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HONK HONK HOOONK: NYC Streets Are 'More Congested Than Ever'

Dashed Arrow USTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

It's not your imagination: New York City's roads are clogged with stinking hot automobiles at historic proportions, and motor vehicle traffic has slowed to a stomach-churning crawl, turning millions of otherwise normal human beings into horn-honking rage zombies.

According to the Department of Transportation's annual mobility report, citywide bus speeds are at their lowest in a decade (7.58 mph), while annual For-Hire Vehicle trips have exploded to nearly 316 million, a 90 percent increase since 2010. Taxi speeds in Manhattan below 60th Street (the "Central Business District") have slowed from 9 mph to 7 mph over the last eight years, despite a slight decrease in the number of cars that enter Lower Manhattan every weekday. Traffic speeds are down to 4.9 mph in what DOT refers to as the "Midtown Core," AKA the Tourist Hellscape of Times Square, Broadway, Herald Square, etc.

In fact, taking a Citi Bike is one minute faster than taking a car anywhere within the Midtown Core, according to the DOT. (Another fun stat: 42nd Street is the only place in New York where yellow and green cabs outnumber FHVs on the street.)

Meanwhile, weekday and weekend subway ridership declined, as has bus ridership.

"Our roadways are more congested than ever," DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg concludes, before pointing to some bright spots: 490,000 people ride a bike each day, up from 420,000 in 2014 and 100,000 in 1990. By contrast, 127,000 people take the mayor's ferry service every day.

"Perhaps most exciting, DOT is working closely with the MTA on the creation of the Central Business District Tolling Program," Trottenberg says, referring to congestion pricing. But that plan, which is overseen by the state, doesn't go into effect until 2021. Trottenberg points to "ambitious new policies that will help rein in CBD congestion caused by FHVs."

Earlier this month the Taxi & Limousine Commission voted to maintain the existing cap on app-based FHVs and create rules restricting how much time app-based drivers can spend "cruising" (i.e, driving without passengers) in Manhattan below 96th Street.

But if you were looking for potential solutions to ease the congestion before 2021...that's all the report really addresses.

Some other notable stats from the report:

  • 44.9 percent of New Yorkers surveyed received a delivery at home at least once a week. New Yorkers are TOUGH—but also please bring me some food and paper towels and also some crap from Amazon that we'll ultimately forget about in a few weeks and please bring it right to my door OK thank you!
  • Trucks make up a small fraction of the total vehicle volume at all count locations observed, and average 13 percent of traffic in Midtown Manhattan, though as we have reported, they present a disproportionate danger to pedestrians and cyclists. The Manhattan Bridge has the highest number of freight vehicles, accounting for 24 percent of its total traffic volume.
  • 30.7 percent of trips that New Yorkers took were walking trips, the highest of any mode of transportation.
  • In an area that encompasses Downtown Brooklyn, Northern Brooklyn, and Long Island City, there are over two times as many Citi Bike trips as there are taxi trips, and for trips under 2 miles long, Citi Bike trips are at most only two minutes slower than taking a taxi.

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