Brooklyn Boro

Study of Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway aims to build ‘a more resilient and equitable borough’

August 24, 2020 Editorial Staff
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Brooklyn Greenway Initiative on Monday announced the launch of a comprehensive user study of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway that will measure the mobility, environmental, economic, health, and social impacts of the route.

The study will use a computer vision sensor and data platform to document for the first time how many people use the protected pedestrian and cycling route. Field research will clarify who is using the Greenway and will compare recreational use to commuter use. The study will also collect information about frequency of use, illuminating the Greenway’s role within Brooklyn and New York City’s larger mobility system.

“The Greenway is meant to serve all ages and abilities,” said Terri Carta, executive director of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. “For too long, implementation of New York City’s greenway network has been opportunistic and reactive to other capital projects and public works. This study will generate the data we need to take a more strategic approach. To understand how the Greenway can contribute to a more resilient and equitable borough, we need to know who is using it and how.

“For example, there may be neighborhoods or whole communities not benefiting from the Greenway today. This study will close the knowledge gap between the anticipated and actual impacts of the infrastructure, enabling BGI and our partners to complete and maintain the Greenway in a way that delivers equal benefits to all Brooklyn residents, employees, and visitors,” Carta said.

Partners will work with Brooklyn-based data company Numina, which has documented use along one portion of the Greenway in Williamsburg since 2019, to measure the volumes, movements, and interactions of cyclists, pedestrians, and other travelers along the Greenway.

This level of data will demonstrate how the Greenway’s first- and last-mile bike and pedestrian connections impact greenhouse gas emissions, transit ridership, access to parks and open space, and other key metrics. The first-of-its-kind study will also serve as a replicable model for planning and operations of other greenways and similar trail connectors throughout the city and state.

BGI will conduct the two-year study in partnership with local communities, multiple Brooklyn-based organizations, and public agencies including the New York City Department of Transportation, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Economic Development Corporation.

An overhead view of the Greenway.

“The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway facility serves New Yorkers’ transportation, recreation, and social needs, but to this point we’ve only had the ability to capture snapshots of daily use at single locations,” said Ted Wright, director of the Department of Transportation’s Bike Unit. “The opportunity to take a comprehensive look at travel and usage patterns for multiple modes, across the entire Greenway, and for 365 days will transform our understanding of the Greenway as a City asset, and add a quantitative dimension to the benefits of the Greenway to match the qualitative benefits New Yorker’s have come to know.”

The Regional Plan Association will serve as the project’s research partner, designing methodologies for data collection and analysis, and collaborating to produce a final report to educate elected officials, stakeholders, and the public at large about the impacts of the Greenway.

Numina, the developer of the data platform and vision sensors, will manage their deployment. A Technical Advisory Committee and multiple government and community partners will guide and support the project.

“We are excited to embark on this innovative project with Brooklyn Greenway Initiative to create a new protocol for evaluating greenways, especially when our numbers from the Greenway show unprecedented increases in usage during the pandemic, in particular among bicyclists,” said Tara Pham, Chief Executive Officer of Numina, which is headquartered in Brooklyn and measures sites in more than 20 cities on 4 continents. “Hopefully, getting on a bike, out of necessity, has reminded New Yorkers how fun and freeing riding a bicycle is, and how easy it is to make it part of their day-to-day.

The Greenway User Study is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority with additional support from the Altman Foundation, Councilmember Brad Lander, Two Trees Management, Industry City, HK Organization, and others.

“The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is a vital piece of Regional Plan Association’s proposed Five Borough Bikeway, and both are essential components of a carbon-free New York City,” said Rob Freudenberg, vice president for energy & environment at the Regional Plan Association. “By illustrating the Greenway’s relationship to greenhouse gas emissions, this study will show us how to maximize the potential of this green infrastructure as the region adapts to climate change.”

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