If you’ve recently found yourself in a car in New York – if you’ve had the experience of traveling along Flatbush Avenue on a Friday afternoon – you’ve probably spent some time making up some angry new four-letter words. .
Traffic that was manically horrible before the pandemic (before it momentarily disappeared at the start of the lockdown phase) has reliably turned horrible. You can’t imagine that. There are more cars on the road than ever before and fewer people use public transport.
Between September 2020 and last August, more than 122,000 cars were newly registered in the city, an increase of 26% from the previous year. At the end of September, metro ridership was down by almost half compared to the equivalent period before Covid. The busier streets brought greater danger. As my colleague Winnie Hu reported, road fatalities reached their highest level in almost a decade.
Although the New York state legislature approved a congestion pricing plan for the city two years ago – a plan that would impose a toll on drivers entering Manhattan between 60th Street and Battery – the process review is slated to last until 2023. In an effort to determine what else could be done – and hopefully sooner – I asked experts and regular New Yorkers who spend a lot time on the road what might be the best solutions.
Here are their responses (which have been edited):
Sam Schwartz, engineer, consultant, former traffic commissioner of New York City, creator of the term “gridlock”“
One thing we can do is dispel the idea that public transit is dangerous. Studies have shown us that it is not a vector of Covid. Beyond that, something that has been tried since 1980 is the occupation restriction. Basically, cars should have two or more occupants to enter the central business district. This was done during the 1980 transit strike and after 9/11, for more than two years at crossings in Lower Manhattan. Then it was done after Super Storm Sandy. It is something that could be done very quickly.
You can also automate the control of illegal parking. You could have cars that get a summons immediately if they are parked illegally – the technology is there. It could be camera technology; it could be EZ Pass technology. Camera technology for illegal parking is actually used by some buses when cars are blocking bus lanes.
Another problem is that the police don’t like to enforce parking. When you tell the cops to enforce traffic, they just give you more tickets. They don’t understand the science of traffic. Instead of having a target for the number of cars towed, let’s look at the percentage of cleared lanes. Civilize law enforcement and you’d have someone who recognizes what’s important instead of just handing over a load of tickets.
I would also increase the ability to walk or cycle to Manhattan from Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey. I have proposed bicycle and pedestrian bridges to the city – it is happening all over the world. Imagine if people could walk to Manhattan from the Queensbridge Houses, the largest social housing complex in the country. Imagine if you could Citi Bike from New Jersey. One hundred years ago, we were the leader in transport bridges, now we are not even the followers.
Betsy Plum, lawyer, executive director Alliance of Horsemen
We certainly don’t have a city that everyone can drive. We have a city that was built around public transit. Buses go to all the places that pump blood in this city.
Bus drivers have transported us through this pandemic. Fifty percent of bus users are immigrants; 75 percent are New Yorkers of color and about 35 percent are essential workers. We have 6,000 miles of highways in New York and just over 100 miles of bus lanes. So you can see the low priority given to buses.
But there is hope in sight. Let’s think about how we can make the most of the Street Master Plan – a fairly important street improvement project that was put in place by the sitting mayor.
Bus lines still follow old tram tracks that have not been reviewed for decades. The cost of setting up a dedicated bus lane is basically the cost of industrial red paint. But there is so much pressure from drivers who are richer and better equipped. There has to be a lot more bravery on our streets – and this is when we are getting there. If you look at who’s parked in the bus lanes, most of the time it’s NYPD vehicles.
Val George, taxi driver since 1992
I think congestion pricing is a step in the right direction, but it needs to start from 96th Street to the tip of the island – not 60th Street. This is what the plan was originally; maybe the Upper East Side and Upper West bourgeoisie have raised their voices.
There is a HOV lane on the Queensboro Bridge in the morning. It’s a great idea, but guess what? It is not imposed. I would say 50% of people who drive in the HOV lane drive alone. There should be a HOV lane in each direction on every bridge leading to Manhattan. It’s not Texas. We are in a tight space.
I would also say that in Brooklyn and Queens there are a lot of black cars for hire from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The drivers do not follow the rules. Every time I see one of these cars, I stop, because the pilots are like suicide bombers. It is anarchy. How is it not regulated?
Raj Mehta, businessman, commuter, car owner
I drive to Pennsylvania for work a few times a week. When I’m in town, I take the metro. What I see is that bicycles and motorcycles are just not regulated. With electric bikes, you will see them go the wrong way; you will see motorcyclists pass at the traffic lights. This slows down what is already a slow process.
While the number of registered cars has increased, the number of out-of-state cars appears to have increased as well. You’ll see these cars all over Brooklyn – I’ve seen plates from New Jersey and Pennsylvania and as far away as Idaho. There’s no way these people are coming just because I see the cars being moved from one side of the street to the other.
In residential areas, such cars should not be allowed to park on the street. I park my car in a garage, but we could have a system similar to that in some suburbs and cities. It would be nice to have stickers on parked cars that basically say, “I live in Cobble Hill. I live in Brooklyn Heights. I can park in this neighborhood.
Congestion pricing will affect Manhattan, but downtown Brooklyn is a mess and a lot of Queens is a mess. You don’t want to make driving so expensive that it’s a tax on the poor, but there has to be some kind of middle ground where driving is discouraged.
Charles Komanoff, former president Transportation alternatives
Flood the city’s transit deserts with subsidized e-bike sharing schemes. This will allow hundreds of thousands of low-income residents to efficiently access subway and commuter train lines, connecting them to jobs, schools, and medical care more efficiently and affordably than twisty local buses or railways. private or self-propelled vehicles. Why electric assistance? Thus, residents can cover distances, usually several kilometers, quickly.
This will require the reallocation of some traffic lanes and free street-side parking to protected cycle paths and bike-sharing docks. Do not submit this to the vetoes of the community board; go ahead and do it. The health and access benefits will far outweigh any drawbacks, especially as some car owners find e-bikes make their vehicle superfluous.