Why NY Mayor’s attempts to ease New York traffic have only made things worse

A nice article from Herbert London of  Hudson Institute. He points to certain initiatives by NY Mayor Bloomberg to ease traffic congestion in NY have not worked.

He first wanted to impose congestion taxes but were opposed:

Mayor Bloomberg’s first step in this effort was his attempt to impose congestion pricing on Manhattan drivers. Fascinated by what he considered London’s success with congestion pricing, Bloomberg felt the system could work in New York as well. But the policy’s results in London have been mixed. While air quality has improved a bit, London retailers hate the system; commuters have learned to live with it, but grudgingly. In any case, the New York State Assembly made the question of congestion pricing in the city academic when it rejected Bloomberg’s plan in 2008. One legislator summarized the opposition to the idea by contending that it would represent yet another tax on a middle-class population that often commutes from the outer boroughs into Manhattan. Of course, from Bloomberg’s perspective, this was precisely the point: the tax would discourage commuting by auto

He then used two broad ideas – widening of lanes for cyclists and setting up pedestrian plazas in most densely populated areas of Manhattan.

The bike paths, or so the thinking went, would encourage more people to ride bicycles to work, thus lessening traffic. The pedestrian plazas would be put in place in the most densely populated areas of Manhattan—along Broadway between 42nd and 47th Streets and Broadway between 32nd and 35th Streets, both of which would be closed to vehicular traffic. The mayor’s reasoning was that Broadway traffic was disruptive along these blocks, especially as it intersected with other avenues; closing Broadway traffic along these blocks would actually improve overall traffic flow. As part of the plan, Seventh Avenue would be widened at 45th Street from three lanes to four.

But none have worked. People do not use cycle as much and widening of bike lanes has led to less road space for cars.

Neither idea has produced the desired results. Car congestion is intense wherever bike lanes or pedestrian plazas exist. In reducing space for cars, the bicycle lanes have caused even worse traffic delays than before. This is a problem with more ramifications than just commuter inconvenience. Any EMT driver will tell you that if you have a heart attack at, say, 47th Street and Broadway, an ambulance or fire truck can’t get to you readily. With increased lane closures and the encumbrance of the bicycle lanes, vehicles in the area are often stuck in gridlock. As for the pedestrian plazas, while they’re sometimes crowded with tourists seeking a respite from walking around the city, more often their chairs stand empty, and for good reason. At Broadway and 40th Street, the car fumes are so intense that al fresco dining and even simple conversation are impossible.

During his unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1965, William F. Buckley argued that all New Yorkers should commute via bicycle. This proposal didn’t fly then, and it’s not flying now. Most bicyclists in Manhattan are delivery carriers, and most New Yorkers resent the usurpation of road space. But that reality didn’t stop the mayor from creating bike lanes across the city. You may not be able to drive seamlessly in Manhattan, but you can certainly bike the island.

 The author checked the cycle thing by standing at areas and found little takers for bike path.

Though , the Mayor and his people do not agree:

No doubt the mayor is reluctant to admit that his efforts to control traffic in Manhattan have failed—and have only increased congestion. Given the investment of millions in creating the pedestrian plazas and bike lanes, undoing these reforms is unlikely, at least in the near term. If the mayor could only hear the cursing every weekday morning from drivers at, say, 34th street and First Avenue, he might develop a different view.

This bike thing was quite a success in Amsterdam where cycling is part of Dutch life. But has not picked up in NY and other places as people have forgotten cycles and have been using cars for years.

As Indian cities congest further (cities are already highly congested but as our per capita car ratio is still very low, the congestion to only rise), we need to think of many many ways to ease traffic issues..

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