Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We're Number One! We're Number One! We're Number One!

Anyone who's driven in NYC at any time, day or night, weekend or weekday, could tell you this:
NAVTEQ— the digital map, traffic and location data company— released a study today via its Traffic.com site and service naming New York City and its freeways as the most congested and traffic-delayed in North America.
It's ironic in a city where the mass transit system is unparalleled in terms of its ability to carry passengers, the fact that it runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and its access to parts of the city woefully underserved by major roads, and a city that is one of the up-and-coming bicycle cities in the world, that traffic would be so bad.
And yet, it is. To the point where I, who have driven these streets since Jimmy Carter was President, avoid getting in a car at all costs. And I know the back routes and secret expressways to get around!
It can't be that subway and bus service is so bad. Most trains are clean and maintained, and most buses, while they can run slowly because of traffic, are pretty regular and certainly well-kept and run smoothly.
And it can't be that it's cheaper to drive. Tolls at our major bridges range from $5.50 (soon to rocket upward) to over $10 (with a free return trip).
New York City is a friendly city for walkers. Blocks are short and great attention is paid to where stop lights need to replace stop signs.
Most of the time. Indeed, the city Department of Transportation is continually assessing pedestrian policies and advances to try to make walking in NYC even better, even faster.
Personally, I really think two things need to be done. First, a parking permit needs to be issued to city residents that gives them priority rights to park on select streets. Too many neighborhoods suffer from a commuter outside the city who drives as close as he or she can to Manhattan, park the car and then hop on a subway.
Yes, this is an improvement over driving up to their offices, but it still creates an enormous burden on our roads and on our local streets.
Second, I'd like to see Michael Bloomberg's idea of congestion pricing invoked, but taken one step further to encompass the entire five boroughs of New York City. Downtown and midtown Manhattan are a nightmare, but so are parts of Queens and Brooklyn and forget Staten Island during rush hour. We could cut an exemption for residents of any borough to remain within that borough without incurring a fee, of course, or perhaps make it so that crossing a river triggers the fee, but I digress.
It's insane the traffic we get around here, and it's becoming a crisis.