New York Mayor's 'Gridlock Alerts' Go Unheeded

Mobility advocates say the city must do more to make transit and alternative transportation modes more convenient for drivers.

October 5, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Despite the city issuing "Gridlock Alerts," New Yorkers are driving into the city at similar rates as before, writes Julianne Cuba. According to mobility advocates, this is "a result of the mayor’s failure to create policies that get people out of cars and into mass transit on days when the city knows long in advance that roads and neighborhoods will be turned into pollution-, noise- and stress-filled parking lots." Local officials want the mayor to do more to cut traffic by implementing immediate measures such as emergency bus lanes. "We can not return to the status quo — it’s imperative that we seize this moment and create lasting change in the Central Business District," said Manhattan Council Member Keith Powers. 

Such measures aren't new to the Big Apple: the city has enacted pop-up bus lanes and high-occupancy vehicle policies before, notably after 9/11 and during 2005's transit strike.

"Last summer, Riders Alliance was one of several advocacy groups to demand the mayor make room for 40 miles of 'emergency' dedicated bus lanes to help long-suffering transit riders — many of them low-income essential workers — as cars started flooding back onto roads. And the MTA even one-upped that, asking for 60 miles of bus lanes to speed up the city’s recovery." 

But the requests fell on deaf ears, as the city only installed roughly 16 miles of dedicated lanes by the end of 2020, even as the number of cars entering the city rises above pre-pandemic rates and the MTA is forced to suspend bus service due to heavy traffic. "Meanwhile, bus riders suffer and emergency response times spike. Whether it’s emergency bus lanes or busways, HOV restrictions, transit discounts, the city and state need to do more to ensure the delivery of essential services in public space," says Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance. As Doug Gordon of The War on Cars podcast puts it, "'Bus service is suspended because of heavy traffic' is one of those things that should provoke an all-hands-on-deck response from city government." So far, that isn't the case.

Thursday, September 23, 2021 in Streetsblog New York City

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