Steve Kaufman
Steve Kaufman, P.E.
The phrase "thinking outside the box" is often associated with the engineering professions. Not often though does one associate it with the field of automobile transportation. The last major event occurred during the tenure of Mr. Robert Moses that resulted in a massive reconfiguration of New York City roads and the identification of the automobile as the primary transportation mode of its citizenry. The consequences, not all anticipated and not all positive, have had a profound effect on all of functions within the City, from commerce to commutation to preferred choice of habitation that resonate more strongly today than at any time in the past.

It was not until the past decade that this philosophy was visibly challenged by a mayoral administration whose transportation goals were embodied and elicited through an innovative transportation engineer, Ms. Janette Sadik-Kahn, and by a mayor who supported decisions based upon objective evidence that supported their implementation. The result was an assault on traditional transportation infrastructure whose goal was to improve the movement of people and goods through the City, and the quality of life of its citizenry. The following changes were dispensed from her toolkit that have again reframed the perception of preferred transportation modes within it:

  • Pedestrian plazas that have empowered pedestrians, improved the flow of shoppers to retailers, improved the flow of north-south vehicular traffic and as a consequence improved air quality.
  • Select Bus Service that has reduced commutation time along these bus routes by emulating many of the beneficial qualities of light-rail at a fraction of its first and operating costs.
  • A citywide bike share program that has achieved record levels of acceptance and a demand for an increased distribution of it bike stations throughout the city.

More recently another innovator has proposed a challenge to the transportation status quo. Mr. Samuel Schwartz, former Deputy Commissioner of Transportation of New York City and principal at Sam Schwartz Engineering, has submitted a plan to significantly alter the flow of traffic and the concentration of vehicles within various areas of the City entitled The Fair Plan. In summary, the plan proposes to use changes in toll pricing at all river crossings, including those presently untolled, to:

  • Elicit changes in driver traffic patterns such that vehicles not needing to be in the City are drawn to corridors that circumnavigate it.
  • Encourage in commuters the choice of mass transit and other alternatives over the automobile for travel to and from the City core.
  • Create a dedicated funding stream for infrastructure repair.

Mr. Schwartz, with Mr. Alex Matthiesson and others, has spearheaded an effort to implement this plan through an organization named Move NY. I invite you to follow the above links and learn more about this out-of-the-box idea, and if you are in agreement with its means and goals offer support to this organization.

Steve Kaufman, P.E.
President, ASCE Met Section