DOT’s Latest ‘Smart Curbs’ Presentation Proposes Significant Changes to UWS Streets

DOT

Following months of field observations, public workshops and spirited discussions around implementing the Department of Transportation’s Smart Curbs program on the Upper West Side, the DOT has presented detailed recommendations for changes to the neighborhood’s streets that the organization hopes will alleviate traffic and congestion.

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“This is one of the densest neighborhoods in the country. There’s a lot of competition for extremely limited space,” a DOT representative said while presenting to Community Board 7 on June 11. “This project is not going to fix all of it, but we’re hoping to improve it a significant amount.”

The latest Smart Curbs proposal, which focuses on W. 72nd St. to W. 86th St between Broadway and Central Park West, includes detailed short-, mid-, and long-term plans that we have summarized below.

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Short-term (anticipated to begin in 2024):

  • 23 new daytime loading zone locations, which the DOT says are “found to reduce double parking up to 73%.” Loading zones will be near intersections.
  • Three freight “microhubs” for delivery vehicles, with at least one installed in fall 2024.
  • Roughly 120 new commercial metered parking spaces, predominantly along avenues.
  • Roughly 80 “net new” passenger metered parking spaces in short segments along cross streets adjacent to avenues.
  • Five new bike parking corrals in curb lanes.
  • A new “Street Seat” parklet on the northwest corner of W. 72nd St. and Columbus.

DOT

DOT

DOT

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Mid-term (anticipated to begin winter 2025):

  • One or two new electric vehicle charging sites.
  • Introduction of “offset crossings” on Columbus and Amsterdam, designed to alleviate “mixing zones” where vehicle left-turn lanes merge with unprotected bike lanes.

DOT

DOT

Long-term (no timeline was shared):

  • Dynamic parking pricing where fees change based on the time of day and demand.
  • Potential upgrades to the Central Park West bike lane.
  • Explore allowing metered parking on Sundays in high demand locations, which is currently illegal.

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The proposal would eliminate about 175 free parking spaces, a factor that was left out of the DOT’s presentation but was raised in response to a question from a Community Board 7 member.

During the meeting, a CB7 board member raised a need to address how easily cross streets can be blocked by a delivery or moving truck, potentially inhibiting a fire truck or ambulance during an emergency. The blunt question was largely met with a non-answer.

“People’s lives depend upon the ability for an ambulance to get to them,” the board member said. “Right now we’re just not even thinking about it. What’s the plan for that?”

“This is not about efficiency. This is life or death.”

The Smart Curbs idea has polarized Upper West Siders since its introduction in the fall of 2023. A DOT press release from December 2023 says the UWS has one of the lowest vehicle ownership rates in the United States with just 27% of households owning a vehicle. This figure, combined with population density, made the UWS the ideal neighborhood for a Smart Curbs test.

The DOT says its planned actions have been largely informed through community feedback shared in public meetings and an online feedback map. The full Community Board 7 meeting from June 11 can be viewed here.


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