This Morning’s Commute: Long Delays, But No Manhattan Gridlock

Left: Passengers had long waits for shuttle buses from Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn to Manhattan. Right: Once in Manhattan, the buses moved quickly uptown on Third Avenue. Left photo: Elizabeth Press; Right photo: Stephen Miller

While New York City’s first day after Hurricane Sandy was marred by paralyzing car traffic, buses immobilized in gridlock, and the delayed release of a transportation plan from Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, this morning’s commute was a different story as the plan went into effect, with partial subway service restored, HOV-3 restrictions in place and a temporary “bus bridge” between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The result: Transit riders still faced longer trips than usual with the patchwork transit system, but buses and other traffic in Manhattan kept moving, for the most part. There were backups on the approaches to many crossings into Manhattan, and long waits for bus shuttles in Brooklyn. The process of transferring so many commuters from trains to buses proved tricky but manageable.

People who walked and rode bikes had the most reliable commutes this morning. Above: a bike rider on the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane this morning at 55th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

“The trains were all right,” said James Villamar, 27, who took the R train from 21st Street in Greenwood to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station, where he waited an hour for a Manhattan-bound bus shuttle. Normally, the trip to work at 51st Street and 6th Avenue in Midtown takes him about one hour. Today’s commute was two-and-a-half hours long.

Traffic on Flatbush Avenue to the Manhattan Bridge was very slow, but commuters said that the buses ran express in Manhattan and moved uptown very quickly on Third Avenue. Officers were stationed along Third and Lexington Avenues with traffic cones to enforce bus-only lanes if necessary, but traffic was so light that the cones sat along the curb instead.

The commuters who had the least to worry about from post-Sandy traffic were those who rode their bikes.

“I usually don’t ride my bike to work,” said Meredith McGuinness, 43, on her way from Windsor Terrace to 55th Street and Broadway. She took the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan and then took the Hudson River Greenway uptown, and she said there were so many other people biking that she could ride with them in a pack on Chambers Street. “It was chilly but it wasn’t so bad,” she said.

Today was the second day Latarria Hardy, 35, has ever biked to work. Yesterday was her first, with her ride from Harlem to Times Square completely gridlocked. “It was terrible,” she said, adding that it was much easier to get around today. “Wherever there’s a bike lane is fantastic,” she said, taking a break along the 9th Avenue protected bike lane on her way to work.

This evening from 5 to 7 p.m., Transportation Alternatives will host After-Sandy Commuter Support Stops for bike commuters at 2nd Avenue and 9th Street at Veselka Restaurant, 5th Avenue and 25th Street, the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge.

  • PBJ

    Slog was long from Staten Island.  Four hours to UWS.  If bike connection existed, would have used it!

  • JCC

    Does anyone know if you can use the Broadway Bridge, Willis Ave Bridge or Macombs Dam Bridge with less than 3 people?
    show more

  • Bolwerk

    *sigh* This is why we need a good light rail system. 

    But still, complete silence about that in the press. 🙁

  • Hooray for taxi apps.  

  • Albert

    Listening to WNYC for several days I haven’t heard a single word recommending cycling as a way to get around.  Not from Transportation Nation’s Andrea Bernstein, not from cyclist Brian Lehrer, and not from anybody in government.

    That’s—Not. One. Word.

    Just a lot of moaning about the lack of mass transit and “inevitable” carmageddon, as if there’s nothing we can do about it.  You’d think our legs melted off in the floods.  A shameful misuse, or non-use, of the airwaves.

    Thanks, Streetsblog, for pointing out that article in Today’s Headlines from Bloomberg News.  The first of its kind.  And a day late, like our fairly bike-friendly mayor.

  • m to the i

    The real problem today is not Manhattan gridlock but rather the bottlenecks getting onto the East River bridges. There is gridlock on every major street leading to the bridges. Since there is a transportation emergency, can the governor/mayor up the HOV requirement to 4+ and please make bus only lanes on some of these major arteries leading to the bridges, especially ones with “bus bridges”? Flatbush Avenue, Queens Boulevard, Jay or Adams Streets. 

  • Imagine if bike share had been in place!  Yes, the blackout might have prevented kiosks south of 42nd/34th from working, and no, it is no means a complete solution, but the MSM is desperately casting about for stories and I’m sure they would have seized on bike-sharers were there any to seize on.  We can still make the point that bike share is a good back up in situations like this, but (almost) no one is listening.  In hindsight, Alta’s major fumble looks even worse.

  • Hilda

    I have heard that the the HOV requirements are being enforced quite stringently, and that this is the main reason for the bottlenecks. I was told by a contractor that they were turned around, after they had waited almost an hour to get onto the bridge. 
    Love the HOV requirements, but the effect on Brooklyn streets is quite detrimental.

  • al

    Mobilize the school buses. The Tri State Area has over 3000 large school buses. That can form a high capacity BRT system. Run them through the Lincoln Tunnel, and over East River Bridges and down Bus Lanes.

  • @twitter-22824076:disqus  – Many of the kiosks would’ve been solar-powered, so no problem there.

  • Andrew

    Traffic was terrible on the West side of Manhattan today — 10th Avenue was so backed up and the traffic cop wasn’t allowing pedestrians to cross.

  • Does anyone know if the HOV limitations (3 in car?) are rushhour only?

  • Ben Kintisch

    HOV restrictions definitely made it better in Manhattan, even if it was a hassle in Brooklyn.

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