THE COMMUTE: Anyone who drives along Emmons Avenue will tell you that the traffic setup just doesn’t work too well much of the time. I always questioned the wisdom of the angle parking, which seems to be an anachronism today, so I thought I would determine exactly how many parking spots would be lost if angle parking were converted to parallel parking. Before I tell you what I found, let us talk first about the history of Emmons Avenue and the recent traffic changes made last year.
The Three Parts Of Emmons Avenue
There are three distinct portions to Emmons Avenue for traffic purposes. Let’s call the area encompassing Shore Boulevard / East 14th Street to Ocean Avenue “Part 1.” It is two lanes in each direction, with parking on both sides of the street and a striped median in the center. “Part 2” extends from Ocean Avenue to Coyle Street and is characterized by a median mall with parallel parking on the north side of the street and mall, two lanes of westbound traffic, angle parking on the south side of the mall, and officially one wide lane of eastbound trafficthat is often treated as two lanes by motorists. There is no parking on the south side of the street where the piers are. “Part 3” extends from Coyle Street to Knapp Street and is identical to Part 2 except that, instead of angle parking along the south side of the median mall, there is parallel parking, and two official lanes of traffic in each direction.
Part 1 was widened in the 1970s by having the sidewalks narrowed somewhat to permit two lanes of traffic in each direction. The lane near the parked cars was left wide enough so that cars could still pass if a car was double-parked, or if there was a bicycle on the road. Last September, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) made some changes by narrowing two of the lanes closest to the curbs to accommodate an extra large striped median, which serves no purpose. The theory was that narrower lanes would discourage double parking. It does not.
Now when cars double park, traffic must merge into a single lane causing severe delays. The DOT claimed the changes were in response to the communities’ request and included one positive feature: extending the length of the westbound left turn lanes onto Shore Boulevard. This was accomplished by banning the lightly-used left turn from Emmons Avenue eastbound to East 15th Street. However, no one asked for the extra wide median, which motorists, residents and shopkeepers all oppose. Also, banning the left turn onto East 16th Street by eliminating the left turn bay seems unnecessary, although there is no sign actually prohibiting the turn.
Delays along this portion of Emmons Avenue have always been bad during the morning rush hour, when hundreds of cars pour off the Belt Parkway trying to get to Kingborough Community College. Narrower lanes have only made the delays worse. Another trouble spot is near the Bay Academy between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. on school days, when school buses routinely double-park in the only traffic lane dedicated for westbound travel. This forces cars to illegally use one of the left turn lanes as a through lane to proceed straight onto Neptune Avenue.
Before the recent changes, you could easily spend 15 minutes on the few blocks of Emmons Avenue between Sheepshead Bay Road and East 14th Street at school dismissal time. The narrower lanes have only exacerbated the traffic problems at dismissal time. Additionally, a bicyclist in the same lane will also now cause cars to either slowly travel behind the bike or merge to get around it, further delaying traffic. Before the DOT changes, the right lanes were wide enough for both bikes and cars, and even double-parked cars. Three months after the lanes were narrowed, two trucks collided, which some blamed on the DOT changes.
The final traffic problem on this part of the roadway is the single left turn lane onto Ocean Avenue (see photo above), which is a problem only during the summer months with increased traffic on Emmons Avenue. Often it is not possible for cars to get through the signal on the first cycle because of the striping, which does not allow for a dual left turn lane onto Ocean Avenue. On hot summer days it can take two or even three cycles to make that left turn.
The dual lane installed two years ago onto Shore Boulevard improved traffic somewhat. Parenthetically, I was informed by the MTA that that change came at the suggestion of a bus dispatcher, which DOT evaluated for two years before agreeing to it. Making a similar change at Ocean Avenue would also have a positive effect on traffic flow.
Before performing this investigation, I never realized that the angle parking on this portion of Emmons Avenue is not consistent, with the angles varying between about 60 degrees at Ocean Avenue to about 45 degrees near East 23rd Street, to about 80 degrees east of Nostrand Avenue. This occurs because the width of the roadway is not consistent. Also, some of the parking space markings are so worn out or non-existent that some cars often take up more than one parking space.
This section is three blocks long and is only noteworthy because there is no parking on the south side of the mall for the third block between Brigham Street and Knapp Street. It is instead used as a left turn lane into Knapp Street.
Angle Parking Observations
Traffic moves well most times when cars are not entering or leaving the parking spaces. However, all it takes is for one car to want to park and all traffic on the south side of the street must come to a halt for 30 seconds to a minute while the car enters the parking space. Drivers not used to this type of backing in angle parking can delay traffic for up to two minutes as they try several times to get their car exactly in the parking space so they can open the doors on both sides. Delays are particularly bad in the summer, especially on weekends when a high number of visitors come to the area.
It appears that having parallel parking along both sides of the street instead of angle parking would reduce the delays caused by cars parking since traffic would no longer have to come to a complete stop in order for cars to park. The problem, however, would be a loss in parking spaces, which are already in short supply. I decided to analyze exactly how many spaces would be lost if all angle parking were replaced with parallel parking.
Results Of Observations
Since the angle of the parking varies from block to block, the numbers of spaces lost on each block also varies considerably. Also, on the south side of the street, there are fire hydrants, driveways, express bus stops and utility boxes for the piers, which need to be accessed and limit the numbers of spaces that can be created there. Most of the parking spaces that would be lost by the elimination of angle parking occurs east of Nostrand Avenue where 25 spaces would be lost. Twelve spaces would be lost between Bedford Avenue and Nostrand Avenue. However, between Ocean Avenue and Bedford Avenue, two spaces would be gained if angle parking were replaced with parallel parking.
Block-by-Block Differences If Angle Parking Were Replaced With Parallel Parking
If angle parking were entirely eliminated and replaced with parallel parking along the malls and on the south side of Emmons Avenue, parking would be reduced from 480 spaces to 445, a loss of 35 spaces. Clearly, this would be unacceptable to the community. However, if angle parking was eliminated only between Ocean Avenue and Bedford Avenue, two spaces would be gained, and if eliminated between Batchelder Street and Coyle Street, only one space would be lost. Also, if DOT closed the mall at East 22nd Street, where the street has been eliminated, four additional spaces could be created.
- Restore previous lane widths between Shore Boulevard and Sheepshead Bay Road
- Restore left turn bay at East 16th Street
- Keep through lane in front of Bay Academy free from double-parked school buses, by having buses wait instead on the side streets
- Convert single left turn lane at Ocean Avenue into a dual left turn lane to reduce congestion during the summer months
- Replace angle parking on Emmons Avenue between Ocean Avenue and Bedford Avenue with parallel parking along the mall and on the south side of Emmons Avenue
- Optional: Eliminate mall at East 22nd Street, creating four additional parking spaces
- Optional: Replace angle parking on Emmons Avenue between Batchelder Street and Coyle Street, with parallel parking along the mall and on the south side of Emmons Avenue eliminating one parking space
Implementation of all above recommendations would result in reducing angle-parking blocks from 15 blocks to eight blocks and would result in an increase of three parking spaces, thus reducing congestion and aiding traffic flow.
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).
Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.