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.

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