Posts tagged with "Jim Venturi":

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Coming to the Cooper Union: How NYC could revolutionize its transportation network

New York–based ReThink Studio is on a mission to transform how the Big Apple's transportation system works, from the L Train shutdown to a new Penn Station and a vastly improved subway and regional train network. Urbanists, architects, and transportation aficionados (you know who you are) alike won't want to miss ReThink Studio Principal Jim Venturi in conversation with Sam Schwartz, president, CEO + founder of his eponymous engineering and planning firm, and Dr. Vukan R. Vuchic, professor emeritus of UPenn's Dept. of Electrical Systems and Engineering - Transportation. The discussion—free and open to the public—will focus on ReThink Studio's 2050 plan for New York City and will be held at The Great Hall at The Cooper Union, May 9, 6:30 to 8:30pm. Stay tuned for more details on speakers and programming, as well an opportunity to RSVP through Eventbrite. For more on ReThink Studio, see their website here.
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Penn Station proposals fail to recognize unique opportunity to improve regional transit

The redesign of Penn Station offers not just a chance to raise the building’s roof, but is also a unique opportunity to unify the region’s disparate rail networks in a way that has not been possible in over a century. Unfortunately, the recent proposal by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Partnership for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) don’t think broadly enough about the underlying transportation problems afflicting the station and, worse yet, they solidify its already dysfunctional setup.

Most of Penn’s issues are founded in its overloaded capacity. When the station opened in 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad was one of eight railroads providing service into New York City. While other railroads terminated at waterfront stations, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the first railroad to cross the Hudson and East Rivers. Its Midtown Manhattan station provided through service for long-distance trains and terminal service for commuter rail from New Jersey and Long Island.

This is how the station still operates today, with one crucial difference: Over the past century, all the waterfront terminals except Hoboken have been closed, and the trains that served them have been largely rerouted into Penn. The resulting congestion has been exacerbated since the 1990s by a shift in preference toward Midtown’s office district and New Jersey Transit’s decision to reroute as many lines as possible into Penn.

Today, Penn Station serves 650,000 commuters each day. That is more than twice as many at its peak in the 1940s, and three times what its initial design accommodated. Furthermore, both New Jersey Transit and Metro-North would like to bring even more trains into Penn—both from existing and proposed routes. Expanded service into Penn Station will not be possible without significantly increasing its capacity—a need that Governor Cuomo and PAU’s proposals ignore in lieu of retail space and glass ceilings.

Understanding Penn’s capacity limitations (and how to solve them) is critical to a good design. They exist in three forms: passenger crowding, train traffic, and systematic connectivity issues to the rest of the region. On a passenger level, overcrowding is mitigated through staged boarding, or letting passengers onto the tracks only after trains arrive and unload. This produces chaotic lines and rushed transfers, especially in the area of the station that NJ Transit uses. Images of Governor Cuomo and PAU’s proposals suggest that the platform width and vertical access would both remain unchanged in the new Penn Station. Preserving existing stairs to the platform level, as PAU proposes, is not enough; Penn needs more vertical access. Rather than working to preserve inadequate stairwells to the platform level, we should be fighting for more stairs and escalators.

On a track level, the station is also hopelessly congested. Incoming trains often have to wait in tunnels for ten minutes or more as other trains exit the station. This is because the station is operated primarily as a terminal rather than a through station. Trains must cross each other as they enter and leave the station. Through-running avoids this problem by scheduling eastbound traffic on southern tracks and westbound traffic on northern tracks. Each train could enter the station, unload and load passengers, and continue on without ever crossing oncoming traffic.

Penn’s present configuration makes through-running impossible because only two tracks connect to Penn from New Jersey, while four tracks connect to the station from Queens. Amtrak’s current Gateway proposal would remedy this by building two additional tracks between Penn and New Jersey.

Unfortunately, none of the schemes put forward thus far recognize this unprecedented opportunity to expand the station’s capacity.

PAU’s analysis of Penn’s lack of connectivity at the neighborhood scale only tells half of the story. As a transit hub, the most important function of Penn Station is not on foot at street level, but underground at a track level. Furthermore, as one of the two regional rail hubs in New York, a redesign of Penn Station offers a uniquely valuable position to solve numerous problems at just as many scales. The schemes put forward thus far fail to look beyond the neighboring blocks of Midtown Manhattan.

Our ReThinkNYC proposal does. By understanding the regional importance of Penn Station, we are able to use infrastructural opportunities to not just solve present day problems within the station, but to improve connectivity on a regional scale.

We would reduce passenger crowding by extending all platforms to pass below neighboring Moynihan Station, currently the Farley Post Office. Some platforms already extend under Moynihan and other platforms should be extended as well. This would increase stair and escalator access to platforms for every carrier. We would widen the platforms, reducing the current 21 tracks to 12. This potentially counterintuitive move has significant benefits: Wider platforms allow passengers to board safely and quickly at track level, much like New York’s subway service, and this would decrease the amount of time each train would need to sit at its platform. By staging this work, it would be possible to extend and widen the platforms without interrupting service. We would use the new Gateway tunnels to implement through-running at Penn, allowing trains to enter and leave the station efficiently, without crossing each other’s paths. By permitting carriers to bring more trains through the station, Penn will be able to serve a growing New York City for years to come.

Not only will these track-level changes increase passenger and train capacity, but by bringing more trains through the station, we can dramatically improve the city’s connectivity as a whole. This includes NJ Transit trains that currently only go to Hoboken, LIRR lines that need more service but have no track space at Penn, and some Metro-North cars, that would be diverted from Grand Central. Furthermore, bringing Metro-North into Penn would have the added benefit of unifying the region’s three commuter rail lines into one station.

Redesigning Penn Station is about understanding its role within the New York region as a whole. The Gateway tunnels and Moynihan Station present a once-in-a-century opportunity to make Penn a transportation hub that both serves and stimulates the entire New York region. Proposals for vaulted ceilings and inspiring spaces would certainly make the station more beautiful, but are incomplete gestures if they fail to also address the more serious issues on a track and capacity level. In Penn Station, we have a rare opportunity to create a world-class station with the capacity and connectivity that New York needs. To give the city anything less would be a detriment not just to the station, but the region as a whole.

For more on ReThinkNYC, visit their website.

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Jim Venturi and ReThinkNYC want to revolutionize how NYC handles train infrastructure

Jim Venturi has a habit of being a rogue planner with his team at ReThinkNYC. Last year, he suggested using Riker's Island to expand La Guardia airport and now he is taking on New York and New Jersey's suburban rail network. His plan counters the current federal Gateway Project which proposes a high-speed rail link into Manhattan and the creation of a new terminus at Penn Station. Due to open in 2024, the plan aims to alleviate bottlenecking by adding 25 new train slots for use at peak times by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit (NJT) along the North East Corridor (NEC) between Newark and New York City. Currently, those tracks are at full capacity. https://vimeo.com/161951825 If realized, the project would see the demolition of  Napoleon Le Brun's St. John the Baptist Church which dates back to 1871, a historic piece of French-Gothic architecture that is a well established part of Manhattan's urban fabric. Of greater importance for Venturi, however, lies with the continual use of Penn station as a terminus and not a through station. From an infrastructure perspective, capacity problems arise with terminuses: trains have to enter and leave, creating more traffic, while passengers often have to alight to catch their connections, which leads to overcrowding. This happens to the extent that trains often wait up to ten minutes before entering the station and passengers queue at platform escalators, something that train schedules have since incorporated as status quo. Penn Station is already the busiest station in the country. It's platforms, in comparison to other regional stations, are very narrow. Since the addition of escalators and the advent of other modern day needs, available space has further decreased. To counter this, ReThinkNYC has devised a system whereby tracks are surrounded on either side by platforms. In this scenario, people can alight on one side and embark on the other, thus potentially improving circulation with people no longer getting in each others way.   ReThinkNYC also proposes that Penn Station becomes a through-station. This is nothing new. Indeed, the station is already a through-station for Amtrak services though is not for the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and NJT. Speaking to AN, Venturi spoke of how terminuses are all too commonplace in a region which currently holds three, run by four operators—MetroNorth, NJT, LIRR, and Amtrak. Efficiency and connectivity are the crux of ReThinkNYC's plan, with services being more accessible for passengers. "We need to think bigger," Venturi says. The current proposed plan, Venturi explained, is a "quick fix" bereft of longterm foresight and the result of of a system that is seldom fed any infrastructural ideas. He said this situation stems from a growing disparity between revenue and power centers between Washington D.C. and New York. "Our plan is very boring" he adds, going on to say that in "any other country, our idea is completely normal." And he's not wrong. Across Europe, through-stations in cities have become commonplace, with Berlin's Hauptbahnhof leading by example, running tracks through the station on three levels in different directions. "As far as I can tell we're the only city in the developed world that is building new terminals," as opposed to through-stations, he said. Paris and London are two notable beneficiaries of modern day through-service plans, and even closer to home, Philadelphia has done the same. If the Gateway project were to be a through-station, Venturi explained, Amtrak services could continue up to Queens and the Bronx. A "trunk" line where all four operators overlap running through Penn Station would be established between Secaucus Junction (NJ) and Sunnyside in Queens. At either side of these stations, services would then diverge; most on the Queens side would go to Port Morris in the Bronx where a new rail yard would be located. This would then prevent Amtrak from reaching capacity at the Sunnyside rail yard and allow NJT services to run through Penn Station. This system, which is very much like the Paris, London and Philadelphia examples above, would allow sidings (i.e. freight stored in a train yard) to sit on the periphery while allowing the "core" to be a place where passengers can transfer onto the subway system and other suburban rail services For this to happen, though, NJT would have to move their terminus eastward to Port Morris while LIRR would have to follow suit in the opposite direction to Secaucus. https://vimeo.com/163764271 While Venturi's scheme calls for the construction of three tunnels and a new viaduct (see video above) to essentially connect the Hudson and Harlem lines and the NEC, the plan also utilizes much unused infrastructure. Track beds that were never filled would be electrified and the Hell Gate bridge, which was originally built to hold four tracks would finally be used as such. For ReThinkNYC's plan to be realized, Venturi has broken it up into five phases as can be seen below. Electrification however, is another issue. Metro North and LIRR use two variations of the "3rd rail" electric connections to power their trains (one is a high contact platform, the other is low). To make things more complicated, 3 different catenary (overhead electrification) standards are used, so in the cases of lines that use overhead contact, 3 variations of voltage/Frequency output (Voltz/Hertz) are also used. This, of course, can all be changed, accommodating all these systems takes up valuable space in carriages and is generally seen as impractical. In comparison to Europe, two forms of electrification dominate the rail networks. Known as Electric multiple units (EMU's), trains make use of a 3rd rail/overhead hybrid contact system which has become commonplace, thus allowing freight and passenger rail services to cross borders without hassle. In the US, however, a lack of standardization appears to be halting progress in this respect. https://vimeo.com/161960566 Though a major overhaul, the practice of setting such standards in the UK was achieved after WWII when the railways were nationalized and the 25 kV 50 Hz overhead system was installed and the 3rd rail system developed in the South East with the exception of the Eurostar service. In light of all this, there is still room for improvement. Venturi explains how a connection between Trenton and New Haven could be easily realized. "It seems obvious," he says. "Just draw a straight line between Trenton and New Haven." In this case, similar types of rolling stock could be used due to the way these lines are electrified. Despite the ominous outlook of the East coast's rail network in comparison to the rest of the developed world, Venturi is adamant that a "rail revival" is happening, or at least underway.
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Can the latest plan to salvage LaGuardia take flight? New York Governor Cuomo unveils ambitious $4 billion airport redesign scheme

For New Yorkers and visitors alike, LaGuardia Airport is a confusing maze of disconnected terminals. Beset with delays, chaotic transfers, poorly designed wayfinding, and congestion for both passengers and planes, the airport was recently, not undeservingly, characterized by Vice President Biden as feeling like a “third-world country.” Now the facility is slated to get a much-needed, and long overdue redesign. Governor Cuomo presented a far-reaching plan to overhaul the tired facility, which would cost roughly $4 billion, and be completed over a 5-year period. Once the Board of Directors of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey green light the plans, construction will commence, with the goal of opening the first half of the project to passengers by early 2019, and then finishing up the second half 1.5 years later. The proposal was guided by the Governor’s Advisory Panel with recommendations from Dattner Architects, PRESENT Architecture, and SHoP Architects. It would bulldoze the airport's Terminal B building and essentially replace an existing series of small terminals with a single unified structure situated closer to Grand Central Parkway. According to the Governor’s website, the redesign would include new terminal space, a new arrival and departures hall, and a connection to Delta’s Terminals C and D. In addition, the Governor detailed plans to add transit with a new AirTrain and ferry service, as well as address potential flooding by elevating infrastructure. “New York had an aggressive, can-do approach to big infrastructure in the past—and today, we’re moving forward with that attitude once again,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a globally-renowned, 21st century airport that is worthy of the city and state of New York.” Few can argue that LaGuardia, the smallest of New York’s three airports, needs to be re-imagined, but the question is whether this proposal is a band aid solution to a much more complicated problem that requires a greater comprehensive strategy. “The Governor's intentions are good, but the proposal is disappointing because it does not attempt to deal with the main problems plaguing LGA. Its runways are too short, which causes safety issues, delays, and limitations on destinations. It's in a flood zone and its level needs to be raised to deal with future storms. Furthermore, the proposed rail connection is terribly convoluted,” explained Jim Venturi, the principal designer of ReThinkNYC. “With people finally speaking seriously about closing Riker's Island, and with the airport's proximity to the Northeast Corridor, it is disappointing that the Governor did not take the advice of Vice President Biden and choose a more ‘holistic’ approach to solving the region's transposition problems. There are many opportunities that this plan does not take advantage of and we would urge them to rethink their approach.” Venturi recently detailed his own proposal for doing just that in a recent edition of The Architect's Newspaper. LaGuardia isn’t the only airport in line to be revamped. The governor stated that he will soon issue an RFP for a redesign of JFK International Airport. In the meantime, the iconic Eero Saarinen–designed TWA Flight Center will be transformed into a LEED certified hotel, consisting of 505 guestrooms, 40,000 square feet of conference, event and meeting space, and an observation deck. This will be JFK's first airport hotel.
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LIEBing for New Shores

The Lieb House, Robert Venturi’s second commission and once in danger of demolition, will soon be en route to its new location, but by sea, not by land. After a bit of resistance from Glen Cove town council, the house has been cleared to travel by barge to its new site in the Long Island town. The architect Frederic Schwartz and Jim Venturi, Robert’s son, led the fight to save the storied home. The beach house, completed in 1967 in Barnegat Light, New Jersey, was to be razed and replaced by its new owner. Schwartz and the Venturis negotiated a 10-day grace period to allow them to find a new location for the house before it was to be destroyed. They found a fitting new site for it alongside another Venturi-designed home on the Glen Cove property of Debbie Sarnoff and Robert Gotkin. The two-story, 2,000-square-foot Lieb House will now act as a guesthouse to the main residence. Featuring a large, segmented circular window and curiously large number “9” signage, the Lieb House became an immediate postmodern success. The not quite box-shaped home set the foundation for the then-burgeoning Venturi style. (Video courtesy The Press of Atlantic City). The Storefront for Art and Architecture is hosting a weeklong exhibition, including a pier party to watch it sail by, celebrating the house and its unusual move. Opening on March 11, the exhibition will feature a map highlighting the house’s current location, final destination, and the route it will take between the two. Original drawings and photographs of the house will also be on display. The following day, March 12, Storefront will present a conversation about the house and its fate with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. The couple had deplored the house’s once seemingly inescapable demise:

We think it is architecturally tragic: it is a very significant house. We enjoyed making it a Modernist box with views toward the sea via windows and a roof terrace, and with a big sign: "9". We loved that by accident the round window works as a halo to the neighbor's religious statue, and we loved working with wonderful, understanding clients.

Early on the morning after the discussion, the public is invited to Pier 17 between 7 am and 9 am, to watch the house cruise down the river toward its future habitat. Thirteen cameras, including a heli-cam, will be filming the move as part of a documentary on the house being produced by Jim Venturi.