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De Blasio Unveils 5-Point Plan Intended To Ease Traffic Congestion

Dashed Arrow via Navid Baraty's Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a long-promised plan to ease traffic congestion on Sunday. The plan, if successful, would boost the average speed of drivers by 10 percent in the next year, bringing the average speed in Midtown, the city's most congested zone, up to 5.2 miles-per-hour.

At a press conference held on 3rd Avenue and 54th Street, the mayor unveiled his five-point plan, which includes the creation of new travel lanes in Midtown, limiting curbside access in heavily-trafficked corridors, targeting recurring traffic hotspots on local highways, and ramping up enforcement for drivers that block the box. The crackdown will require an additional 160 NYPD officers—not included in the 1,300 new cops the mayor recently hired—who will focus on moving and parking violations as well as off-route trucks.

"With 8.5 million people, New York City is experiencing both record population and economic vitality; but our success has put serious demands on our already crowded street network," the mayor said. "Congestion is at a level that for so many people in the city really affects their lives negatively."

Among the biggest changes, the city is set to implement a six-month pilot program beginning in January that will ban rush hour deliveries on three heavily congested corridors. The ban will take effect on a section of Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, a section of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and the zone in Midtown encompassing 6th Avenue to Madison Avenue between 45th and 50th Streets. If successful, the pilot program could be greatly expanded throughout the city, according to de Blasio.

Another element of the plan, called Clear Lanes, will "create continuous curb moving lanes" on 11 crosstown streets in Midtown, by restricting deliveries to one side of the street and implementing no standing zones on the other side of the street, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. To enforce the lanes, the city plans on doubling the size of the Midtown Manhattan Traffic Enforcement Task Force from 40 to 80. The "vast majority" of the added cost will come from new revenue brought in by added enforcement, de Blasio said.

During the press conference, the mayor also reiterated his opposition to congestion pricing, recently endorsed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. He said that both Mayor Bloomberg's original plan and the more recent Move NY plan did not "account for inequities," and once again called congestion pricing a regressive tax—a point that several transit experts and safe streets advocates have challenged him on.

"The whole idea that there are working stiffs coming into midtown in cars is totally apocryphal," Jon Orcutt, spokesperson at Transit Center, an urban transportation research and advocacy organization, told Gothamist.

"It's pretty appalling what he keeps saying because clearly congestion pricing in New York would be used to fund transit, and transit riders are lower income than drivers."

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