New York

Mayor de Blasio Unveils Plan to Fight Traffic Congestion in Jam-Packed NYC

New York City will test a pilot program limiting curbside delivery in certain high-traffic commercial zones during peak commuting hours to ease congestion.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the effort Sunday as part of initiatives the city is undertaking to help get traffic moving more easily.

Anyone who has driven or taken a ride in many parts of the city knows how maddening it can be. 

"It's pretty painful, because it takes me about a half-hour to get from the West Side Highway to the parking lot here [on Sixth Avenue]," one parking garage worker said. 

De Blasio, a Democrat, says the pilot will run for six months starting in January in specific sections of Midtown Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

"By the end of 2018, speeds on the streets of Manhattan will increase by 10 percent," de Blasio said. 

street parking midtown
The first part of the mayor's plan essentially eliminates street parking in highlighted zones in Midtown. One side of the street would be for deliveries; the other side would have no parking.

Curbside deliveries from parked and sometimes double-parked trucks and other vehicles won't be allowed during morning and evening rush hours, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. That would affect Midtown Manhattan, Jackson Heights and Corona in Queens, and Park Slope and Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. 

Businesses would have to rearrange their delivery schedules to keep the roads clear. 

Other major initiatives include expanding enforcement to reduce gridlock at certain key intersections around the city. That entails an increase in traffic agents to hand out tickets to drivers who end up blocking the intersection after the light turns red. 

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The plan will make street parking more difficult in some neighborhoods, including Midtown, where street parking will essentially be eliminated on streets in the 30s, 40s and 50s. One side of the curb would be for deliveries only; the other side would have no parking. 

"My biggest problem is the parking," Bronx resident Chloe Buxton said from her car. "I feel like I can never find a parking spot, hence why I'm double-parked right now."

The mayor also wants to work to ease traffic at major development projects, some of which are already underway in Queens and Staten Island. He also says he wants to work with the state DOT to help reduce traffic on major highways like the notorious Cross-Bronx Expressway. 

MTA spokesman John J. McCarthy responded to the mayor's plan Sunday evening, saying, "The mayor's plan to ease congestion is to enforce the‎ law, which begs the question: what has been City Hall's policy for the last four years?"

"We're glad he seems to finally recognize the severe problems caused by congestion and we'd urge him to help address this issue with a comprehensive solution," McCarthy said.

Other critics -- such as Sam Schwartz, the traffic engineer credited with popularizing the word "gridlock" -- say the city needs to address traffic issues with even bigger measures: congestion pricing and tolls on all East River bridges.

"(This week's changes are) not enough," he said. "We need fewer vehicles in our city. 

Congestion pricing and East River tolls aren't new propositions in New York City. Then-Mayors John Lindsay, Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg all proposed different iterations of congestion pricing or outright bans on private vehicles, but none of their plans were ever fully implemented due to political and practical roadblocks.

Likewise, tolls on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges have been recommended as remedies for Manhattan's traffic for decades. But drivers used to driving over the bridges free of charge have long bristled at that proposition. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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