Issue of the Week
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Freight Transportation

Moving anything from, into or through New York City is a daunting task. The larger the object(s), the harder it becomes. Such is the cace with moving freight into and out of the City's borders. This is so for several reasons: 1) Geography: the Central Business District, located on the island of Manhattan, is accessible only by expensive and crowded bridges and tunnels; 2) NYC consumes more than it grows or manufactures; 3) NYC is a trading crossroads - the departure point and transfer station for many goods entering and leaving the country. This triple burden has wrought havoc on the movement of freight in the New York metropolitan area. Lacking infrastructure for alternative modes of transport, and disproportionate dependence on trucks means high costs, less dependability and more traffic. Environmental and community groups object to noise and air pollution caused by increased truck traffic, and planners say bulkier alternative forms of transport (barges, trains) will soon be needed.


MTA Bridges and Tunnels - Pictures, histories, and background on all the bridges and tunnels administered by the MTA. The Triboro bridge, their crown jewel, serves more than one million people daily. If you build it, they will come.

The Port Authority of NY and NJ - Info on all of the other crossings into and around the NYC metro area: the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, GW and Bayonne Bridges, to name a few. Vital statistics on traffic are impressive. (Lincoln Tunnel weekday average number of eastbound cars in 1998: 60,647.)

NYC Roads - All of the possible ways to get in, out, through and around the New York metro area. Includes descriptions of those crossings never built: Hudson River Bridge (railroad), 57th Street Bridge to West New York and 125th Street Bridge to Edgewater, New Jersey.


Roberta Weisbrod - Senior Fellow at INFORM, Inc. discusses the causes of the problem of freight transport in the New York metropolitan region and some potential solutions for the future.

Jose Holguin-Veras - Professor at the Institute for Transportation Systems at the City College of New York highlights the institutional challenges of incorporating freight transport into regional planning.


The Tri-State Transportation Campaign - Environmentally-minded coalition. Its Midtown Transportation section includes summaries of studies conducted from 1976 to the present to try to alleviate midtown congestion. Also see its newsletter, Mobilizing the Region for a discussion of the Bronx Arterial Needs Major Investment Study, a yet-to-be-completed study to evaluate transit needs in the Bronx and eventually improve the movement of people and goods in that borough.

New York Metropolitan Transportation Council - Federally funded planning consortium. Their Regional Transportation Plan anticipates and assesses future transportation issues in the metropolitan area. Among their goals: minimizing cost and improving reliability of freight movement.

NYC Department of Transportation - Maps of all of the truck routes in the five boroughs.


The New York City Environmental Justice Coalition - Has established Truck Watch, which monitors truck traffic, pollution and use of illegal truck routes.

Transportation Alternatives - Adamantly pro-bike, this advocacy group has an excellent, thorough website, including an informative section on bridges, which visually highlights the problem of moving freight and people alike.

The Taub Center for Urban Research - Examines the possibility of a cross-harbor tunnel connecting the Brooklyn port with the New Jersey freight transport network.

In an 18 October email, Prof. Dick Netzer wrote:

As a long-time hawk on this issue (I have advocated in print the conversion of parkways into expressways open to trucks, suggested making some expressways open ONLY to trucks and buses most of the time, like the Cross-Bronx and Brooklyn-Queens Expressways on weekdays from 6 AM to10 PM, and urged restricting the use of curbside parking space to vehicles with COM plates), I applaud both giving the issue the attention it deserves and the content of the two articles in the current GothamGazette.

However, there is an important point that the authors may have intended to cover by implication, but without explicit mention--the need to accommodate the thousands of message and parcel delivery and service and repair vehicle trips that occur each day within the Central Business District (and in outlying business districts as well). New York's high-end service economy cannot function without those trips, and everything today conspires to make them expensive and often impossible. It is a lot easier to improve this situation, and quickly, than it is to make Manhattan safe for giant tractor-trailers.

Examples: (1) curbside parking rule: all spaces metered, at prices high enough to make for turnover, with the spaces open only to COM-plated vehicles; (2) huge fines for violations, say, starting at $500, with universal use of wheel locks ( the store owner gets his car back only when and if he pays the fine); (3) COM or bus plates required for in-bound crossings of the rivers weekdays 8 AM-4 PM.

Dick Netzer is a professor of Economics and Public Administration at Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

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