Teaching City Gov’t to Count More Than Just Cars and Trucks

Transportation Alternatives issued a new study by transportation consultant Bruce Schaller today called Traffic Information in NYC (PDF file). The report, according to T.A., "uncovers large gaps in what is known about traffic and transportation in New York City."

"The City," says Schaller, "is not collecting the basic information
necessary to redress current gridlock, much less plan for future
growth."
If New York City’s streets are ever to become managable, DOT needs to start doing more than just
counting the number of cars and trucks rolling down city streets. We need better data collection.

The report lays the groundwork for a legislative push on City Councilmember Gale Brewer’s Intro. 199, The Traffic Information and Relief Bill. Intro. 199 would compel New York City’s Deparment of Transportation to "develop and monitor performance targets with the aim of assessing and reducing the amount of traffic citywide and within each borough." City Council’s Transportation Committee is holding a public hearing on the Traffic Information and Relief Bill on Thursday at 10:00 am.

In addition to doing a better job of data collection, City Council’s Intro. 199 also compels DOT to set specific performance targets aimed at:

reducing commute time citywide; reducing household exposure to roadway emissions; reducing the proportion of driving to the central business districts and increasing the proportion of walking, biking, and the use of mass transit to the central business districts; increasing the availability of on-street parking; increasing the efficient movement of commercial traffic; and optimizing to no higher than full capacity the usage of existing transportation infrastructure.

From today’s press release:

The study finds that while the city does collect yearly information about how people are traveling to the Manhattan Central Business District, reliable information about travel to, and within, the growing business districts of the outer boroughs is virtually nonexistent.

The study finds a "paucity of comprehensive traffic data" and finds that the gaps are "particularly pronounced outside Manhattan."

The study identifies eleven key data gaps, including:

  • Incomplete citywide and borough-wide traffic volume data
  • No annual traffic volumes for congested corridors outside Manhattan
  • No information about the share of total trips conducted by the various modes of travel (transit, auto, walking, biking, etc)

The study recommends new data collection necessary to fill the gaps, including travel times and reliability by mode, travel cost, safety, comfort and convenience indicators for all modes of travel.

"If Mayor Bloomberg is serious about reducing commute times and reducing pollution, then the City must gather annual information about the transportation challenges that all New Yorkers face–not just about the minority who drive into Manhattan," says Paul S. White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

  • nomobility

    Focusing on reducing the speed of a trip is a (probably unintentional) anti-pedestrian and anti-bicycling measuremment. I agree that DOT needs to be measuring much more than Manhattan cars, but everything needs to be in a framework of measuring access, not mobility. Mobility gets you nowhere. Look at vtpi.org for a lot more details on why that is and how to measure access.

    I assume that the driving-oriented nature of Intro. 199 is a political move to win more supporters and not the reflection of what T.A. actually wants to accomplish for our city. Those goals don’t add up to a walking based city with great transit and comfortable and ubiquitous bicycling. They add up to things like lots of fast buses and bike lanes on fast streets.

  • Benjamin Hemric

    What’s Vtpi.org? (I tried finding this website by pasting “vtpi.org” into the “Windows” address bar and that didn’t work.)

  • Works for me. Try this link: VTPI

  • JK

    Great work TA, Schaller and Paul S White. City Council and DOT would be wise to support Intro 199 in the interest of smarter transportation and better govt. As the study suggests, the city is flying blind when it comes to transportation decision making. Along with traffic, the city should also be keeping track of on and off street parking, and proposals for new parking. It is astounding that the city — which doesnt know how much parking there currently is — is approving new parking garages that are adding thousands of new spots to already traffic choked neighborhoods. One fears that the effort to create a “sustainable” city maybe lost before it begins.

  • I agree that the City’s data collection methods about parking are astoundingly bad. While they know how much money they make annually from parking ticket revenue (over $575 million in 2005), they have very little idea how much on-street parking actually exists. Without accurate data, informed decisions cannot be made.

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