The latest edition of SPUR's The Urbanist takes an in depth look in to how the Bay Area can learn from New York City when it comes to planning and regional development. The recently approved Plan Bay Area calls for dense transit oriented development in region, but how we will accommodate an ever-growing population remains a huge issue with no simple solution. Nevertheless, New York City has proven that it is possible to squeeze millions of residents in to an area with considerably less space than we have here in the Bay Area, but creative approaches in transportation planning and housing development must be used to ensure we remain an efficient and economically viable region.
New York has excelled in public realm design. SPUR points out that NYC is one of the most bike and pedestrian friendly cities in the United States because planners continue to aggressively rebalance street space to accommodate all modes of transportation. Examples of radical changes on the streets of New York abound, from the pedestrian-friendly Times Square renovation, to the brightly colored bus lanes on Second Avenue and the protected bike lanes at Prospect Park. Though San Francisco has implemented some streetscape improvements in the last few years, and will implement more in the future, SPUR stresses that it is important to think big, and not to shy away from changes that may spark backlash at first if they result in an improved quality of life for residents and visitors to the city.
Another asset that makes New York such an efficient hub of economic and social activity is the extensive 468-station subway system. Though it looks a bit rough around the edges, it operates 24 hours a day and is vital to the city's economy. As such, the MTA continues to expand the system and is currently boring tunnels for a extension of the 7 line as well as a new line down Second Avenue, in addition to opening new free transfer points that make for a more seamless commute. The Bay Area must prioritize public transportation as it grows larger, as NYC's subway proves how important transportation links are to a city's development.
Another crucial element that causes major problems in New York and San Francisco is housing. Both cities have high numbers of singles with few homes designed for that demographic, and both face exorbitant housing costs which city governments need to adress. In New York, "Making Room" is an innovative initiative that seeks to help the city respond to changes in the way people live and how they house themselves.
All in all, though San Francisco and the Bay Area lead in many domains, when it comes to urban development and growth, SPUR reminds us that we can and should look to New York as a model for inspiration.
· The Urbanist [SPUR]
· Plan Bay Area adopted by regional planners [SFGate]
· The City's Next Wave of Major Streetscape Improvements [Curbed SF]
· The Project [Making Room]