The Traffic is the Mitigation

mitigate, verb
[Latin stem of mitigare, from mitis, mild, gentle]
1. Make milder in manner or attitude, make less hostile, mollify.
2. Give relief from pain. Lessen the suffering caused by an evil or difficulty.
3. Make less oppressive. Make more humane, more bearable.


How Orwellian is this? The New York City Department of Transportation’s Holiday Traffic Mitigation Plan went in to effect on Friday and lasts until the day after New Year’s. In order to give New Yorkers relief from the crushing number of motor vehicles that pour into Manhattan during the holidays, DOT is reversing car-free hours in Central Park and allowing traffic to rule the Park’s Loop Drives from 7am to 7pm on weekdays. In other words: Accomodating more traffic is the mitigation for more traffic.

Rather than, say, reducing transit fares or only allowing pedestrians and buses to use 34th Street during Thanksgiving weekend so that the maximum number of shoppers could cram into Manhattan and empty their wallets into the city’s coffers, New York City transportation officials still believe, despite so much evidence to the contrary, that making the city more inviting to automobiles will somehow reduce congestion.

The plan is being framed as an initiative "designed to encourage mass transit use and facilitate vehicular travel in and around the City." Says DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall:

weinshall.jpgThere is nothing better than New York City during the holidays and each year we take steps to help make room for the many people that want to enjoy our City’s attractions. This plan is put into place to handle the additional traffic that the holiday season brings.

It is not all bad news. DOT is expanding pedestrian space at Times Square by eliminating the "crossover" at 45th Street, Prospect Park’s car-free hours remain intact, and some recently installed muni-meters are being packaged as part of the Holiday Traffic Plan as well. But the car-free Central Park rule reversal and the general lack of innovative thinking shows that the Iris Weinshall Rennaissance has a ways to go. The Commissioner still seems to be taking bad advice from her top traffic engineers.

Here’s to a happier, healthier Holiday Season — in 2007, perhaps.  


  • Steve

    I found out about this “mitigation” the hard way this morning–when my son was almost run over on the way to school on Park Drive East by northbound traffic 8:00 am. How that traffic could have had anything to do with beneficial holiday activities I can’t imagine–the stores aren’t even open then. They should at least post signs in the Park announcing the changes beforehand.

  • Contest: Come up with the DOT equivalent of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth slogans from 1984…

    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength

  • Clarence

    I always say to myself when they institute this – why isn’t everyday a gridlock alert day? We should encourage mass transit use every day of the year….

  • CapnCrunch

    Vehicular Level-of-Service is Efficiency
    Thermoplastic Striping is Urban Design

  • P

    Exactly Capn.

    Until they internalize the principles of transit, pedestrian, and bicycling modeling the way they do for automobiles we are doomed to these actions regardless of their rhetoric: because the transportation models tell them they have to do it.

  • Honking is Helping:
    We will do whatever we can to ease your way dear motorist. But if you are at all inconvenienced along your route or slowed to below 30 mph please express yourself and blow your horn to make traffic flow again.

    Congestion is Life:
    In NYC, we know that automobile traffic means a florishing economy and a higher quality for ALL New Yorkers. Help make the holidays special by driving your SUV to midtown.

  • Stanley


  • Speed is Prosperity?

  • Laurence Levi

    Riding in Central Park today, I was depressed to see how the DOT’s decision to throw open Central Park to cars – all the time, every day, Monday to Friday – has turned fellow park users into enemies.

    Before the cars took over, skaters, bikers, pedestrians, children and others could enjoy a respite from the congestion, and the danger of the rest of the city.

    Now my fellow parkgoers have become enemies – rivals for the bitterly contest narrow sliver of asphalt that runs alongside the vehicle lanes. Whenever one park user comes across another and needs to pass, there is a winner and a loser. The winner remains in the recreation lane; the loser is forced into traffic whizzing inches away. Bike riders exchange hostilities. Skaters trade insults. It is utterly deplorable, but its also understandable. Because this is a zero sum game now for asphalt. And now the park is again very dangerous – all the time, not just during rush hour. A momentary lapse of concentration – by me or a driver – can result in me ending up tangled under the wheels of a 4,000 vehicle.

    And for what? So that people can drive their cars downtown to go shopping? It is apalling. I challenge anyone at the DOT or the City to defend this policy as remotely rational or necessary. It makes me ashamed to be a New Yorker.

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