Design Competition Seeks to Solve Urban Planning Crisis in NYC
Increasing dependence on urban transportation led to the L Train Shutdown Charrette team event, which aimed to find creative alternatives to a subway system.(Image courtesy of the Van Alen Institute.)
With over 1.7 billion rides per year––that’s 5.7 million per day––New York City’s subway system is one of the most active subway systems in the world. Needless to say, any hiccup in the system can have a devastating domino effect across millions of users in just a short period of time.
For this reason, the upcoming closure of the crosstown “L Train,” one of the busiest and most crowded routes in the system, to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy is going to be a devastating blow for millions.
As a part of its Disruption? festival in New York City this past week, the Van Alen Institute, a nonprofit urban design initiative, asked interdisciplinary teams to find solutions for this massive urban planning and transportation hurdle during the one-day L Train Shutdown Charrette. In staying true to the “disruptive” nature of the festival, the teams were tasked with developing systemic design solutions for the millions of New Yorkers during this extended period of reduced or eliminated subway service.
Naturally, the use of building information modeling came in handy for a number of entries to better visualize what a transformed New York City landscape would look like with their solutions.
Finalist: The Light Transporter—Light at the End of the Tunnel.(Image courtesy of the Van Alen Institute.)
Among other brilliant ideas that advanced to the finals include a 2,400-foot floating translucent transporter tunnel. This tunnel uses technology developed by NASA to transport pedestrians between Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River and includes digitally enhanced environments as they make their journey across the river.
Another idea included the use of a mobile app called Infraflex, which connects existing and proposed modes of transportation with real-time data collection to help displaced L Train route riders to make smarter transportation choices. App users would be rewarded points that could be redeemed at institutions across the city and even used to help introduce new neighborhood facilities, all of which would help the government offset excessive transportation costs.
The winner: Transient Transit—Revitalizing Industrial Infrastructure. (Image courtesy of the Van Alen Institute.)
The winning proposal, however, employed an existing—but underutilized—New York City industrial infrastructure to create a water-based shuttle/train service via an industrial freight track normally used by the Long Island Railroad. In addition to the new shuttle system, the plan introduced opportunities for economic development and job training programs for residents of the affected areas.
Although there’s no saying if the city will consider any of the plans, it’s unrestricted exercises like these that just might shape the cities of our future.
To see the rest of the entries, head over to the Van Alen Institute’s website.
Simon Martin is a writer and industrial designer in New York City.