Winter 2002, p.11
Building a Better City
Car Potato NYC Government Workers Clog Streets - Especially in Lower Manhattan
Mayor Bloomberg recently drew positive press notice for reducing City Hall's car-fleet from seventy to fifty. But, when it comes to government car-culture this is like removing a grain of sand from a beach. New York City gives out at least 110,000 parking permits for city workers' private cars. It is well known that the biggest inducement to driving in a crowded city is the availability of free parking. Essentially the City is subsidizing air pollution, slower emergency response times, traffic congestion and increased delivery costs.
Of these City permits, at least 15,000 allow free parking and (frequently double parking) in commercial and other restricted zones. Parked end to end, these 15,000 cars would create a line forty-three miles long - enough to fill both sides of every avenue in Manhattan from 60th Street to 106th Street. Not only do permitted vehicles create double parking and traffic jams, they are delaying Lower Manhattan's recovery. People closely involved with Lower Manhattan street and traffic issues say that permit parked vehicles are slowing street repairs - including reburying electric and phone lines - and complicating the cleaning and repair of downtown businesses. One influential player in Lower Manhattan told T.A. that "permitted parking by government workers private cars is the number one traffic problem in Lower Manhattan." Mayor Bloomberg can chew on this while he rides the 6 train to work.
T.A. will continue regular coverage of post 9/11 developments in Lower Manhattan. However, the intensity and quantity of activity there is truly overwhelming and could fill volumes. Our coverage will vary with events.
The Transit Authority has pledged to conduct the fastest subway rebuilding project in its history in order to rebuild the stations and section of the 1 Train destroyed on September 11. The MTA/NYC Transit will spend $450 million ($1 million per day) and put contractors to work day and night to meet its ambitious schedule - to accomplish a four year project in under a year. In order to rebuild the stations below Chambers Street (excluding Cortland St. station), the Transit Authority will have to fix the roughly 500 feet of tunnel that has caved in and another 900 feet that needs rebuilding or major repairs. T.A. applauds the MTA and Transit Authority for shifting into high gear. While the Transit Authority is doing the right thing in getting the 1 back in service as soon as possible, it is unfortunate that the train could not have been rebuilt further to the west along Route 9A / West Street, so as to better serve Battery Park City.
A veritable herd of urbanists is stampeding to offer sensible and non-sensical visions of Lower Manhattan. Many civic and business groups are forming coalitions to push their visions, including the extremely powerful Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Authority. The leading powers include the Downtown Alliance, Regional Plan Association, Community Board One and NYC Partnership, among others.
Since 9/11 a bus/emergency lane has been in place on the Gowanus/Brooklyn Queens Expressway through the Battery Tunnel. Transit managers report the lane is working well - despite earlier complaints from the union representing SI bus drivers that the lane "didn't seem to exist." The State DOT should make this lane permanent and politically palatable to motorists by emulating an innovation from California and Washington D.C. There, bus/High Occupancy Vehicle lanes (HOV) maintain free flowing bus traffic by rapidly changing the passenger requirements from two per car (HOV-2) to three per car (HOV-3) when bus speeds fall below a certain speed - say 45 mph.
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