Freight Tranportation in Brooklyn — Brooklynian

Freight Tranportation in Brooklyn

edited October 2014 in Brooklyn Politics
This discussion was created from comments split from: Vision Zero picks up speed.


  • I've said it before, and I think it bears repeating Atlantic Avenue is THE major truck through route in the borough. Its the only one that runs east-west connecting truck traffic from the mainland to points east and servicing the 10 million people that live on the Long Island penninsula. Anyone who has ever driven a large truck with a manual engine can tell you that driving below 25 mph in one of them is a difficult task at best, which is currently being made worse by those people who lack even a basic understanding of how truck needs on streets differ from cars. Atlantic should not be treated the same as EP or Fulton or St. Johns because it has a completely different purpose.

    What this means in practice is that Atlantic should not have trees that reduce sight lines, wider sidewalks to encourage more foot traffic, sidewalk cafes, or bike lanes. What it should actually have is a prohibition against bikes and signs that clearly remind people to keep their wits about them as they walk and drive because they are sharing the road with vehicles that literally can not see them. But none of that is in keeping with current schools of thought which says we should be copying the transportation plans of small European countries with 800 year old street patterns and winding streets less than 30 feet wide. Vision Zero pays zero attention to the fact that many of the same streets that have been designated for "traffic calming", "walkability" and "pedestrian friendly" agendas have also been partially designated at local through streets for trucks needing to get from New Jersey and Pennsylvania warehouses to final points of delivery as NYC warehouse space gets converted to beer gardens and luxury housing. This continued bias against goods movement is short-sighted and ultimately is going to harm all of us.
  • @homeowner,

    Your concern for optimizing Atlantic Avenue for trucking makes some sense.

    But more effective than a ban on trees, pedestrians, bicycling, or sidewalk cafes, would be to simply make Atlantic Avenue a road for commercial vehicles only, with exceptions for local access, just like Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn is for buses only, with exceptions for local access.
  • I think a lot this stems from people fondly remembering their car free college campus.

    If we all only moved in at the beginning of the semester, ate in the cafeteria, and lived close enough to walk to classes, I am sure it could work in NYC.
  • The problem with that is that Atlantic handles a large amount of traffic and making it for commercial vehicles only would put an huge burden on Fulton, Pacific, Dean and Herkimer which don't have the capacity to absorb the additional cars. The changes made in Downtown Brooklyn were done over thirty years ago when there was significantly less traffic in the area, and both Schemerhorn and Livingston had little to no traffic at all, making the rerouting less of an issue. There simply isn't the capacity to get rid of all non-commercial traffic and absorb it on local streets that run parallel.

  • I think a lot this stems from people fondly remembering their car free college campus.

    If we all only moved in at the beginning of the semester, ate in the cafeteria, and lived close enough to walk to classes, I am sure it could work in NYC.
    Hey, from what I hear, that'd what is trying to be enacted on a small portion of Medgar Ever's campus. :) 
  • edited January 2015
    I've heard Rudy Crew (President of MEC) is ok with Crown St not being closed to traffic, which basically passes the buck the DOT.

    If DOT closes the block, Rudy can say it was not at his request.
  • @Homeowner----you're forgetting Linden Blvd which has more lanes in each direction (at least until Remsen Ave) than Atlantic and a higher speed limit and there are plenty of trucks that use it. After Flatbush the trucks head on to Caton and can reach the Prospect Expwy from there.
  • @pragmaticguy, I'm not forgetting Linden. Linden is supposed to be used for local truck traffic only, as is Kings Highway east/west. Atlantic is the sole designated east/west through travel route for trucks as it traverses the entire width of the borough from the water to Queens. As you pointed out the wider section of Linden isn't until after you cross Remsen which is almost halfway through the borough. From Flatbush to Remsen its a one lane street with dedicated turning lanes, and as you say west of Flatbush trucks access Caton which is also one lane in each direction. So it only works as an alternative route east of Remsen. The local routes are only supposed to be used for short distances and not as the through route, and encouraging large trucks to take them puts more trucks on residential streets including streets with schools, hospitals, playgrounds and parks.
  • It looks like the discussion of alternatives for freight is moving forward. To wit:

    This Friday, January 23, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey will be hosting the first of seven public hearings to solicit public feedback on ten alternatives to move freight across the New York Harbor.

    The reason for the study is the current system, which is untenable. The lack of existing freight track infrastructure in downstate New York east of the Hudson River means freight must come in on a truck or barge from New Jersey or via trains that are rerouted 140 miles north to Selkirk, NY and then make their way back south toward New York City.

    Source: Port Authority DEIS

    Source: Port Authority DEIS


    More than 90 percent of freight crossing the Hudson River is moved in trucks. As has been noted time andtime again, large commercial trucks are a significant contributor to roadway congestion, poor air and water quality, and the deteriorating conditions of regional infrastructure. There is also a significant social cost, as trucks affect roadway and pedestrian safety and quality of life in residential communities.

    There are ways to reduce our region’s overreliance on and the impacts of truck freight while improving the overall system of moving goods into and out of our region. Alternatives to the current system are being studied in the recently released Cross Harbor Freight Program NEPA Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Five of the “rail tunnel alternatives” being studied would create a direct connection across the harbor, allowing freight to move directly from New Jersey to Brooklyn and enabling goods to reach Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties by rail.


    Left Image Source: Port Authority DEIS | Right Image Source: Source: Cap’n Transit

    Left Image Source: Port Authority DEIS | Right Image Source: Source: Cap’n Transit

    This would be a significant improvement over the current system. Some of the rail tunnel alternative benefits are:

    • reduced truck emissions, which pollute our air and contribute to increased asthma rates,
    • project construction jobs,
    • port jobs,
    • protection of the current and future flow of goods, including the region’s food and clothing supply,
    • safer roads, especially for pedestrians, and
    • avoidance of costly repairs of roadway damage caused by large trucks (According to one report, road damage caused by a single 18-wheeler is equivalent to that of 9,600 cars).

    The public is invited to weigh in on all aspects of the draft study, including the alternatives the Port Authority will be studying further. Make your voice heard in support of the Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel alternatives, which would be a quadruple win to reduce the economic, environmental, transportation, and societal costs of our truck dependent freight system.

    Meeting locations, dates and times are as follows:

    • Friday, January 23, 2015, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
      Baruch College / CUNY, William and Anita Newman Conference Center, 151 East 25th Street, H750 & Faculty Lounge, New York, NY 10010
    • Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
      Suffolk County Legislature, W.H. Rogers Legislature Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown, NY 11787
    • Thursday, January 29, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
      Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard, Room 23, Kew Gardens, NY 11415
    • Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
      Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
    • Thursday, February 5, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
      Bronx Borough Hall, 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451
    • Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
      North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, One Newark Center, 17th Floor, Newark, NJ 07102
    • Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
      Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center, 140 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Jersey City, NJ 07305
  • edited January 2015
    @homeowner -
    The old Bay Ridge Ridge branch of the LIRR is a big piece of the above proposal.

    I suspect readers know nothing about it, so am providing some links:

    From the air, it appears as a line of trees that runs roughly from east to west:

    In addition to the benefits mentioned above, proponents may want to imply that getting trucks off roads like the LIE will decrease traffic and driving time.

    ....this would get Long Island voters on board in a heart beat.
  • They will need to, because it seems that Queens voters whose homes back up onto the line are against the proposal of any rail expansion

  • Can those for this proposal get it endorsed by DeBlasio and Company as being part of Vision Zero? some kids squished by trucks, and imply that the Queens voters are selfish for willing to trade quiet for squished kids?
  • @homeowner -
    Heads up. The people who are concerned about the transportation of people (as opposed to freight), are increasing their efforts to make that line be for passengers.
  • just chiming in to say that as someone with windows facing onto the little bit of caton ave that splits off from linden blvd, the truck traffic is absurd along that stretch. I've seen maps dictating that the main designated truck traffic street immediately south of Prospect Park is Church avenue west of Flatbush, with local trucks only to be routed through Caton. And yet it seems like Caton and Linden take the brunt of it. aside from the few times i've nearly been crushed on my bike by an 18-wheeler attempting to make a turn that takes up the lane of opposing traffic as well as its own, the sound of their truck horns is absurd. but i imagine your average truck driver just passing through from Long Island doesn't think human beings live in the large brick buildings along the street, just scum.
  • edited March 2015
    I wonder if the truck drivers are opposed to the proposed freight tunnel.

    A friend of mine used to drive a truck, and stated that he wouldn't accept NYC jobs because they were not worth it, even with the premium offered.
  • @homeowner -
    Do you think the plan to reduce the amount of trucks going through NYC to Long Island, by making a ferry connection between LI and CT has any chance?
  • I think it's somewhere around $75 round trip to ferry a car across the sound from Orient Point so I can only imagine what it would cost for an 80,000 lb semi. I'm figuring about $200 each way. The economics might not be there and even if they are I wonder if this is something that can be mandated so that if a truck is going to Long Island that they're made to use it or will it be just an option. In addition, they're going to have to be awfully large ferries if they're going to take three or four at a time and they spew pollution as well.
  • You have to look at origins and destinations. What trucks are coming through CT on their way to LI? There isn't a ton of manufacturing in New England or a lot of significant hub warehousing for major companies, so I don't see a lot of truck trips starting north of CT and coming south. If you are coming from the south going north, I'd think that this proposal would actually increase the number of trucks driving through CT and not decrease it. And given how congested the LIE is routing trucks to it trying to get west seems a little crazy to me. 

    As for the cost, its about $650-700 dollars to move a shipping container from NJ into NYC/LI on a truck (that's the all in cost for the truck, tolls, and gas). So this is probably just replacing a current toll in that calculation instead of being an additive cost. 
  • edited March 2015
    So, the only ones who would benefit from this proposal are the folks who would build and/or drive the truck ferries?

    My main thought is that LI is a big suburb, and that Walmart and grocery stores are the major source of trucking.

  • @homeowner

    BTW, NJ Democrats want the Port Authority to sell that shiny new tower to help built the freight tunnel.

    ...presumably because they don't want to give the PA any more $.
  •'s a use for the ferry.....put the buses on that are going to Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. If they started out in the western part of Long Island and picked up toward the east they could possibly save some time and money that way. If you take the ferry from Orient Point there's a free shuttle to Mohegan Sun from there because it's only a few minutes away.
  • NJ doesn't give the PA any money. PA is 100% self-funded, no tax dollars from either state, or any appropriations. Part of the reason why they delight so much in disparaging it. No downside for the State representatives at all.

    They are just trying to get their tunnel back. The one their Governor killed after it was fully funded by the feds and the PA. The one they didn't want to help pay for cost overruns on. The one their constituents need to get to work and play in Manhattan. The one the PA spent twenty years planning and getting financed. 
  • ah, that one.
  • And now, a word from the President of the Regional Plan Association:
  • @homeowner -
    What do you think of this video on "Why are there so many trucks in NYC?":
  • I think this captures the issues pretty succinctly. The gentleman from Maspeth captured the issue pretty well. Trucks will need to come to local communities to meet local demand, yet no one wants local trucks. They'd much prefer the current system which is inefficient, fragile, and costs end users $s. 
  • Toll rationalization to get trucks out of our densest neighborhoods, plus possible upgrades to the Belt Parkway to bear trucks, seems like a more realistic course to reduce truck impacts in NYC. Perhaps truck size limits and some sort of outlying transshipment hub as well.
  • Toll rationalization won't get trucks out of our densest neighborhoods. Trucks are there BECAUSE of the density. More people = more goods demanded = greater economies of scale by bringing goods en masse = trucks. We already have a system that has outlying transshipment hubs (otherwise known as large-scale warehouses). Those facilities are located in Central & Western NJ and Eastern PA because that is the closest area with cheap land and large areas that can accommodate millions of square feet of warehouse space. That coupled with NYC RE costs pretty much guarantee that everything that comes here (NYC) comes in a huge truck. Sometimes they then get put into smaller trucks for local deliveries, and even may make their last mile in personal cars, but when everyone believes that you can regulate/legislate trucks out of the city and yet not affect your UPS/FedEx delivery from Amazon, etc. you have our approaching future.

    You want to reduce truck impacts? Stop eating, drinking, wearing clothes or consuming any object that you don't personally make, grow or create. Then multiply that by the other 10 million people in the area and we might see trucks go away.
  • could never redo the Belt to take on trucks. Most of the clearances are way too low and I can't even begin to imagine how many accidents there would be since many people on there don't drive with any consideration and don't know how to signal a lane change or even how to lane change. Besides, that's what Conduit Ave is for and it forks to Atlantic or Linden Blvd which are both truck routes.
  • From what I understand, Robert Moses purposely made overpasses on the Belt too low to allow trucks, so that cars could have a leisurely drive unbothered by truck traffic.
  • The other explanation I have heard is that parkways were made with low bridges to prevent low income people from living on Long Island, because they could not commute via bus.

    However, I don't think many people take the Belt for leisure, and can think of several low income communities on Long Island.
  • I understand the need for the transport of goods in a busy city. 
    However I question whether 18 wheelers crossing from JFK to NJ, through residential neighborhoods like E Flatbush, Flatbush, Prospect Park South, Windsor Terrace, and South Slope, not to mention Canal St and the Holland Tunnel, are a part of that network. 
  • Until we get a rail freight system, those are certainly good places to avoid.

    ...needless to say, those places are really difficult, if not impossible to avoid.
  • Remember, Brooklyn and Manhattan are both located on islands. Most goods want to be where the people are, and in NYC that means either in the central business districts (downtown Brooklyn, Midtown NYC and south) or on the "mainland" - west of the Hudson River. Unfortunately only way to get there from JFK is to cross through residential Queens and BK. 
  • " Unfortunately only way to get there from JFK is to cross through residential Queens and BK. "

    but why does freight fly to JFK if it is bound for NJ? Why not fly to Newark?
    If it must cross through Queens and Brooklyn, why not by rail? Why must it be truck?
  • Much of the freight in NJ comes by ship as they have a huge port in Newark so a lot of what comes into New York comes from there. They also have a Conrail line that runs along the northern part of the Turnpike and through much of Edison. In comparison, not much freight comes by plane as by ship. It's another reason that the Bayonne Bridge is having its roadway raised by 43 feet. This is to allow taller ships into the port.
  • Yes, most of the freight being discussed is consumed by "us" (Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk)

    ...very little of it is going to or from JFK. I assume this small amount of freight is directed to the airport that makes the most financial sense.

  • This piece details nicely what some of the logistical issues are getting from one side of the river to the other with construction cargo.

    “Time to get the hell out of Brooklyn. I’m tired of coming here,” Eposti said. “But who knows. I’ll probably be back here tonight.”
  • Fascinating story. 
    I'm willing to bet that those giant pieces of concrete are made outside of NYC and then trucked in, in order to avoid union labor. 
    The Kosciusko Bridge is surrounded by industrial sites. But I'm sure they are all in danger of becoming art galleries at this point. 
  • It appears that heating oil will continue to be competitive with natural gas, and thus continue to be trucked thru NYC to Long Island.

  • That oil comes by pipeline from the refineries, not by truck. Coastal Pipeline has pipes that run along the Staten Island Expressway, even going over the Verrazano and underground that run to depots in Brooklyn and Long Island and that's how JFK and LaGuardia get their jet fuel as well. There would be trucks running constantly if it wasn't for this.
  • That is good to know.  

    However, I wonder how much the oil industry lobbied against this pipeline, and how many local trucks (from port to tank, to homes) this pipeline could have gotten off the road.

    ...natural gas doesn't involve trucks.  

  • This creates an interesting development for Brooklyn. My guess is that Amazon is looking to position itself to make same day delivery in NYC possible. It also has tons of implications for goods movement generally. This location is only a short distance from the one freight rail line in the borough and from the container port.

  • I doubt the oil industry lobbied at all since they love pipelines. It allows them to move much more oil than they could otherwise. No one has a fleet of trucks big enough to move all the oil that's needed used since there aren't refineries every block or even in every state. Just take a look at how they're fighting for Keystone XL
  • PG-

    I was thinking in terms of the local oil delivery companies that are on Long Island.

    If the additional Natural Gas pipeline to LI was built, I suspect that it would decrease the price of NG relative to oil, which would decrease the number of trucks on the road.

    @homeowner -

    It would not surprise me if Amazon decided to start its own fleet of mini trucks to deliver merchandise from the Sunset Park Warehouse.     Doing so might represent a cost savings over what it spends on UPS, and USPS.  

    The location might also allow people to pick up "missed deliveries" there, instead having to go to UPS and USPS.


  • In Long Island the people who heat with oil usually do so because there's no gas lines in the area. Where I rent we have gas for cooking and hot water and oil for heat because the damn landlord never bothered to convert. Nice guy but a putz as far as that goes. By the way, I pay the utilities so we hardly ever put on the heat and use a space heater in the living room when the wife and I are watching tv.
  • Amazon has a whole strategy that its pursuing around local deliveries in urban centers. I don't know the details but know they've been investing in warehousing in places like Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, etc. where warehousing is still available within the city limits for relatively inexpensive amounts of money. NY has always been a tough nut to crack because RE costs are so high here relative to other large cities, so I'm glad to see that the local demand has finally led them to making the significant investment. I wouldn't be surprised if you're right, and if they also took the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint by using something like a CNG, electric or hybrid fleet.
  • Would anyone like to operate the Brooklyn harbor?     EDC would like to heard from you.
This discussion has been closed.