Call Him ‘Wheels de Blasio’ — City Vehicle Fleet Grows Under SUV-Riding Mayor

The city now owns 31,002 vehicles — a 19-percent increase since the mayor took office.

Photo: 78th Precinct.
Photo: 78th Precinct.

UPDATE (9:50 pm) | Shotgun! Mayor de Blasio’s car-buying binge continues.

The city fleet now comprises 31,002 vehicles, up from 25,585, or 19 percent, since the mayor took office. In the fiscal year that just ended, the city added 965 more vehicles, a 3.2-percent increase from last year, according the just-released Mayor’s Management Report [PDF].

The de Blasio buildup has completely erased the reductions made by previous Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who reduced the city fleet from a peak of just under 30,000 in 2008 to just under 26,000 at the end of his term in 2014. De Blasio’s fleet size is the largest since the city started tracking this stat in 2000.

“Nobody in the city administration cares about this or is watching it,” said TransitCenter Communications Director Jon Orcutt, who was DOT deputy commissioner for policy under Bloomberg. “They’re just okaying any vehicle request that comes in when they approve the budget.”

The largest culprit for this year’s increase, however, was the NYPD, which added 444 new vehicles — mostly “light duty” patrol cars. The term “community policing” suggests getting cops out of cars, yet the opposite appears to be happening.

City Hall got back to us after this story was published and said the expansion in the size of the fleet stemmed from post-recession expansion in headcount and services. The expansion includes:

  • 1,333 additional on-road police response units and 302 additional on-road fire-fighting units and ambulances.
  • 80 additional on-road haulster plow units for DSNY to enhance snow removal after the Jonas storm.
  • 47 additional units to support ACS inspections and protective services and 72 to support additional Health initiatives.
  • 73 units to support additional Department of Buildings inspections.
  • An unspecified increase in to off-road vehicles that support units like light towers, forklifts, generators, tar kettles, chippers, stump cutters, backhoes and trailers. There are over 1,100 light towers and forklifts alone.

That follows comments by de Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell on Twitter, where he attributed the fleet’s growth to the overall expansion of city government since the mayor took office. Norvell variously argued that the much of the increase was among emergency vehicles, that the vehicle increase was a non-issue because the new vehicles are energy-efficient, and that the increase includes vehicles purchased for “post-Sandy emergency preparedness.”

Any way you slice it, more city-owned vehicles on NYC streets simply sends the wrong message by a government that has put a cap on Uber, Lyft and other app-based caps and is considering creating its own congestion pricing scheme to charge drivers for entering downtown.

“We’re just not sending any kind of signal that city government takes [its role in congestion] seriously, and wants to decongest the city and promote any other ways of getting around,” Orcutt said. “The mayor thinks expanding government is good. I don’t want to argue with that, per se, but there’s nobody watching the overall picture in terms of transportation.”

The city, which is divesting its investments in oil companies, spent $65.5 million on fuel alone last year.

Update: Story was updated to include information from City Hall.

  • AMH

    We have got to get rid of city vehicles, starting with the NYPD! One of those “cute” little patrol cars shot past me at about 60mph yesterday, only to screech to a halt at the red light down the block and nearly hitting the people crossing. Get them out of cars!

  • JarekFA

    This graph more than anything else reflects the poverty of leadership on climate change emanating from City Hall. Sure — perhaps there are some more ambulances here or there. Great. Why the fuck do we have 40 squad cars in midtown parked on the sidewalk plus 40+ personal vehicles parked there as well. Are they going to get in a high speed car chase? Where’s the leadership there.

    Why is FiDi a fucking parking lot where commercial loading zones are full of city vehicles such that delivery vehicles load on sidewalks on the narrowest streets in the city. Why is UPS piloting cargo e-tricycle deliveries in hilly Pittsburg but not in what would be the most viable market for them? Why’d he give out 50,000 parking placards for teachers. Doug Gordon has documented how his local middle school’s playstreet has literally been converted to school staff parking and 6 blocks from 3 train lines.

    Why is he going all in on fucking Ferries which pollute like fucking crazy. The guy is a political coward. Why can’t we get a pilot for the Barcelona super blocks in viable neighborhoods in NYC. You can offer vouchers for garage parking for people who previously parked on the street for free as part of the pilot. Why isn’t there a long term plan to reduce vehicle miles travelled in which we incrementally over time remove free parking and create space for peds and bikes and buses. Why the fuck do the NYPD regularly treat bus lanes like private parking.

  • AnoNYC

    I thought the plan was to share more vehicles between agencies?

    Also from the Twitter chat:

    “1300 NYPD response vehicles
    300 ambulances and firefighting units
    140 snowplows
    1700 forklifts, light towers, fueling trucks, emergency generators, pumps and signboards that are part of post-Sandy emergency preparedness (and count as vehicles)”

  • Fool

    He is just not a good manager. For some reason in NYS we elect people to local government based upon their federal level policies, rather than their local policies and managerial experiences.

  • Jacob

    While I agree that the growing fleet is not good for the city, that chart presents the data in a very misleading way, leaving out much of the axis, which makes the changes appear to be much more dramatic than they actually are. This does not bolster the credibility of the argument being made here. Below is the exact same data shown on a full Y-axis.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9df08b55c2845336edb1fa11283f3d1a616a6af5c52e4c2cf0c020363734b062.png

  • Jacob

    5,000 extra cars is a lot of cars, money, traffic, and pollution, and if you want to make that point, I fully support it, but dramatizing charts, even if unintentional, appears deceptive.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Many “school reform” initiatives were also reversed, including the attempt to bring down New York’s sky high school bus costs. The last time the school bus companies were doing such a lousy job they were doing it on purpose, to screw Bloomberg for opening the bidding instead of having no bid contracts. Are they screwing kids on purpose again to get even more out of DeBlasio, before someone else does?

    Note what happened even with Bloomberg’s attempt at reform, during an era when the wages of most workers were falling behind inflation.

    https://larrylittlefield.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/chart4e.jpg

    And that is a full Y axis.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Did you see those Cuomo campaign commercials? Nothing about what he has done as Governor.

    Happens in the Red States too. We cater to your tribalism on LBGQT, abortion, immigrants and guns, and now confederate monuments, but otherwise our special interests get to screw you and steal the future from younger generations. Deal?

  • Larry Littlefield

    On the other hand, I don’t think even Streetsblog advocates cutting public vehicle use to zero, and having the garbage collected by rickshaw. There is a level that cannot be gone below. The question is where are we relative to that level. So a zero scale isn’t necessarily the most descriptive either.

  • Jacob

    Fair enough, but let’s be clear about that when we’re discussing this. What is a significant increase/decrease & why? Where do we want to go? What is ideal? Are there models we can emulate?

  • Larry Littlefield

    I always prefer the double comparison — over time, AND across space. Just the former for NYC always assume that the NYC baseline is the right number, locking everything in.

    It would be interesting to get similar data for other cities by type of vehicle, along with their populations — being careful to adjust for the fact that in most jurisdictions there are also county and special district governments providing services.

  • I have to admit that I think that this doesn’t matter. The cars in the City’s fleet account for a minuscule percentage of the total cars on the streets.

    Furthermore, official vehicles constitute one of the legitimate types of automobiles. Even when we fantasise about a ban on cars in Manhattan, we don’t include in that ban certain categories of vehicles: delivery vehicles, emergency vehicles, official vehicles, taxis, and the vehicles required by people who are doing jobs for which they must haul heavy gear or tools. So, for me, official cars are a non-issue, as they don’t make a difference in the congestion on the roads.

    By contrast, the for-hire vehicles which have lately flooded our streets have dramatically exacerbated congestion. Still, if we applied appropriate restrictions on all vehicles outside the aforementioned classes, then even for-hire vehicles would not be a problem, as they (as well as legitimate taxis) would be practically the only passenger cars that one would see in the City’s most densely-populated and most bustling borough.

  • StanChaz

    So you want everyone to ride a bike, right?

  • qatzelok

    It’s a good thing that Donald Trump doesn’t believe in global climate change. New York will be safe and sound with his ideas circulating as common currency.

  • Rex Rocket

    Car 54 Where Are You?

  • cjstephens

    So in an article entirely about the failure of an anti-Trump #Resist mayor, you somehow manage to blame Trump? Please see a therapist about your Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  • cjstephens

    Classic what-about-ism. “Don’t pick on the city’s fleet! Blame those Uber drivers instead!”

    Do these vehicles represent a small percentage of the city’s traffic? Sure. But you have to start somewhere, and we expect our civic leaders to, well, lead, not be a part of the problem.

    And how are all official vehicles “legitimate types of automobiles”? I’m not going to argue against more ambulances, but why does every city employee who does work outside the office need a private vehicle? Unless they’re schlepping heavy equipment, why can’t they take buses and subways like the rest of us? Heck, even relying on all those for-hire vehicles you’re blaming would save the city millions in capital expenses and upkeep.

  • cjstephens

    Why not? I love the Sanitation Department, but why do their inspectors need to work from cars? They’re not carrying anything bigger than a clipboard. Same with Building Department inspectors.

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