The Times is a Changin’

nyc_auto_commuter_numb.jpg
A chart illustrating the number who commute by auto to the Central Business District from Bruce Schaller’s study for the Manhattan Institute, Battling Traffic: What New Yorkers Think About Road Pricing.

A great story on New York City traffic congestion, In Traffic’s Jam, Who’s Driving May Be Surprising, ran on the front page of the New York Times this morning. William Neuman’s article digs in to the question of who drives in New York City and why. Regulars will recall that we highlighted this very same story here on Streetsblog on December 8

neuman.jpgNeuman’s story is particularly well-framed (that’s him at right interviewing Transportation Alternatives’ Graham Beck during a City Hall press conference in November). It explodes the myth that most of the cars on New York City’s streets belong to suburban drivers.

By highlighting Bruce Schaller’s findings that "more than half the drivers who crowd into Manhattan each workday come from the five boroughs" and "35 percent of government workers drive to work" thanks to free parking, the story makes it clear that New York City’s traffic congestion problem is, largely, the city’s problem — not the state’s, not the surrounding suburbs’. Today’s story puts the responsibility to fix this problem squarely in the lap of New York City’s Mayor.

An excerpt:

Census data show that more city residents than suburbanites drive to work in Manhattan every day, according to Mr. Schaller. He estimated that 263,000 people in 19 counties in and around New York City drive regularly to jobs in Manhattan below 60th Street. Of those, 53 percent, or 141,000, live in the five boroughs, Mr. Schaller said. The greatest numbers are from Queens, with 51,300, and Brooklyn, with 33,400. About 23,900 auto commuters live in Manhattan, while 17,400 are from the Bronx and 15,200 from Staten Island. The suburban area with the most auto commuters to Manhattan is Nassau County, with 22,091 people driving to work in the borough, followed by Bergen County, with 19,975.

When plotted on a map, the data make a striking picture, showing that some of the densest concentrations of auto commuters are from the outer fringes of Queens and Brooklyn, where access to subways is limited.

A study conducted last year for the Partnership for New York City, a business group, cited 2000 census data that showed about 35 percent of government workers in Manhattan drive to work, compared with 14 percent for those who work in finance. Kathryn S. Wylde, the president of the group, said that many city workers drive because they can park at no charge using parking placards obtained through their agencies.

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