathon, wind gusts were as high 45 mph. Nearly 100,000 runners crossed the bridge on those two days, without any reported incidents. On rare occasions, such as exceptionally windy days and during heavy snow storms, the bridge is closed to all motor vehicle traffic. On those days, the bridge pathways can also be closed.

 


Is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge too steep for pathways?

No. The grade, or slope, of the VNB roadway reaches a maximum of 5 percent — meaning the road rises five feet for each 100 feet you move forward. As a comparison, the steepest grades on the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges are approximately 3.5 percent, and the steepest grades on the Central Park and Prospect Park recreational road loops exceed 5 percent. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the maximum allowable grade for wheelchair ramps is 8.33 percent. So the pathways on the VNB, at their steepest sections, would be roughly half as steep as the maximum allowable grade for wheelchair ramps, and would be similar to the other bridges and NYC park drives used by hundreds of thousands of runners, pedestrians, and cyclists annually. The slope of the VNB poses no barrier to regular use by pedestrians, cyclists, baby carriages, or wheelchairs.

 


Will a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge pathway encourage suicide attempts?

No. A VNB path would not encourage suicide attempts. In fact, a path built with inward-curving high fencing would serve as a deterrent and preventive measure for suicides.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), studies worldwide clearly demonstrate that prevention barriers on bridges are effective in reducing the number of suicides. Suicide by jumping tends to be impulsive; these barriers give suicidal individuals a potentially life-saving window of time to change their minds or for someone to intervene. State and local officials across the country are taking steps to install such barriers on bridges, including on the Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge. AFSP supports these efforts to place physical deterrents on bridges where suicides frequently occur.

 


What about bike racks on buses?

Yes, please! Bike racks are common on buses in most large cities across the country and a great feature to have in a mass transit system. Chicago, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco all proudly feature bus bike racks as standard equipment. Unfortunately, NYC currently does not. However, in November of 2014, NYC DOT announced it is coordinating with the MTA on a pilot program to install bike racks on buses along some routes, particularly those that cross NYC bridges. In March 2015,  the MTA began testing rack equipment on the S53, which crosses the VNB.

While this is great news, bike racks on buses are not a substitute for a path across the VNB. Most of the popular designs for these bus racks only hold two bicycles at a time. That means a family of four biking from Staten Island to Brooklyn would have to split up and ride separate buses to reach their destination. If a bus is running behind schedule, or the rack is damaged, or the depot needed to swap in a non-rack bus on the route — it could take hours for that same family to cross the VNB. Bicycle racks on buses are only a small first step in solving a long-term transportation problem.

 


Why isn’t the George Washington Bridge/Goethals Bridge/Outerbridge Crossing or Governor’s Island part of the Harbor Ring route?

The Harbor Ring 50-mile route is envisioned as the initial core section of what we hope will someday become an integrated regional bike and pedestrian pathway system.  When considering the Harbor Ring think of all the ring highways that have for years functioned in a similar way for vehicles in cities across the globe.  Once the Harbor Ring path is adopted other sections can be integrated into an expanded system that will only grow with time.  The new Goethals Bridge path can link the Harbor Ring to a future a pathway network in Central New Jersey, while linking to the George Washington Bridge and 9W pathways can be part of an ultimate expanded regional network extending north of NYC on both sides of the Hudson.

 

 

Sources:

Transportation 101: What’s up with the MTA?; Tri-State Transportation Campaign

MTA 2015 Adopted Budget; Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Position Statement

 

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