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Survey Finds Voter Discontent on Traffic Congestion

Some new survey data on the Mayor’s performance on a wide variety of issues find particular voter discontent on traffic congestion and transit times through the city. As reported on by Streetsblog, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign survey of 800 New Yorkers revealed that:

59% of New Yorkers say the mayor is doing only a “fair” to “poor” job of reducing traffic jams and delays on city streets, highways and bridges. On only one other issue, increasing the stock of affordable housing, does the Mayor receive a higher net negative rating (60%).

Let’s face it – the Bloomberg administration has accomplished next to nothing on traffic problems since taking office. A few potentially promising initiatives, like speeding buses through traffic and enforcing truck routes, seem stuck as endless studies,” said Kate Slevin, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, sponsor of the survey project.

At the top of the traffic congestion relief agenda should be passage of City Council Intro 199, Councilmember Gail Brewer’s Traffic Relief Bill, which would challenge the Department of Transportation to reduce the amount of traffic flowing into the city as well as accelerating plans for Bus Rapid Transit, onstreet bike paths/greenways, reducing the number of government employee issued parking permits and increasing fees on parking meters in downtown areas.

The Upper East Side has one of the greenest commuting profiles in the country and should be a haven for pedestrians, cyclists, subway and bus riders. However, as we have already shown in our analysis of commuting patterns in Community Board 8′s area, very few local people use automobiles to commute to work, yet everyday we are subjected to an onslaught of tens of thousands of automobiles flowing through our neighborhood without stopping and transacting any commerce that might benefit the local area. Traffic congestion is not just an isolated quality of life issue, it’s the root cause of so many problems from air pollution to noise to public health & safety to ambulance/fire/police response times.

Relieving Traffic Congestion in the modern sense is not just about untying traffic knots where congestion is worst, it’s stopping people from bringing their cars into or through the city in the first place, encouraging them to take mass transit, live closer to work or simply take a different route to their destination. And we should be trying to make the city more of a destination for people in New Jersey, Connecticut, Westchester and Long Island to come in by mass transit to have dinner, see a show, visit a museum, or shop. By preventing people from simply driving through our neighborhood, we may find that they are more likely to actually stop in our area to enjoy all that it has to offer. For instance, let’s say that a couple in Long Island (Couple A) wants to visit with a couple in New Jersey (Couple B). If we facilitate automobiles to drive through our city, chances are couple A will drive to the other and then later couple B would reciprocate by driving through the city to Couple A’s again and so forth. However, if the proper incentives were in place to encourage them, Couple A and B might find it more desirable to meet on neutral ground in the city.

The proper incentives in this case mean:

  1. Making mass transit options more user friendly, frequent and reducing trip times.
  2. Increasing the costs of driving through the city by tolls/ congestion pricing or providing less space on city streets for them to get through
  3. More pleasant pedestrian friendly places that invite suburban visitors to the city as as a true weekend destination

Leadership is desparately needed on these important issues from all levels of the City, State, MTA and city DOT. Failure to act will continue to allow an unacceptable situation continue will thus degrade quality of life in our great urban center for the mere benefit of the suburban motorists.

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