Closed Proposal

NYC Congestion


From October 21, 2015 to January 8, 2016, people affected by congestion in the NYC area could use this site to learn about and discuss the causes and possible solutions. The public discussion is being compiled and will be submitted to local and state officials and transportation advisory groups.

Congestion is hardly a new problem, but there’s been some new activity around finding answers. The Mayor and Uber reached a temporary truce that involves a study of the impact of Uber and other for-hire vehicles and advice from a new Technology Advisory Group of transportation policy, economics and other experts. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer held a large public hearing, where transit officials, commercial transportation providers, mass transit advocates, traffic engineers, and economists offered data and debated what the City and State should do. Council Member and City Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, speaking at NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy, released a set of proposals for making transportation safer and more efficient.

With all this attention on what the experts think, it's time to bring the people into the discussion. Share your experiences and on-the-ground knowledge. Help evaluate the various proposed solutions and add your own ideas--so that policymakers are also hearing the voice of the people who know first-hand about NYC congestion.

Discussion 3. Congestion Contributors: Trucks, buses & everything else? - 53

Select other topics


1|Trucks and Delivery/Service Vans - 7

Truck traffic illustrates the good, and the bad, of congestion. When the economy is improving (and gas is cheaper), the number of deliveries and service calls goes up. But, truck traffic on streets not designed for large vehicles or heavy volume causes accidents and increases gridlock and general congestion.

There are really two different kinds of problems:

Trucks in places they shouldn't be. The current toll system--where some routes into Manhattan charge tolls and others are free--creates bad incentives. For example, trucks going from Long Island to New Jersey should go across the Verrazano Bridge and the Staten Island Expressway, both designed for heavier traffic. But a truck can save up to $80 in tolls by using the Manhattan Bridge and Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn streets, which are older and not designed for this kind of traffic. The larger the truck, the more the toll savings--and the worse the impact on neighborhood congestion, safety, and air quality. To read about and discuss one idea for dealing with this problem, go to Topic 4.1 - The "toll swap".

Trucks in places they need to go. Congestion and other problems from commercial vehicles that need to make pickups, deliveries, or service calls in the CBA and surrounding neighborhoods is trickier. Some people argue that NYC should require "off-hour deliveries" (OHD). In fact, NYC was the first to actually study how OHD would work. A 2010 pilot project, with 8 delivery companies and 25 business customers, found that makings deliveries between 7 PM and 6 AM significantly improved travel time, shortened delivery stops, and saved parking tickets and fines. Drivers really liked it, and customers benefited from having deliveries reliably there on time. (See report, PDF, p. 62-62)

So why not make this the law for everyone? Researchers from RPI who worked on the pilot concluded that OHD is a great idea in the right circumstances. The change obviously increases costs if businesses that ship and accept deliveries have to hire people to cover the new hours ("staffed deliveries"). In fact, after the pilot was over, all the staffed delivery customers went back to daytime deliveries because the pilot subsidies stopped. Also, area residents may be affected by nighttime noise. Other studies have found that banning large-truck daytime deliveries not only raises costs but also creates new problems, like companies dividing daytime deliveries among more smaller trucks (See studies cited p.41). And the Federal Highway Administration worries about where large trucks will park while waiting to get into the delivery area. The RPI researchers advised NYC to aim for OHD in 14-21% of staffed deliveries and 40% of unassisted deliveries. (At the time of the pilot, NYC had only 4-5% total OHDs). NYC-DOT continues to recruit carriers and customers to switch to OHD.

Related topic: Topic 3.5 - More enforcement against trucks and vans that double park and idle.

A longer term solution might be the proposed Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel. The huge majority of NYC and Long Islands freight comes in by truck, and this is expected to increase in the future. The proposed tunnel, between Jersey City and Brooklyn, is predicted to take 700-900 trucks a day off roads in the region. The Port Authority and the Federal Highway Authority just issued the Tier 1 final environmental impact statement, which narrows the proposed alternatives (PDF) to a basic rail tunnel and an enhanced railcar float system (carrying rail cars on barges). Planning and approval still have a long way to go--and it's an open question where the money would come from (PDF). The tunnel would reduce a lot more truck traffic, but is also a lot more expensive.

Will the "toll swap" encourage trucks to use the routes designed for heavier traffic?

What do you think about the Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel as a possible long-term solution?


Commenting is now closed.

Rail freight to Brooklyn / Queens is the obvious long term solution to NYC freight congestion. We're one of the only major cities that doesn't feature rail freight infrastructure and that's why our crossings are crowded with loud, polluting 18-wheelers. We absolutely need a rail route for shipments onto Long Island, and since shipping companies stand to benefit greatly from such an addition I believe that they should be identified and approached to contribute funds to such an endevour, to help defray costs to the public.

But there is still the issue of last-mile delivery, which rail freight does not address. Besides the daily movement of freight trucks through Manhattan, there is also the constant influx of local deliveries that is essentially the life blood of many NYC industries. Some large buildings are lucky enough to have private loading docks for these deliveries, but for the vast majority of businesses there is no accomodation, leading to this forced gray area of double-parking that you see on every Manhattan street at almost all hours. There is a VERY simple solution to this!: Paint a 50-foot stretch of yellow parking lane on every block as a 'loading area'. Ban long-term parking in this zone, be clear that it is only to be used for deliveries, and that deliveries on that block can ONLY be done from that zone. Half hour time limit. Fines for double parking on streets with an available loading zone should themselves be doubled. We have no guidance in place, no infrastructure for local deliveries and that is in my opinion grossly irresponsible. This would be guidance.

Thanks for your suggestions on loading zone parking, infinitesunrise. In one area, NY-DOT has added loading zones that are in effect at particular times in the day. What do you think of this idea?

Regarding truck access in NYC, the Truck Access And Vehicle Dimension Guidelines on DOT's website says that trucks with 53' trailers are not permited on local truck routes without a special permit for trucks with nondivisible loads, but every day I see such trucks on our streets. They are often making deliveries to grocery stores which are in no way nondivisible loads. Other cities in the world do not have such deadly trucks where they shouldn't be, and our laws seem to forbid this as well. Is the DOT's website wrong, or is the law just never enforced?

Thanks for your comment, Bicyclebelle, and the research you did on truck access. Could you share the link to the DOT site? I wonder if others could comment on whether they’ve seen the same enforcement problem that Bicyclebelle has observed?

See 'Truck Access And Vehicle Dimension Guidelines' pdf here:

And look for trucks with 53' painted on the trailer.

Rail would be ideal long term solution.

OHD would also be ideal. Staff would have to be increased but, I believe that time saved by not being part of traffic would benefit the greater good.

Charging trucks higher tolls just increases the cost of food and any product trucked to NYC. The truckers work on slim margin and are not eating those costs. I suggest you Synchronize the traffic lights city wide with strong imput from traffic engineers to create good traffic flow. Randomly Inhibiting traffic flow does not help the situation.This is the Bloomberg doctrine. Hurt drives ability to move and some how thats a good thing. You want product and people who drive; to flow and not sit and double the amount of time on the road which triples pollution. You could have traffic lights operate the old way and stay green for miles say from 4:30 am to 6am. Truckers would take advantage of this and get on and off the road earlier. So would some drivers. The outer bourghs need more access to good traffic flow than Manhattan due to existing infrastructure. Also main secondary streets need better flow for small business to conduct business...

2|Bicycles; Pedestrians - 23

Pretty much everything about fixing NYC congestion is controversial, but one especially tough debate is how much street space to dedicate to pedestrians and cyclists.

NYC-DOT has been focused on providing safe options for those who walk and bike: more pedestrian plazas, slow zones and other improvements, bike lanes, and Citi-Bike stations. Bicycle commuting in the City doubled between 2007 and 2011, and the goal is to triple it by 2017. (NYC-DOT has a lot of bike data, including counts at different commuting points and summer vs. winter numbers.) In the last 3 years, 200 bike-lane miles have been built in all 5 boroughs, nearly doubling the citywide on-street bike network. As for pedestrians, the 2012 Census data showed almost 380,000 commuters (10.3%) walking to work. Moreover, the large, and growing, senior population in Manhattan pose special pedestrian safety issues (PDF).

For several years, some people have questioned whether the benefits of dedicated bike and pedestrian spaces are worth the costs; recently, one expert argued that replacing vehicle lanes with these alternatives has more impact on NYC congestion than factors like Uber (See Topic 2 - e-hail and FHVs.) On the other side, alternative transportation advocates say that safe alternatives for walking and biking should be given even more priority. According to NYC-DOT, 10% of auto trips are less than one-half mile, 22% are less than 1 mile and 56% are less than 3 miles - trips that a lot of people could easily do by bike. Biking and walking are ways that people get around the City without cars, and they have much less environmental impact.

The answer might be that both sides are right, depending on the circumstances. Data from NYC itself show that everyone can win with well-designed bike (PDF) and pedestrian (PDF) spaces: accidents and injuries go down; traffic speed improves, or at least doesn't get worse; businesses can benefit. For bike lanes, the key seems to be a combination of switching the location of bike and parking lanes, slightly narrowing driving lanes, and adding left-turn pockets. (See great diagrams here.) But it's crucial to pick the right streets and make smart design decisions that consider the needs of all users of the street, including businesses and buses.

In your experience, how well-located and designed are the City's bike lanes and pedestrian crossings?

Are there other streets where well-designed bike and pedestrian spaces could help all kinds of traffic move more safely and efficiently? (You can check here to see if your proposed street is already on NYC-DOT's redesign list.)

RELATED TOPIC: Topic 3.4 - Bikers and pedestrians who don't follow traffic rules.


Commenting is now closed.

Paris, London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, etc, all have devoted large areas in the city to pedestrian and biking roads, enabling safer public spaces and room for community.
New York has so many streets, why not occupy some of them for public space and green areas? Starting with the space outside public institutions such as schools, that really could benefit from such enlarged space for community and play. Dangerous street outside school at 7av/2 street, where the sidewalks are overcrowded at pick up time.

Thank you for your comment, Kaihan! It sounds like you think NYC should dedicate more space to pedestrians, especially around schools. NYC-DOT has promoted a variety of projects, such as public plazas and slow zones, to improve safety for all street users. Would expanding these options help? If not, what would you suggest?

Bike lanes do not worsen congestion, contrary to popular belief. Data from the DOT has shown that congestion can actually be reduced by street redesign that adds bike lanes because when everybody is in their designated place, traffic flows more smoothly. Plus, a well-designed bike lane that feels safe and gets you where you want to go encourages more people to try cycling, and there is safety in numbers. Fewer cyclists will run red lights or ride on the sidewalk out of fear for their own safety if our streets are designed to be safer. I know it's hard for drivers to accept proposals that may reduce on-street parking in their neighborhood, but we're facing a crisis of both congestion and safety. We need redesigned streets from which all New Yorkers can benefit, and so we're going to have to accept fewer parking places. Cars are private property being stored on public streets, and they shouldn't be allowed to have a stranglehold over redesigns from which everyone can benefit. That's simply a sacrifice that needs to be made for the sake of saving lives and moving everybody around faster.

As a bicyclist in NYC for ten years, I've been thrilled to watch the increase in bike lanes and the growth of the Citibike program. For the people I know, bike lanes & bikeshare have meant a lot more bicycling throughout NYC - I'm wondering if the body of empirical research suggests that dedicated bike lanes do indeed have this effect broadly. It certainly feels safer to be separated from traffic, though sometimes pedestrians will feel bolder stepping in to a bike-lane without the traffic light permission, but overall seems very worth it to me. Would like to see more East-West protected bike lanes (there are a few, Grand St. comes to mind, but currently mostly north-south of course on the avenues) and would like to see overall amount of bike lanes increased (right now an East-West bike path is avail. around every 15 blocks in Manhattan under midtown). I think it's increased drivers' awareness of bicyclists generally, and hence bike & overall safety. My top priority is a protected bike lane on Christie Street by the Manhattan bridge, where traffic snarls and cars idle in the lane in Chinatown near bus stops and stores for deliveries, that's a real pain point on my commute and general cyclists headed to Brooklyn.

Bike lanes in Manhattan are poorly conceived, designed and maintained. It almost as if a bunch of fat road engineers tried biking and gave up. Look at the Netherlands. The roads are optimized for bikes and surface transit not cars.

Improve separation of cyclists and walkers. The avenue bike lanes while offering some protection from high impact crashes are now dangerous for pedestrians. They are often slippery from garbage, litter and dogs feces.

Central Park needs pedestrian tunnels/bridges at high trafficked locations.

Thank you for your comment, Marc. It sounds like you believe that NYC should redesign public spaces to separate not only cyclists from cars, but also cyclists from pedestrians. What kinds of things would you like the city to do in areas where pedestrian tunnels and bridges are not feasible?

Hi, Widen, widen, WIDEN the Avenue bike lanes to accommodate 2-way travel. The added space, with adequate street markings and maybe haptic or sound cues at the cross walks should help alert walkers distracted by Fb.

A few well position tunnels will go a long way toward avoiding bike/walker mayhem. The Columbus Circle and Boathouse park loop crossings are the main death traps.

As I state in my initial comment we need to think in terms of optimizing roads for alternative forms of transportation not cars. As long as we continue to make roads car friendly in urban environments nothing will change.

I am in general agreement with the pro-bicycle, pro-bike lane comments others have made. However, for the most part they do not address the key question for purposes of this site, which is whether improving bike options reduces congestion. For example, I am a member of Citibike and use it for little trips during the day. But I am not getting out of a car, or a cab, to take those trips by bike. If I were not on the Citibike, I would be walking or in the subway (or not taking the trip at all). So my use of Citibike does nothing to reduce traffic congestion. I suspect the same is true of many others. This doesn't mean Citibike is a bad thing; to the contrary, it is a really good thing. But it seems like an amenity--something that makes life more pleasant--rather than a congestion-reduction tool.

Related: Transportation Alternatives used to have t-shirts for bikers to wear that read "One Less Car." I've never been sure that was true. "One Less Pedestrian" or "One Less Straphanger" seems more likely.

This is an empirical question. I could be completely wrong. The blurb to the left makes it sound like the jury is still out. Is there any reliable study on this?

Thank you for your comment, Merich. In response to your question about reliable studies, we found several that looked at improved travel time as a measure of decreased congestion due to the introduction of exclusive bike lanes.

NYC-DOT’s study on Protected Bicycle Lanes in NYC (pp. 10-13) states that the introduction of bicycle lanes has improved the travel time on Columbus Avenue and the 8th Avenue by an average of 14% while maintaining the steady speed levels in the Central Business District and 1st Avenue. NYC-DOT’s study on New Metrics for the 21st Century Streets (pp. 6, 10, and 11) states that there has been a 14% increase of speed in Union Square North (Manhattan); 51% improvement in north-bound travel times in Hoyt Avenue at the RFK Bridge (Queens); and a 10% increase in travel speed between 42nd and 60th Street in (Manhattan).

As for whether or not increase in bikes has any effect on the number of cars on the road; this post on Streetsblog NYC states that according to US Census Data on transit, as of 2009, commuting by bikes had doubled whereas solo driving had dropped. In other words, transit usage rose by 3 percent and driving alone to work dropped by 9 percent.

The 2013 DOT Sustainable Streets Report included Citi Bike as an important transportation option to reduce congestion. Do you think Citi Bike help reduce transit congestion by offering alternatives to pedestrians, straphangers, and cab riders?

very much agree. A huge investment in supporting commuting/task-based cycling would need to be made. More parking, more two-way lanes, more safety within those 80% of car trips that are >3 miles

Welcome to the discussion, Lauren Slowik! Thank you for your comment. Do continue to comment and contribute to the discussion!


You bring upma imteresting question regarding cycling. 'What % of cycling trips would otherwise be by car, subway, walk ?'

a guesstimate might be 10% of bike trips are substitutes for car trips. On thr UES, Citibike had 75,000 trips from 10.oct to 21.oct. r traffic counts have citibikes as 1/4 -1/3 of roadway bike traffic.

That suggests about 225,000 bikes trip on UES during 21 days. If only 10% of those removed a car, that is 1,000 cars a day removed from UES from 60th to 81st !

Now that is a big positive impact.

I bike commute everyday and bike to get around most places, so I'm exploring much of NYC by bike. I'm actually very impressed at how many dedicated bike lanes (protected or not) are getting installed right now. I've only been here about 2 years and already my own bike commute got a facelift with a protected cycle track and my ride to my gym is getting a dedicated lane on the bridge into Queens. I think the city is doing an amazing job. There is definitely more work that can be done, but for the resources available, and in the time span that this is all happening, I applaud the city.

Many European cities are a great model for bike/ped spaces. I can't remember the name of the city, but believe it was either in Germany or Belgium, where certain areas of the city had extremely low speed limits. I think this is important because regardless of the bike lanes, some people just can't handle the high speeds of vehicles (on a bike, to some people, 30mph can seem very fast). The 25mph is slow, and definitely outraged many drivers, but there is more that can be done and some european cities have accomplished this.

I'm going to say something critical and unpopular. Ready? OK: For all their recent self-horn tooting and back-patting, the NYC DOT's creation of new bike infrastructure has overall been disappointingly unenthusiastic, woefully inadequate, and frustratingly incomplete. Previous NYC DOT commissioner Sadik-Khan truly was a champion of cycling and her dedication at least set us on course in the right direction, but the reality is that today our cycling network lags embarrassingly behind many far less capable cities, and to cycle our bike lanes is to experience what it's like to be unwanted or worse, forgotten.

NYC DOT NEEDS TO THINK OF BIKE INFRASTRUCTURE FROM A HOLISTIC 'WHOLE NETWORK' POINT OF VIEW: As a cyclist and cycling advocate the constant, seemingly manufactured controversy around the small amount of space that cyclists have tentatively carved out for themselves on NYC streets irks me to no end. The discussion should not be about how much space cyclists get, or 'picking the right streets', or let alone if it's even worth it to give them anything. The discussion should be about how to achieve cycling parity: 1 to 1 coverage of roads and bike lanes across the city. I do not at all consider it radical that anything less should be seen as a noncommittal half-measure. If we really are serious about congestion, about pollution, and about public health then it should not be unreasonable to assume that if you want to cycle from any point A to any point B within the city that you can, and that the DOT will have your back with the right kind of supportive infrastructure for the entire trip - The same luxury that they give those car owners that we are trying so hard to disincentivize. Network completion is a huge issue for NYC cyclists. We should not be carefully selecting single avenues to potentially grace with a model bike lane, while the surrounding connections remain inaccessible to those concerned about their safety. NYC DOT has been focused on singular, large lanes like the Manhattan avenues, the West Side Highway and the East River crossings. But what happens before and after these stretches? You're often on your own. NYC DOT needs to be just as focused on a holistic, network-based approach to bike infrastructure as it is to their high-profile avenue redesigns, because without the entire network being connected it's, well, not a network. It's a collection of useless straws that fades away into disuse, while motorists look out their window at the grand capital bike lane and complain that the DOT has forgotten about them in favor of this lane that no one's using.

NYC DOT UNDERSTANDS QUANTITY, NOW NEEDS TO FOCUS ON QUALITY: NYC DOT loves to point to their rate of new bike lane creation, currently at 50 miles per year and 200 miles over the past 3 as the brief to the left mentions. That sounds great on it's own, until you consider that this doesn't put them on schedule to get bike infrastructure onto all 6,000+ miles of NYC streets for at least 120 more years, and that they include any and all bike considerations in their mileage counts. So sharrows - Those arrows with a bike above them that you see painted in some car lanes - and on-street painted lanes, are both included in those totals. NYC DOT does not conform to federal recommendations when painting either of these elements (The sharrows are painted on the side of the lane instead of the center, defeating part of their purpose, while on-street lanes are in the potentially lethal 'door zone', are a few feet too narrow and not buffered from motor traffic). These unprotected measures comprise the vast majority of 'new mileage' rolled out recently by the DOT, and the number of sharrows as a percentage of 'new mileage' has been rapidly and worryingly increasing over the past few years. This can perhaps be thought of as actual new milage, but it is not meaningful mileage, since unprotected infrastructure of this sort is not anywhere near as effective at getting new cyclists on the road as protected infrastructure is. A painted bike lane on a 3-lane road is not going to protect a cyclist from being hit by a motor vehicle or an improperly opened car door. Sharrows are not going to stop an inattentive motorist from running a cyclist down in the middle of the lane. These are things that mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, girlfriends, and just about anyone else who isn't a young male vehicular cyclists are worried about when they consider getting on a bike. As a result the bike culture in NYC is still primarily young and male-dominated, is high speed and is associated with sweat and sport. I could not picture my own father or mother riding a bike in New York City, they would die if they didn't simply quit due to the confusion, exhaustion and worry. And that's not OK. NYC DOT needs to re-double their pace on bike lane expansion and get aggressive about real street re-designs that actively protect cyclists from things that cyclists should not have to worry about. Put parking between bike lanes and car lanes. Experiment with bike-only streets. Experiment with new West Side Highway-style routes engineered specifically for bikes and bikes alone! Sharrows are not the answer, and do not solve any problems.

LIFE SAVING MEASURES SHOULD NOT BE AT THE MERCY OF COMMUNITY BOARD ZEALOTRY: NYC DOT is not required to answer to anyone other than the mayor (And perhaps the state?) in their planning and operations. But is has become their tradition, as a courtesy to the communities that they serve, to present street re-design plans to the communities they would affect at community board meetings and take the comments from those meetings into strong consideration before moving forward. This is a good idea overall, as it allows them to discover concerns they may not have previously been privy to, and adjust plans to counter any unexpected blowback. In reality however, this process often halts life-saving redesigns altogether, in particular any plan that includes a bike lane. Community board transportation committees are often composed of two or three appointed (unelected) reps, sitting for life, who have weaseled themselves into their positions specifically to vehemently defend their perceived right to free on-street parking at all costs. These committee members have no power on paper, but in reality they can and repeatedly have nixed bike lane proposals completely. NYC DOT, committed to community engagement, has thus become sheepish and shy about presenting grandiose bike lane plans and in recent years has adopted a strategy of "Roll out underwhelming redesign, unofficially promise to come back and improve it later", which usually translates to doing the first half and then never doing the second due to the staling effects of time. They are afraid to be seen as a sort of ironic Robert Moses, forcing bikes on the unwilling masses. But the masses, it turns out, are clamoring for bike infrastructure and these few stubborn individuals are being allowed to decide the fate of dozens of cyclist who would be alive today had the DOT not been willing to listen to inane demands when lives are at stake. Suggestion: When infrastructure changes are are proposed specifically for safety, they should not be allowed to be compromised by the demands of a few community board members.

TL;DR:- 1:1 motor:bike lane parity city-wide!- Real infrastructure, not painted infrastructure.- Re-evaluate community board planning policies

Streets are public space and should be divided equally.

I wold like to see DOT pay close attention to the swarms of pedestrians who flood into the bike lane on 6th Ave in midtown at evening rush. (I don't pass through there during the morning rush as there are better southbound routes, so I can't speak to that.) It is as if seven or twelve sports arenas have all let out at once, and the masses bulge over the sidewalk into the unprotected lane quite easily. While some will openly walk for half a mile in the bike lane, others use it as a kind of shoulder and will suddenly pop out into it. I can illustrate how dangerous this becomes for cyclists with a story. I was once nearly hit by a black car because I had to swerve to miss a pedestrian who kept darting unexpectedly deeper into the bike lane without bothering to look for oncoming bike traffic. After pasing him once, I stopped ata a light, but he jaywalked, and got ahead of me again, and the next time he darted out proved damaging to both my body and my livelihood. Since the road was wet, opting neither to hit the pedetrian nor to be hit by the black car meant that I went down, sliding a good ten yards up a busy boulevard, scraping up my whole right side--it was summer so it was bare skin--and wrecking my laptop. This further reduced my ability to work and I could by no means afford to buy another one. The driver of the black car I was avoiding stopped, and a handful of very kind pedestrians stopped, but the one pedestrian I had twice had to avoid hitting just stepped over me into the street and went on his merry way, no doubt shaving two minutes off his walk to Grand Central and thus winning the macho commutathon for the day. I was largely unharmed--though bleeding in four places and covered in grit--but it could have been far worse had the black car driver not also taken care. That bike lane becomes all but unusable during the evening rush.

Welcome to the discussion, CZMC. Thank you for sharing your story, which sounds like it was a harrowing experience. In certain parts of the city, NYC-DOT has installed protected bicycle lanes, which appear to have reduced the incidence of cyclist and pedestrian injuries. Would adding more protected lanes help? If not, what would you recommend?

Pedestrians are limited to very little space on average in NYC. This goes against the fact that most households do not have an automobile registered, and even less people have access to an automobile.We must dedicate more space to pedestrians, especially in areas that are bursting at the seems like 5th Ave in Midtown. Many more streets should be fully pedestrianized and sidewalks extended.As for bicycles, the city needs to create a network of bicycle lanes citywide which are physically seperated from automobile traffic where possible and streets calmed to the maximum extent where not. There are massive gaps in the existing system which typically makes it impossible to have a comfortable (safe) rider throughout. This turns a lot of people off to the option, which is unfortunate since we want more people on bikes.I should add that existing physically seperated bicycle infrastructure is normally influtrated by automobiles, sending a bad message. How many times have a seen drivers parked within parking protected bicycle lanes. The NYPD is doing a terrible job in regards to traffic safety (they themselves are often responsible).

In order to clear parks off of bike lanes and sidewalks, I have had to nag the police department and and appeal to the Commissioner and Mayor's office when they police department gave excuses for not enforcing the law. I think that rather then depend on laws to be enforced, it would be best to have physical seperations that prevent illegal parking. The barriers on the Hudson River Greenway work well and having parked cars act as a divider between the bike path and the street improves the situation, though it is good as a physical barrier.

Thank you for your comment, dissisme. Your suggestion about the divider between the bike and car path using parked cars and barriers can be a design that promotes safer travel. Do you feel that parked cars acting as a barrier can be a cost effective long-term solution, considering that certain days may have fewer parked cars than others?

I live near midtown Manhattan so there are normally few empty parking spots. The main problem with cars parking on pathways that sit alongside car parking spots occurs near corners where the turning lane for cars merges with the bike lane. If they were able to create a narrow physical barrier at this point, it could improve the situation.

The bike lanes that reside right alongside the driving lane are much worse than these. There are times I will have to go around as many as eight cars parked in those bike lanes during a one block stretch.

3|Construction - 4

Construction is another "good news"/"bad news" component of congestion. More construction means the economy is stronger, new jobs are being created, and new value is being added to the tax base. It also means major hassles (or worse) for pedestrians, buses, emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles, and private autos. In the first 6 months of 2015,

Warning people it's happening. When it comes to reducing congestion impacts of construction, a lot of attention is around giving people better notice, so they can avoid the area if possible.

NYC-DOT's Weekly Traffic Advisories include construction-related lane closings--but at least three other agencies (NYS-DOT, MTA, and the Port Authority) also are responsible for construction. NYS-DOT's 511NY provides information, by region, of its construction projects. A separate page collects information about construction of all sorts in lower Manhattan.

NYC-DOT's Street Closure Map lists streets that are closed for DOT roadwork.

NYC-DOT's Active Street Construction Permits site shows public and private work that affects streets and sidewalks, searchable by street or larger area.

NYC-DOT's Weekly Resurfacing Schedule shows planned repaving and surfacing of streets and sidewalks.

Do you use these resources to plan your travel around construction-related congestion? Do you have suggestions for improving them?

Other ways to reduce impact. When it comes to repair and replacement of roads, bridges, and sidewalks, there are a lot of strategies to at least reduce the impact of government-initiated construction projects. For example, NYCDOT generally limits daytime work to emergencies; scheduled work is usually done at night. But private construction is tougher because transportation agencies don't have the same control over scheduling, phasing, and completion. In the first 6 months of 2015, NYC issued more permits for new residential construction than any year since 1963; foundation work had to begin by June 15 to qualify for a valuable property tax abatement that was about to expire. More than a quarter of these projects are in Manhattan. That's a lot of new construction--on top of a large number of large in-progress projects scheduled to be completed by 2017.

Are there strategies NYC could use to reduce the negative effects of private construction projects on those who use the sidewalks and streets? Have these strategies been tested and studied in other cities?


Commenting is now closed.

There are a lot of private construction sites that take up street space, but never seem to end. There should be an incentive to complete on time. Permits should be for a limited time with stiff surcharges if construction is delayed beyond the prospective time.

When adding construction, on-street parking should be the first to go.

Very often, I see construction obstructing the sidewalk, a new sidewalk created in the bicycle lane, bicycles and cars forced to share, and on-street parking maintained on the opposite side of the road. The on-street parking should be removed and vehicular traffic routed through its location, so the bicycle lane is preserved.

Thanks for your comment, Kaylin. Presumably, your suggestion would allow motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians to travel through construction areas more-or-less unimpeded, but private vehicle drivers who park in the construction area would have to find alternate space. Would this impose a cost on those drivers, particularly if they live or work in the area but don’t have another reliable means of getting around? You may want to head over to Topic 1, Congestion Contributors: Private Vehicles to see how private vehicles affect Manhattan congestion.

Partner with common GPS app companies to provide info on construction projects.

Overnight work should be the first choice.

4|Box-blockers, jaywalkers, double-parkers, and other scofflaws - 19

Although no one argues that lawbreaking is a major cause of NYC congestion, a lot of people think the situation--especially in the CBD--would be a lot better with more enforcement of rules governing vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians. Here are a few of the top contenders for congestion-aggravating violations:

  • Blocking the box and spillover
  • Double parking, illegal parking in loading zones
  • Pedestrians jaywalking, crossing against the light
  • Cyclists not following traffic rules
  • Bus idling

The hard question is what New Yorkers are prepared to spend to get improved compliance:

More government employees enforcing traffic and parking rules means that either something else is not being enforced, or more money is going to hiring more police and traffic agents. For example, is it better to concentrate enforcement on vehicle speeding, which has a lot more to do with saving lives than reducing congestion. Also, more vigorous enforcement of traffic offenses can make congestion worse, at least for awhile, if there's no place to pull violators out of active traffic lanes during the ticketing process.

Alternatively, NYC could try to get legislative approval to expand its traffic camera program and rely on feeds from traffic and street cameras to "automatically" catch jaywalkers. light-running cyclists, and double-parking vehicles. Camera-based enforcement is cheaper, but much more controversial.

Finally, fines could be adjusted to increase deterrence. Maybe if the minimum fine for blocking the box was raised from $110 to $1100 during rush hour, more drivers would avoid gridlock-causing behavior. But would a penalty this high be "fair"?

Even if the costs of more enforcement seem worth it, some problems simply may not respond. For example, many companies that have to make deliveries and service calls in congested areas regard parking fines as a cost of doing business. NYC-DOT has had some success with different approaches to solving the underlying problem--e.g., converting on-street parking spaces to delivery zones; and installing PARK Smart Meters, which uses the congestion pricing strategy (charging more at times and places with more demand) to increase parking space turnover and reduce double parking. Of course, these approaches also involve tradeoffs.

Do you think more enforcement of certain traffic or parking violations would make a real difference in congestion? What tradeoffs would you be willing to make to get more compliance with the rules?


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Often times, when cyclists break the rules, it's because dangerous drivers and threatening their safety and they need to do something quickly to prevent a crash. Of course, the rules of the road apply to cyclists, and everybody needs to know them and follow them. But when you look at how many people cyclists have killed in NYC over the past decade (single digits) compared to the number of people killed by car crashes (over 2000!), it is clear that enforcement should focus on drivers if our goal is saving lives. Better street design where cyclists have a protected path, away from the threat of cars, will also lessen rulebreaking. Let's think of this as triage in a hospital - we should dedicate our law enforcement resources toward what threatens the most lives.

*"are threatening their safety," sorry for typo!

Spill back used to be heavily enforced with steep fines and points. Spill back from the Lincoln tunnel traffic creates widespread gridlock throughout Hell's Kitchen. Every day the intersection of 11th Ave and 43 street is gridlocked primarily trucks, busses. My fire truck is blocked from exiting the firehouse and from getting out to the avenues daily and calls are made to Nypd traffic daily requesting an agent to clear the intersection. Our block partially is two way traffic but drivers fill both lanes with westbound traffic jam which dramatically delays our response to emergencies and fires. A similar condition occurs on 11th Ave north of 44 street where tunnel traffic often fills the N/b lanes with s/b traffic jam. Summons enforcement, and human traffic direction is really IMO the only deterrent.

Since we are talking of hazards, wrong way cyclists create a huge hazard to both pedestrian traffic and vehicles. And yellow cabs kill and injure more people in NYC than guns but nobody seems to be doing any enforcement. I was a NYC cop nearly 20 years ago and taxi enforcement and spill back were huge issues and were addressed as such. Again the answer is in personal service summonses and human traffic control. Speed and red light cameras make revenue they don't change the condition.

Thank you for sharing your experience, Jf7041. A spillover and gridlock in front of the firehouse illustrates exactly how dangerous widespread congestion can be, and the immediacy with which it requires attention. You proposed that the most effective way to tackle the issue is to increase personal service summons and human traffic control. Given the City's limited human resources, however, there is only so many people the City can afford to dedicate to this cause. Would you say the City should at least try to prioritize traffic enforcement around special utility buildings such as firehouses and hospitals?

Greater enforcement of double-parking would be a money-maker.

Based on my daily commute, I can point out blocks that consistency (>80% of the morning) have double-parked cars: the NYPD could recoup the price of hiring an extra officer through the tickets.

NYPD themselves is one of the greatest offenders when it comes to double-parking. I see a NYPD vehicle double-parked in a clearly non-emergency case at least once every 2 weeks. Unfortunately, I don't have any ideas on how to change it.

Thanks for your comment, Kaylin. Even if officers are enforcing parking violations like double parking, the offices can cause congestion by having to park their cars. This may be an area where traffic cameras could help, but cameras are controversial, given transparency concerns. What do you think?

Bicycle police could enforce parking regulations, and can easily place their bicycles on a sidewalk or in front/behind the illegally parked card. They can have electric bicycles so it doesn't get too tiring biking all day.

Here's something to consider. Ticketing cyclists who go through red lights and pedestrians who jaywalk: What would this do to improve gridlock? If you ask me, nothing. How much does jaywalking actually slow down cars that are going the speed limit? How does preventing cyclists from running red lights speed up traffic, realistically if at all? Jaywalking and Idaho stopping (The practice of treating a red light like a stop sign on a bike) don't seem like actual crimes to me, they seem like inevitable symptoms / behaviors of an urban infrastructure that prioritizes modes of travel in the wrong order. Pedestrians take up the least room, pollute the least and are the squishiest, therefore they should be king. Cyclists are a close second. Cars are very large, pollute a lot and for legal purposes are considered to be weapons. The modes should be prioritized in this order, but our infrastructure prioritizes them in the other direction, and a lack of enforcement leads to an anarchist power hierarchy - Everybody is forced to yield to the car doing whatever it wants because it will kill you otherwise, and the cars generally DO do what they want because they know they can get away with it. I cannot blame pedestrians for crossing whenever they see the road is clear (And no that no one will ignore their right of way and mow them down with a right hook) or cyclists for blowing a light rather than wait to start at the same time as all the motorists who would just as soon see them dead. I think that jaywalking and cyclists running reds should be a very, VERY low priority for traffic enforcement, so much so that I consider almost any ticketing of these two groups to be an egregious theft of resources from an effort to ticket motor vehicles.

I'd like to see enforcement against motorists who idle engines and use their horn illegally. This type of enforcement is practically non-existent, and is a major quality of life nuisance.

Thanks for the comment, Tyson White. It's true that we often witness considerable noise pollution as a result of congestion. However, due to limited resources, more enforcement of noise rules would mean that something else is not being enforced. What tradeoffs would you be willing to make?

Current laws should be enforced.

Speed and Red Light cameras should be on every major intersection.

Traffice enforcement officers should be able to write moving violations.

Cyclists should ahere to a yeild-to-all policy.

As the drivers ability to inflict serious harm increased, the responsibility to keep the roads safe should also increase.

It is important for NYC to automate traffic enforcement via technology like cameras and reconfigure streets to enhance safety and compliance. This is the most efficent way.

Automobiles are by far the biggest danger on the roads and contribute to congestion. Drivers should always be the focus of enforcement.

Double parking is a major problem that could often be avoided, but I know someone who recently got a ticket when double parked, but was in the car and the cop just pulled behind the car, beeped for him to move, which he did, but then a ticket was mailed to them. I didn't know they could do that, but it could be a good way to stop double parking without causing further traffic disruption.

Double-parking is proof that the demand for parking spots on a road exceeeds the supply. It indicates that poor parking managment is in effect. That's the major problem. Professor Donald Shoup promotes increased rates at the curb on commercial routes to disincentivize motorists who stay beyond their true economic advantage. It works. If there is off-street sites they would be fully used. However, if government is reducing both on-street and off-street spots they are creating the problem, not solving one. They will of course not admit to it. This is wrong-headed planning and will only hurt the local economy. Access to convenient and affordable parking is a necessary amenity, really a utility, especially in regional commercial areas(attract customers from afar) for which parking must be present and accessible. Not all staff, customers or visitors can use public transportation or walk or bike from where they start their trip and must return to eventually.

Parking can also be in short supply at residential areas where again demand exceeds supply. Neghborhood that may be without off-street spots or a "resident parking permits" scheme or spotty mass transit? This should never be. Professor Shoup wisely never really resolved this issue. Motor vehicle sales and in-service inventory are at record levels. Forethought counts for a lot.

The lack of enforcement of DMV/NYCDOT rules creates mayhem and is a major accident waiting to happen. I work in multiple locations in and around the City and must drive. I am an experienced driver with over 25 years on the road. I constantly witness bikes driving the wrong way or at night with no lights.They speed up and drive into your turn so can slam on your brakes. They run stop signs and turn into traffic without looking when a car is doubled parked.The lack of accountability has created a culture that bike and pedestrians can walk in front of a car and not adhere to traffic rules and they don't.. This is madness as a driver has to look in many directions at once. We have skate boards;motorized bikes;mohead bikes and cyclists all on the bike path with no training on NYC automotive law and safety behavior. Blaming the motorist because we can; may be convient but trajedy will happen and then the blamers move in. We need a manager not a mayoral friend and appointee to be in charge of this issue.

Hi cferrejo, thanks for your comment and welcome to the discussion. What do you think would be the best method of training and informing bikers and pedestrians of the proper rules of the road?

Similar to vehicle enforcement. Tickets issued to bikers for driving the wrong way;driving without lights at night;running red lights etc. NYPD should enforce the law for every one on the road. Education thru public announcement on TV and maybe postings at bike shops..

cferrejo, do you think other more intensive alternatives would be feasible, such as more detailed driver and biker education lessons? Or, do you believe that public announcements and postings at bike shops would be sufficient?

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