Cars, Not The Disney Movie

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An article in today’s Times about who drives into Manhattan reveals some surprising facts: contrary to popular myth that most people are coming from the suburbs, in fact more than half of all commuters are coming from the boroughs. Once this little myth was busted, it suddenly seems rather obvious. People from Jersey, Connecticut and Long Island have a plethora of relatively comfortable commuter options, while people in Bayside Queens don’t.

Meanwhile almost all the major transportation projects currently under consideration would further improve the suburban commute and do virtually nothing for people who actually live in New York City. To wit: Moynihan Station would be built mostly for New Jersey Transit. The new Calatrava Station at Ground Zero is for PATH commuters (New Jersey again). Long Island Railroad is supposed to finally have a connection at Grand Central, etc. We’re talking billions of dollars of investment.

Just to play the contrarian for a moment, this new traffic info sheds a rather unflattering light on the idea of congestion pricing, a hotly debated topic of late. If half of all commuters are concentrated in areas of New York City where there are few public transit options, none of them very good, does congestion pricing hit middle class and working class people disproportionately?

9 Responses to Cars, Not The Disney Movie

  1. Johnny says:

    I love your blog, but want to post my first comment to disagree with you that the new public transportation projects would help only suburbanites.

    First, the 2nd Avenue subway is a city project. The uptown phase will help the upper east sider and east Harlem, and the downtown phase will help the east side of the financial district, lower east side, east village and far east midtown. Besides just those residents, many people work in these areas, for example I know several Brooklynites who work at Upper East Side hospitals who will see their commute drastically improved.

    Second, the 7 train extension will help conventioneers yes, but its also going to help the increasingly large number of folks that live and work in west midtown. Remember, lots of folks work at Javits too, and there are tons of people moving into those new towers out there.

    Third, the new Fulton Street station/PATH connection will certainly help Jersey commuters, but it will also be great for city residents who endure miserable and confusing transfers at Fulton Street. Further, it will connect subway lines that are not currently connected. For example those of us that take the R/W can now only transfer to the A/C/E via long tunnel at Times Square/Port Authority. There isn’t a single connection south of 42nd street or in Brooklyn, even those two lines cross twice. Fixing Fulton Street helps nearly everyone since nearly every line goes through there.

    Johnny

  2. Hey, no need to apologize for disagreeing! Points well taken, but as far as the projects you mention, really only the 2nd Avenue subway is going to increase CAPACITY for New Yorkers. I didn’t even mention the new tunnel that’s going to happen under the Hudson into Penn Station, another massive suburban commuter project. I don’t mean to pit one against the other, but when resources are limited (and MTA has to be FOUGHT in order to spend money to do the right thing at the the Fulton Transit Center), it seems maybe priorities should be called into question. It just raises the question, is congestion pricing the right thing when people in Queens pretty much HAVE to drive in to work in Manhattan?

  3. john says:

    I’m not sure why you think the outer boroughs have poor transportation options. They have the subway system, express buses, and sometimes the LIRR and MetroNorth. If there are parts of Queens that are auto-dependent, and someone with a job in Manhattan has chosen to live in that part of Queens, residents and workers in Manhattan are supposed to suffer from their traffic because … ?

    We have the best transportation system in America. On the other hand, I used to live on East 63rd Street, and would suffer the genuine degradation of pedestrian life caused by Queens commuters driving in over the Queensboro Bridge bringing noise, pollution, overcrowding and general agita.

    In the 1950s and 60s, traffic engineers turned many of New York’s streets into auto sewers, with wide, one-way lanes, narrow sidewalks and no on-street parking to buffer the pedestrian from the traffic. 80% of Manhattanites don’t own cars, and most Manhattan workers take public transportaton. It’s time we stop letting a small number of drivers degrade the quality of life for all us.

  4. dailytransit says:

    While I’m not an NY citizen myself (and so may be more ignorant), I’m in agreement with John – while the 7 might not make it all the way out to Bayside, getting down to Flushing via other means (walk, bike, cab, maybe a parking garage near the station would be a good idea?) has got to be faster and more economical way of getting into the city than driving the whole thing.

  5. Good job man,…!
    A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week. General George S Patton

  6. My fellow on Orkut shared this link and I’m not dissapointed that I came here.

  7. Thanks very much for your interesting post. Will be back in the future.

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