Survey Finds New Yorkers Anxious About Congestion and Safety

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Following a three day period that saw three pedestrian fatalities in Brooklyn — preceded by two cyclist deaths in Manhattan one week earlier — the Citizens Committee for New York City has released its annual "Speak Out New York" survey, citing pedestrian safety as one of two top concerns of city residents.

The number one issue for New Yorkers, according to the survey, is traffic congestion. This is not surprising, since gridlocked streets often beget irresponsible and unsafe behavior by motorists, ranging from the outwardly aggressive (speeding whenever one has the opportunity) to more accepted but no less deadly transgressions (double parking, "trying to catch the light"). As AMNY reports:

But the chance to deal with New Yorkers top gripe … may have
been lost after the Bloomberg administration’s congestion pricing plan
was killed by the state legislature in Albany.

Not that it ultimately would have mattered, but pedestrian and cyclist safety were undersold as a benefit of congestion pricing. Here’s hoping the next big traffic initiative, whatever it may be, emphasizes safer streets as one of its primary goals.

Tranportation Alternatives’ CrashStat shows the history of pedestrian- and cyclist-involved collisions, in blue and red, respectively, at Joralemon and Adams Streets

  • Spud Spudly

    Yet another group thinking of CP as some kind of silver bullet. “Bwaaah, there’s no chance to deal with congestion now the CP is dead!” Let’s just all throw up our hands right now and give up.

  • Brad Aaron

    Spud, that quote is actually from the AMNY story about the report, which I somehow neglected to link for attribution. It’s there now.

  • Davis

    And any way, Spud, what is the other way to make significant, near-term reductions in traffic congestion and VMT while raising money for transit? Do you have some brilliant secret plan that no one else knows about?

    These little “Paris Model” streetscape improvements are nice but congestion pricing was our shot. The Assembly blew it for the city. We’re not going to get another chance to “deal with congestion” any time soon, other than to wait for gas prices keep going up and the economy to tank. Presumably this is the Assembly’s preferred way to “deal with congestion.” Perhaps yours too.

  • Mark Walker

    Even after CP, we have a couple of options. One is to redesign the streets. The problem with this is that it takes time and will be spread over several mayoral administrations. Mayor Weiner will probably stop it.

    The other option is the recently passed law mandating that the DOT identify dangerous locations, formulate solutions, and report to the city council, mayor, and community boards. Streetsblog covered it:

    Bike-Ped Safety Bill Clears Council

    This process could provide us another mechanism for pressuring the electeds.

  • Spud, for me congestion pricing has always been a way to take pressure off the DOT to “move traffic” at the expense of safety. There’s nothing wrong with expressing frustration that it didn’t happen.

    That doesn’t mean we’re giving up on the safety issue. Fortunately, the current DOT seems willing to put safety ahead of through traffic, and some of the elected officials who failed to support congestion pricing are supporting safety issues; we’ll see how far we can get without congestion pricing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “What is the other way to make significant, near-term reductions in traffic congestion and VMT while raising money for transit?…These little “Paris Model” streetscape improvements are nice but congestion pricing was our shot.”

    At the risk of sounding like a computer prompted by a keyword, the option is to stop worrying about motor vehicle traffic congestions because motor vehicle drivers are unwilling to accept any limitations to stop it. You want to drive at peak times to congested times? Tough.

    The option is to limit the impact of congestion on the rest of us rather than doing anything about it, by taking away street space and creating zero- and low-traffic streets where people can go to be away from traffic.

    I call it the “Roman” solution, since Italy is one of the few places I’ve been. Horrible motor vehicle traffic with no limits on some streets (and massive ticketing), pedestrian and bicycle bliss on others — very narrow shared streets, pedestrianzed streets and plazas, etc.

    It doesn’t help emergency response, but I guess that’s just tough. And it doesn’t fund mass transit, but I think the generations in charge have managed to wreck the financial future of the transit system in any event. Let them figure out how to fund it — without additional taxes on wages, taxes on property, taxes on business that cost us jobs, or higher fares.

  • “It doesn’t help emergency response, but I guess that’s just tough.”

    Actually, it could help emergency response: if you have BRT with reserved bus lanes, and you also let emergency vehicles use those lanes, then emergency vehicles won’t get stuck in traffic.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Actually, it could help emergency response: if you have BRT with reserved bus lanes, and you also let emergency vehicles use those lanes, then emergency vehicles won’t get stuck in traffic.)

    True, and if you had bike-only lanes wide enough for a fire truck, bikers could hop up on the sidewalk when a fire truck needed to get by.

  • Spud Spudly

    Davis, I have no such plan but my comment above was in reaction to the blog post, which does not refer to transit funding. However, like I’ve said before, since CP was only going to address one-third of the MTA’s capital budget problem maybe a good place to start would be with whatever plan was in place to address the other two-thirds.

    I think a possible solution goes like this: Reduce street space for cars = fewer cars on the road + more space for people + increased use of mass transit = environmental benefits + safer streets + greater mass transit fare collections + increased demand for mass transit = more government funding of mass transit. Or something like that. Even if that equation isn’t perfect it all starts with reducing the space available to cars to make driving more difficult to motivate more people to use mass transit.

    It guarantees fewer cars on the road and more space for people (two things not guaranteed under CP) and doesn’t require Albany’s approval. And it bypasses that whole ability-to-pay argument which killed CP. It may take a while but it’s a plan. And it’s not just throwing up hands and saying “Oh well, CP is dead and now so are we.” And it looks like NYCDOT is already on the case.

  • bureaucrat

    can’t disagree there, spud. now we just need the money!

  • paulb

    I think it’s an exaggeration to call NYC’s streets “gridlocked.” They’re not, traffic does move. I ride my bike every day, all hours of the day. I know. Hyperbole doesn’t help the cause of sensible transportation policy.

  • Hilary

    True. During most of the day, speed is the problem, not congestion.

  • I wouldn’t call midday traffic in the midtown and downtown business districts “gridlocked,” but in my expereince it does not tend to move at or even near the speed limit of 30 MPH. That is especially true on crosstown routes. Gridlocked connotes “immobilized,” so I would not use that term either.

    Taking Spud’s suggestion, DoT should not restore the lane of Broadway apparently slated to be removed between 25th and 23rd Streets (what seems to be proposed in the picture DoT released yesterday) south of 23rd Street. A permanent lane reduction will shift a certain percentage of people who would have used that southbound lane to other modes, shifted another percentage of them to alternate downtown routes, and you now have “excess capacity” on Broadway South of 23rd–the prerequisite for convert that lane to a dedicated bus lane, a cycle track, or both. If you restore the lane south of 23rd, you have merely created a temporary pinchpoint by converting roadway to green space around the margins of Madison Square park. That’s fine–I’ll take it–but most motorists will not shift modes or routes to avoid this pinchpoint–they’ll just slog their way through. so your new green space is adjacent to the honking and exhaust-spewing traffic created at the pinchpoint.

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