Rail planning and the Manhattan Bridge

All four tracks on the Manhattan Bridge return to service this weekend, after nearly 20 years of bridge renovations, carrying an array of new subway routes and schedules.

As Michael Luo writes in the Times, deciding on those routes presented the MTA with a challenge, and some intriguing patterns have emerged that point to the many changes in the city since 1986, when renovations began on the Manhattan Bridge.

Subway planners looked at MetroCard data to determine ridership numbers and origin and destination patterns; they also consulted demographic data and computer models. Luo writes:

Among the broad trends they tried to incorporate in their plan: once problem-plagued areas like Union Square and Times Square have become weekend destinations needing more service; an artist enclave known as SoHo turned into a retail hub; growth in Midtown far outpaces that of Lower Manhattan; growth in scattered neighborhoods like Astoria, Prospect Park and Bay Ridge has altered subway demands.

Planners admit, however, the new routes are the result of art as much as science, and they’ll be looking to new ridership patterns to gauge whether they’ve succeeded.


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