City Journal Summer 2014

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Nicole Gelinas
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A HUGE issue, not covered here, and NOT in the stats are "special" weekends. For instance, this spring, NYC had both the NYC half Marathong, and a couple of street fairs going on one Sunday (hence not in the stats). This closed the west side highway and EVERY SINGLE southbound Ave on the west side in the 50s! The FIRST southbound street available was Broadway. Woops, closed at Times Square. OK, go east - wrong, 6h Ave was closed to traffic, including crosstown traffic. The ONLY to get Downtown (I was heading for Javits - and I'm handicapped, so don't tell me Mass Transit) was back up to 66th Street, over to the east side on the CP traverse, down to 34th, across 34th - Only took 90 minutes, all because the city didn't take into account Broadway was also closed
"“Bureaucrats” won't allow parking lots near subway stations because the bureaucrats are responding to democratic pressures. The people who choose to live and work near subway stations do so because they prefer to avoid auto congestion. They do not want to live near massive parking lots."

Not true , folks who live near subway stations always hear and see congestion because its the city, can you tell me a subway station that has little or no auto traffic nearby, probably not many of few
if not at all, as for the parking comment,
I hardly hear residents saying they don't want to live near a parking lot, parking lots are everywhere in suburbia and in the outer boroughs, california has a problem because bureaucrats don't want parking along bart stations, simple easy solutions, and no its not democratic, board members and folks who make decisions are often appointees.

virtually, i know about that past February 2009, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed that, in three months’ time, New York City would constantly close Broadway to car & truck migration in whiles Square & broadcaster predicament. virtually New York will require many more reforms at route level.
http://www.nanakasha.com/high-income-hypnosis-new-york-city/
Michael Steiner- I invite you to come to Rockaway Beach one fine hot summer day-preferably at around 5:30pm or just after a sudden rainstorm when the beach crowd is dissipating. Thousands of cars are returning to the mainland along along Crossbay Boulevard. Despite there being a bike lane on the shoulder, the city painted over 1 of three lanes on the boulevard for a bike lane, resulting in a logjam and back-ups that extends for miles. There are few bikers, since the ride from the mainland through Broad Channel to the beach is itself 5 miles through a mosquito infested marshland. See how it feels sitting in a jam that is brought out not by accidents, roadwork, or flooding but by the City forcing bike lanes where they are neither wanted or needed.
Michael Steiner June 12, 2012 at 6:14 PM
Carl, you are plainly wrong: as the census data shows, the majority of all New Yorker households, not only the (vast) majority of Manhattanite, do forego a car ownership (only 46% do have cars) and many who do own a car do not drive on their daily commute. So arguing that car ownership is a must in NYC is just plainly wrong. Sure there parts of the city where living without a car is not as easy in Manhattan but these are anyway not the places where you will find tons of bike lanes, in any case no protected ones (and the unprotected ones haven't stopped much drivers to drive on or illegally park/stop in them)
Carl Van de Craats June 05, 2012 at 3:58 PM
I see that Ms. Gelinas speaks in a proverbial Manhattanite garble. I am a native New Yorker whose family has been here since the Revolution. I have lived in Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, Fresh Meadows, Belle Harbor- all "two fare" "outer borough" neighborhoods, which (with the exception of Bay Ridge)require an automobile as a matter of course. Believe it or not, bike lanes are not only impractical, but a nuisance in places such as these. Indeed, the vast majority of residents in places like this, do commute via car. We are the New Yorkers at whose expense this transportation meddlng is being done. If you ever left Manhattan you might learn that.
I will have to say that Bloomberg made the right decision in closing Broadway to car and truck traffic. My walk down Broadway to work is a lot easier now a days and I am very happy with that
Nunzio Splendorio June 04, 2012 at 3:56 PM
The author's trite comments display a degree of solipcism that borders on arrogance. I assume that she is single or co-habitting with a partner. I doubt that anyone trying to clothe or feed 3 children would brush off concerns about the feasability of schlepping clothes for back-to-school (3 pairs of shoes and 3 pairs of sneakers, along with pants, shirts, etc). Likewise, a trip to WholeFodds won't feed a family of 5 for a week. NYC loses tax dollars and business when consumers choose to do our shopping where it is convenient. Ferry service is a lamentable joke-"could be better" isn't the word. If they really wanted to open roads and reduce pollution, they would.
Thanks to all the commenters.

To factchecker: “Bureaucrats” won't allow parking lots near subway stations because the bureaucrats are responding to democratic pressures. The people who choose to live and work near subway stations do so because they prefer to avoid auto congestion. They do not want to live near massive parking lots.

As for folks driving through Manhattan who “may not be just commuters or residents but traveling through,” it is difficult to see why New York City should arrange its quality-of-life and its public-health policies not around the people not who live and work here, but around people who consider Manhattan to be a thoroughfare. People driving “through” Manhattan have other options, including driving around it.

Of course one should not try to travel by bicycle if one's goal on a particular trip is to move furniture or the tools and materials necessary to fix one's house. Economists would call such trips “high value trips”: trips that must be made by motor vehicle. The more the city encourages people who don't need to travel by motor vehicle not to do so, the easier it is for people who must travel by motor vehicle to do so.

A contractor who needs to use his van every day should be resentful, not supportive, of the person driving through Manhattan not because she must do so but because she is avoiding tolls.

Yes, “most of New York City is not Manhattan.” But many critics of the Bloomberg administration's streets policies start their criticism by attacking the new Times and Herald Squares, so it's logical to start an analysis of those policies with Times Square.

Brooklyn is not in Times Square, and the article notes that the bike lane and other traffic-calming measures on Prospect Park West work quite well. The Jackson Heights traffic reconfiguration is working well, too, although space considerations prohibited a discussion of a recent visit to Jackson Heights.

To Nunzio: Yes, ferry service could be better. Some of this problem has to do with cost. The city subsidizes the new East River ferries more so than government subsidizes bus and train service. Mass transit in general could indeed be much better, especially on the weekends and especially further from Manhattan, including inter-borough trips.

I never have a problem carrying a few days' worth of groceries on the bus; in fact, the de-clogging of Herald Square traffic has made my bus trip home from the supermarket on Friday evenings much faster.

Nor can I envision spending so much money on clothes or other non-durable consumables in one trip that I cannot carry them home with me either by walking or taking the bus. It is not my arms but my budget that would not support such an endeavor. If I regularly bought so much stuff that I couldn't carry it, I would probably have the money to hire someone to carry it for me.

To Carl: At the expense of which New Yorkers? The vast majority of New Yorkers do not commute by car. Almost all New Yorkers, by contrast, walk around; some of them are alive today because of the dramatic fall in pedestrian fatalities over the past decade. Indeed, elderly and poorer New Yorkers have benefitted the most from recent changes to the streets, as such people disproportionately die, relative to their share of the population, at the hands of speeding or otherwise reckless drivers.

Yes, of course the recession has an impact on traffic; the article clearly states that the numbers control for this fact. Moreover, auto traffic into Manhattan plateaued three years before the recession.

To Mary Beth: Thank you for your kind words, and I am very sorry for your loss.

To B. Samuel: You are doing exactly what you should: changing your behavior in response to changing signals. You mention that you are now “forced” to take the Henry Hudson up to the bridge. Guess what? Through traffic, what you are, is what limited-access highways are for. Leave Manhattan's streets for the pedestrians and other people who want or have to be here, as well as for the drivers who have no other choice (see above, factchecker with his tools, and Nunzio with the bags and bags of clothing he regularly buys for his well-dressed family).

Traffic is not “worse than ever.” In fact, what many critics categorize as unacceptable traffic is exactly how things should be. Traffic largely should crawl along steadily but slowly during busy times of day, which it does. Speeding up traffic too much at busy times of day would result in traffic that goes far too fast during less busy times of day. Speeding cars pose a grave danger to pedestrians.

Indeed, if your mother walks along 57th or 9th or both during her day-to-day activities, she faces significant danger from speeding motor vehicles; both feature notoriously dangerous pedestrian crossings. The Bloomberg administration's traffic-safety measures, including the bike lanes, benefit her.

You'll be glad to know that both 8th and 9th close to where your mother lives are getting their own protected bike lanes soon, making her even safer.

I always liked Orange Julius, too.

To Albigensian: Good question!

To Frank: Streets are much less clogged, mostly from the perspective of walkers and bikers, and slightly less so from the perspective of drivers. I'm not sure what kind of objective data you are looking for, but the data cited in the article, the numbers that the city takes from each and every cab ride, are pretty objective. We all have our own subjective observations, too, and mine differ from yours.

At any rate, what causes congestion is just as often, and probably more often, double-parked motor vehicles and the unpredictable behavior of drivers. Drivers who stop suddenly or turn without warning cause problems for the motor vehicles vehicles behind them. The parking tickets that many drivers dislike thus reduce congestion. A biker who moves quickly through a bike lane does not cause congestion; a driver who stops without warning and idles his car in a traffic lane because he is waiting for his friend to get off work does. Likewise, a carting truck parked illegally for hours in a bus lane can affect traffic both for blocks ahead and behind.

As for the street furniture: do you expect people to stand up in the middle of the street while they eat their dumplings? For all the taxes we pay, we deserve a few chairs and tables.
Is this in contrast to herbert london, after all free market solutions are not being used in new york city, in reality government bureaucracy talks place, for instance an easy solution is often to allow folks to build parking lots
near subway stations, but bureaucrats won't have it.

Folks who drive through manhattan may not be just commuters or residents but traveling through. Perhaps maybe you should drive as
bob frederich says in the winter time with tools to fix your house on a bike, or a saw or other power tool, or moving furniture.

The city needs a balanced approach, in cities like houston, smart growth is being revisited,
in favor of more highways and buses instead of trains, while that model may not work here, it can be of use in the suburbs, also in staten island many folks use the car, also the title is misleading,

Most of new york city is not manhattan, so why would you use a times square intersection as the mode for the entire city and deem success?
This is exactly why many new yorkers feel city hall is out of touch.
Nunzio Splendorio May 22, 2012 at 2:53 PM
With the exception of routes to the Financial District, there is poor ferry service, despite this being a waterfront city. Traffic cameras abound. Tolls, the price of parking meters, and the prices of parking tickets have gone up exponentially. Perhaps Bloomberg's changes are nice for a tourists. I must say that my shopping and economic activity within the five boros has decreased, simply because mass transit is lousy, and bikes aren't much of an option if I want to buy lots of food or clothing for my family. The ideal of carrying bags of clothes or groceries in the subways is absurd. Between term limits, the Olympics, Cathie black, the Disneyfication of times Square, and the abysmal performance on traffic, I must say that my opinion that it couldn't get worse than Dinkins has been trumped by this arrogant Bostonian.
Roy F. Knight, FAIA May 22, 2012 at 8:13 AM
This is an example of true beneficial community leadership. Every community should openly and without conceptual restraint examine their tranportation needs and creative solutions to meet them. Add another lane to enhance traffic flow does not work, never has and never will. New York City now clearly recognizes that fact.
It would be a move forward for all communities for all communities to adopt passenger transporation policies that begin first with top priority being consideration of the pedestrian. The City of Vancouver in British has now proven many times over how well that policy serves the community
Carl Van de Craats May 21, 2012 at 2:21 PM
I find several issues with this article. First, the omission that this misguided traffic policy is being done for the benfit of wealthy Manhattan residents and tourists, and that it is being done at the expense of New Yorkers. Second, bearing in mind the loss of jobs, the high price of gas, and the recent large increase in price of tolls many statement that midtown traffic has improved due to these policies a stretch. There are fewer people commuting to fewer jobs, and the cost has gone up so much for those who still commute to jobs as to make it not worth driving.
Further proof to my argument is shown by the spacing and location of the upcoming kiosks for rent-a bikes. Look at any map. They are in Manhattan, Bilyburg/Park Slope, LIC, etc. There are none in Bay Ridge or Forest Hills. Third, I'd like to point out the diminished mass transit service on weekends (try getting around on a weekend without an extra 15 minutes and a transfer. fourth, I point out that the bike lanes being largely empty. In the summer time, Crossbay Boulevard is a 4 mile traffic stretch after a beach day. The city painted over 1 of 3 lanes to male a bike lane, despite there being a paved lane for bikes off the shoulder of the road itself. Few people bike 5 miles through a marshland to go to the beach. And those that do are immeasurably outnumbered by motoriss on that busy stretch of road. Foirth, the installation of traffic cameras to the extent that they have been shows a war on motorists. I face 7 on an 8 mile stretch heading for the LIE.
Last, I would like to ask about ferries. Since this city is basically a connection of islands, the lack of affordable means of transportation via boat is a joke. Reading this article makes me ask one question: Is Ms. Gelinas on the payroll of the Bloomberg administration?
Mary Beth Kelly May 19, 2012 at 6:59 AM
Finally, thorough investigation of all the angle's on public transportation, its improvemens and where we can go from here in NYC! Such excellent coverage of the facts and myths has been long needed in the press. As a pedestrian/cyclist/MTA user, and the widow of a cyclist (Carl Henry Nacht, MD) killed by a truck in 2006, this is greatly appreciated. Many thanks.
Mary Beth Kelly
Thanks for the wonderful summary of how New York streets have improved under the Bloomberg administration. Getting to the theater or a restaurant in the Times Square area used to be like moving in a bad dream through molasses. The only way to get down the block, it seemed, was by joining walkers in the street with the cars. The crowds are bigger in Times Square now and prime time walking is stil slow, but there's much more room for pedestrians and it's so much safer not dodging cars.

DoT measures traffic and polution scientifically. As a commuting cyclist, I can measure the it by the ambient temperature. Pre-Bloomberg, cycling through Times Square in July was like riding through a rotisserie. Now, there's still a rise in temperature, but traffic moves and you don't feel like a burnt hamburger without the bun by the time you get to 42nd Street.

New York has gotten much better for pedestrians and cyclists. We have learned much from other cities and now it's time for us to take the lead. Let your column be required reading for all mayoral candidates.

This is the first example of enlightened urban planning in American history. We in the rest of the country need you to hang in there. Don't back down.
B. Samuel Davis May 17, 2012 at 5:30 PM
I rarely disagree with anything written in City Journal but I very much disagree with this article. My mother lives on west 57th street between 9th and 10th, so I have some familiarity with the area. The bike lanes are almost always empty, those few who use it weave in and out, the street narrowings are a disaster, and traffic is worse than ever - in fact, it's forced me to sometimes take the Henry Hudson up to the GWB to get back to Jersey instead of going down ninth ave to get to the Lincoln at 37th.

To change the topic totally - I miss the old 42nd street/Times Square - warts and all, (and preachers, prostitutes, sex shops, games rooms, electronic stores, Orange Julius, all night movie theatres - the whole mishpuga) it had CHARACTER. I never felt unsafe on 'the deuce' no matter how late.

What's there now is awful - it's like a Hollywood facade filled with tourists, for tourists and..simply awful.

The Bowery is the same way - they even got rid of skid row!

Changes, always changes....
"The most modest of subway expansions ...already cost $4.5 billion, consumed eight decades, and inconvenienced tens of thousands of residents."

Yet it only took four years to build the original IRT system- using primitive tools, from 1900 to 1904.

So, why has it become so difficult to build anything anymore??
This is a terrific article. I cycled for many years in various cities and countries of the world, inc. NYC (in the 70s), Nigeria, Kenya, S Africa, Israel and London. This is one of the most interesting and informative pieces I've seen. I knew nothing of the bike lanes in NYC and am gratified that my long held belief in the viability of cycling as a serious means of transportation is being confirmed in one of the most difficult places of all - NY.
frank vernuccio May 16, 2012 at 9:15 PM
While Ms. Gelinas is generally accurate and well informed, her contention that NYC streets have become unclogged is quite incorrect and unsupported by any objective observation. Midtown streets are a maze of heavy traffic and street furniture, and trips from the boroughs are worse than ever.