For hours each day, Manhattan’s streets are choked with cars, bumper to bumper until the roads hit the edge of the island. Here, we propose a solution: a few changes the Department of Transportation and the MTA could make to reduce traffic without making anyone too upset.
Reducing traffic is a very different problem from lowering vehicle fatalities, encouraging bicycling, or improving the subway system. A driver’s cost of using a road is subsidized by the government and as such is artificially cheap. You wind up with people relying on cars for transport—and structuring their lives around cars—when they can’t actually afford to drive. That’s why there is a never-ending traffic jam in Manhattan. Where but the subsidized streets is there space to transport and store stuff nearly for free?
A congestion charge is not the way to solve traffic problems. It is complicated and expensive, and only makes the government rich. Additionally, it infuriates car drivers. All those car drivers are not an easy lot to convince. If you want to solve the traffic problem you have to do it in a way that is transparent or beneficial to car drivers.
The Government should care about all this traffic. It costs an awful lot: http://greeneconomics.blogspot.com/2007/08/some-arithmetic-on-cost-of-nyc-traffic.html People need to move so they can work. A taxpayer sitting in traffic isn’t much good to the tax collectors of NYC.
Who else cares? Tourists. People like to go on vacation to places like Mackinac Island, Lugano, Florence, Venice, Zermatt, Santa Barbara, and Central Park. All have walkable pedestrian districts. People LIKE being pedestrians, even if they daydream about cars.
Cars can be managed without cameras and police. In England, traffic lights are not above or behind an intersection. They are just before the intersection. This means that drivers do not have the information to creep halfway through an intersection, since they must wait in a place where the light is visible. You can use roundabouts at big intersections to flow cars better than traffic lights. In the evening, traffic lights must be turned off in little neighborhoods. The intersections turn into 4-way stops.
Most crucially, NYC must encourage motorcycling. Cars are an ineffective way to use an urban street. Many drivers don’t know how to parallel park, they block intersections, and they take up a ton of space when parked.
The answer to the world’s urban traffic congestion may be as simple as creating policies to promote motorcycle commuting.
A detailed study by Belgian consultancy Transport & Mobility Leuven has found that a slight shift in traffic composition from cars to motorcycles significantly reduces traffic congestion and emissions.
The study, which was presented at the Association des Constructeurs Européens de Motocycles (ACEM) 2012 Conference in Brussels, found that if 10 percent of all private cars were replaced by motorcycles in the traffic flow of the test area, total time losses for all vehicles decreased by 40 percent and total emissions reduced by 6 percent (1 percent from the different traffic composition of more emission-reduced motorcycles and 5 percent from avoided traffic congestion).
Studies by Transportation Alternatives have shown that 15%-45% of drivers in Manhattan are trolling for parking, and observation suggests that a lot of those drivers pass up spots that they could fit in—just because they lack parallel parking skills.’
Sounds like the City is ripe for a shift toward more motorcycling. Right now there is no incentive to ride a motorcycle. Tolls are $11 vs $12 for a car, the class costs ~$300, and the city doesn’t offer a secure place to lock a motorcyle and it costs the same to park a car as it does a motorbike, even though motorbikes use much less street space.
In order to encourage motorcycling, NYC need not build any new infrastructure. NYC could drastically reduce traffic–thereby increasing tax revenue–by simply eliminating the rule that says motorcycles need to pay Munimeter fees, subsidizing to a greater extent the MSF safety courses, and reducing bridge and tunnel tolls to 0%-30% of that of cars. People would switch to motorcycles in droves.
Car drivers need more training on how to parallel park. NYC DOT should offer an online course that explains to car drivers how to parallel park and drive in the city. In exchange, they could get a discount on parking or an EZ-Pass credit.
Traffic problem solved.