Source: Edge of the City

THE COMMUTE: I’m not talking about congestion pricing for the Manhattan Central Business District, but rather methods such as improved signage, better traffic light synchronization, reducing the number of bottlenecks, additional dual left turn lanes, more two-way streets, additional traffic enforcement agents placed at traffic hot spots, and enforcement of existing regulations prohibiting double parking. These are just some measures that can go a long way.

The problem is that moving traffic is no longer a high priority for DOT. Some may even argue that it is not a priority at all. For example, the Belt Parkway bridges are being rebuilt without the ability to add a fourth traffic lane, which is desperately needed on the portion of the parkway without service roads between Knapp Street and Cross Bay Boulevard. On summer weekends, traffic is bumper-to-bumper due to beach traffic to Coney Island and the Rockaways, and heavy at other times.

Select Bus Service and additional bike lanes replacing moving traffic lanes further reduces road capacity thereby also increasing traffic congestion. If it were possible for most auto drivers to switch to mass transit or bicycle, perhaps reducing road capacity could be justified, but such is not the case.

The Opposition

Whenever I discuss reducing traffic congestion, the anti-car people — mainly from the downtown areas — come out of the woodwork. They scream about the evils of the polluting automobile, which kills people and will end civilization as we know it unless each one of us abandons the car and starts pedaling to work, or switches to mass transit. Then they go on to explain how congestion pricing or tolling the free bridges are the only sensible solutions.

Yes, mass transit must be improved, but we are cutting service, not improving it. Select Bus Service even if it is successful will never be expanded to more than a small percentage of the hundreds of local routes presently operating. These environmentalists, or whatever you call them, believe traffic congestion is a good thing and they have renamed it “traffic calming.” The truth is that traffic congestion benefits no one and, for many, the automobile is their only viable alternative. Solutions must be sought to reduce traffic congestion.

Better Signage and Poor Traffic Light Synchronization

One measure that was supposed to reduce highway congestion and has never really succeeded are those expensive, electronic road signs used to inform drivers of congestion ahead and suggest alternate routes. Instead, half the time they do not work and only display public service announcements such as “Buckle up” or “Hand held cell phones not permitted.” Cheaper old-fashioned metal signs could provide that information.

When these new signs do work, rarely is the information provided useful. For example, I was once on the Belt Parkway just before the last exit to the Sunrise Highway. The sign stated that there was a delay on the “SSP” from Exits 17 to 19. First of all, no non-resident would know what the SSP or CIP means, already limiting its usefulness. Since the delay was only for two exits, the Southern State still seemed quicker than the Sunrise with its traffic lights. However, when I reached Exit 18, another sign shouted delays from Exits 19 to 21. This kept repeating, with delays never showing for more than two to three exits at a time. End of story — the delay was from Exit 19 all the way to Exit 42. Had I known that from the first sign, the Sunrise would have been faster than traveling at 20 MPH for more than 20 exits on the Southern State.

Sometimes the signs provide erroneous information. Recently I was on the Grand Central Parkway when the signed proclaimed delays when traffic was moving well above the posted speed limit of 50 mph. Other times, the signs are just blank or are displaying a test pattern. Once in a while you will be informed that traffic is moving normally or given the time it will take to get to a major interchange, which is always reassuring, but as far as reducing congestion by steering traffic away from congested areas — that has just not happened. At least in New York.

I have seen stationary signs announcing delays due to road work, posted after the last exit to avoid the delay, for example, on the Belt Parkway just after the Knapp Street exit going west when you could have exited and taken the service road to avoid the delay.

Many times, directional signs send you via a longer indirect route than necessary, also increasing congestion. For example, on Sheepshead Bay Road, going south, the sign for the Belt Parkway westbound directs you to the service road requiring you to double back to Voorhies Avenue.

I only take my car into Manhattan about once a year and only when absolutely necessary. About a month ago, around 5 p.m., I dropped off a friend on the Upper East Side because we were transporting an object that could not easily be taken into the subway. The trip uptown went smoothly, but I noticed a long delay on the FDR for the Brooklyn Bridge southbound, so I figured I would be better off with the Williamsburg Bridge on my return trip since I was destined for Canarsie. My instinct told me to exit at Houston Street. Had I done that, I probably would have been on the Willie B in about 10 minutes.

An electronic sign announced the delay to the Brooklyn Bridge and another sign directed cars to the Grand Street exit for the Williamsburg Bridge, so I took DOT’s advice. Big mistake. It took three cycles (about five minutes) just to get off the highway at Grand Street. Then Grand Street was not moving so I switched to Madison Street, which was empty. Ten minutes later, I found myself at Essex and Delancey, about to make a left turn onto the Bridge. However, a sign prohibited left turns between 4 to 7 p.m. Two cars ahead of me made the illegal turn without any problem or delaying northbound traffic. Not wanting to risk a summons, I had to travel two blocks further south, one west, one north and another east, losing another five minutes. The trip over the bridge took only about three minutes. However, the entire trip from when I first passed under the bridge until I entered the bridge took 30 minutes.

Avoiding the Brooklyn Bridge as suggested by the electronic sign, and using Grand Street as DOT suggested saved no time at all and probably took 20 minutes longer than if I used the Houston Street exit instead.

The entire trip from the Upper East Side to Canarsie took me almost an hour and a half and traffic congestion was not the major problem. It was poor signage directing me to Grand Street, an unnecessary turning prohibition from Essex Street, and poor traffic light synchronization on Ralph Avenue, where each signal turned red just as the previous one turned green, which caused most of the delays. It took 45 minutes just to get into Brooklyn, and another 40 minutes of travel from Williamsburg to Canarsie.

Other Measures

DOT recently made changes on Emmons Avenue, which residents fear will increase congestion further. They should be making changes to speed traffic, such as adding a dual left turn lane at Ocean Avenue or installing a left turn bay at East 19th Street, both of which they rejected. I recently learned that the successful dual left turn lane at Emmons Avenue and Shore Boulevard was suggested by an MTA dispatcher and it took DOT one year to implement it. Allowing the center lane to legally turn right on Shore Boulevard going north at Emmons Avenue would reduce congestion further at that intersection.

One-way streets improve traffic flow when they enable traffic lights to be synchronized, but many streets that are wide enough for two-way operation, such as East 17th Street between Neck Road and Avenue Y, are only one-way. This causes cars to circle around the block more than necessary to find a parking spot. Many parking spots are unnecessarily prohibited, also increasing the time it takes to find one and causing unnecessary traffic. For example, when DOT recently banned parking spots near intersections on Oriental Boulevard to make it safer for drivers approaching intersections (a practice called “daylighting”), in some cases three spaces were lost instead of one, simply because DOT was too lazy to install additional sign posts and just banned parking from the closest existing sign post.

The Purpose of Traffic Enforcement Agents

It should be to reduce traffic congestion. In New York City, it is to raise revenue. Other than in Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, where they are used to reduce congestion, in Brooklyn most just give traffic summonses at expired meters. Just a few in Southern Brooklyn are assigned to problem intersections, such as Coney Island Avenue and Avenue Z during the reconstruction of the Guider Avenue Bridge. When they do give summonses for double or illegal parking, no thought is given to whether the illegal parker is impeding traffic or not.

Last month I planned to pick up a friend at the Sheepshead Bay Road train station at 1 p.m. I chose the Voorhies Avenue side because it is the least crowded. I parked illegally because the city makes no provision to allow cars to legally stop and pick up passengers at major transportation hubs. Although I was the only car waiting and not blocking traffic, a traffic enforcement agent told me to move my car, causing me to miss my friend who thought I forgot the appointment. Trucks, however, are allowed to double park for hours without receiving tickets on Brighton Beach Avenue or near the Junction of Flatbush and Nostrand avenues, impeding bus and car traffic. It can take 15 minutes just to go through the Junction.

Last year it took me 40 minutes to travel two short blocks on East 62nd Street after exiting the Queensboro Bridge in Manhattan. Only one lane was moving due to construction and the traffic signal was long enough to allow only three cars during each cycle to go through the intersections of First and York avenues. City permits were required for the construction and the city knew that this street was the primary exit for the bridge, yet no traffic enforcement agents were on duty to extend the length of the signal by permitting cars to go through on the red. This could have easily been done since traffic on both York and First avenues was very light at this time on a Sunday morning. In this case two enforcement agents could have cut the delay from 40 to about only 10 minutes. If only DOT cared about reducing traffic congestion.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

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  • Mike

    The new circle redesign at Grand Army Plaza is a mess. How can the DOT invest so much money into rebuilding the circle and only cause more traffic? Driving over to Union Street used to be dangerous but now it’s even worse and takes 30 minutes

    • Allan Rosen

      Haven’t been there yet but the answer to your question is that their priority is not to reduce congestion but to make it safer to cross the street and to cycle. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but often such improvements only make congestion worse. Exactly the point of the article.

      The thinking is that increased traffic congestion will cause people to stop driving and give up their cars. Also good ideas, but it won’t happen without significant investments in our transit system, not when the MTA refuses to improve local bus service by revising and extending routes and is only interested in further reducing service.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

        It gets dangerous for pedestrians when drivers end up stuck in the middle of a intersection and suddenly traffic moves forward. Someone is crossing and continues moving because they are looking in the direction of the oncoming traffic. I saw a near hit at Bartell Pritchard Square that was the result of this; that circle is smaller, but almost as perilous.

        • Allan Rosen

          Drivers shouldn’t get stuck in the middle of an intersection, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable. There are intersections, mostly in Manhattan, but a few in Brooklyn like at Brighton Beach Avenue and Brighton 11 Street, where if you don’t wait in the middle if the intersection until the signal at Coney Island Avenue turns green, you could be stuck waiting at Bri 11 for 15 minutes, because every time the signal turns red, all the queue space is filled by cars turning from Brighton 11 Street. The cars behind you will start to honk and if you don’t move into the intersection, you will end up being a victim of road rage.

          • Andrew

            Your problem is not too many bike lanes or too many bus lanes or too few car lanes.  Your problem is too many other cars.

          • Allan Rosen

            Yes and there are too many cars because most trips take two, three, or four times longer by mass transit than by driving unless you are going to Manhattan.  And instead of improving mass transit and rerouting archaic bus routes that don’t take people where they want to go, the MTA is making service more inconvenient cut cutting service and severing route connections so that two bus trips become three bus trips.  They will not make any investment to improve the service insisting that it has to be fixed.  They will only add service if the communities also except a service reduction somewhere else.  That is no way to operate a mass transit system.

          • http://secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

            Drivers shouldn’t get stuck in the middle of an intersection, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable.

            Incorrect. The law is that you’re not allowed to proceed through an intersection until you can clear it. Any driver that gets stuck in an intersection if violating the traffic code. It’s entirely avoidable.

          • Allan Rosen

            Just proves you rarely drive.  What do you do if you have a green light but there is no room for you to enter the intersection?  You wait until the light turns red, then green again?  Right?  Okay, what if during the red cycle turning cars fill up all the available queuing space in front of you and when the light turns green, again there is still no space for you to advance?  You must wait for the next cycle again. Right?

            Now what if this keeps happening for 15 minutes? What do you think the drivers behind you will do? Now I’m not exaggerating.  I’ve been in this situation more than once.  If you don’t violate the law and force your way in, you just won’t get through. Ben and Andrew, you don’t know everything although you think you do. 

          • http://secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

            You have no idea how often I drive. I drive quite regularly, and when I do, I wait behind the intersection until there’s room to go. If the light turns red and I have to wait, so be it. You don’t know me at all. Don’t you tell me what my comments “prove.”

          • Allan Rosen

            I was talking primarily about Midtown Manhattan, where I once missed three cycles waiting then finally just forced my way into the intersection when I realized that if I didn’t take that little space available so I could get through on the following cycle, a turning car would just take it and I would have to wait for a fourth or maybe fifth cycle. I did not stand there counting 15 minutes, but given the situation I was in, waiting 15 minutes was a good possibility.

            I’m not saying this happens often.  It is rare but does happen.  The only place other than Midtown where I remember this happening to me is on Brighton Beach Avenue going west at Brighton 11th Street because of the limited queuing space because of a short 100 foot block between Brighton 11th and Coney Island Avenue.  If there are trucks double parked on that block, there is space only for three or four cars and the two lights are almost never in synch with each other.  If you don’t believe me go there sometime.  It’s not always the case, but I would say there is a 30% chance of it happening between 2 and 4 on a weekday afternoon.   

          • Allan Rosen

            I didn’t realize Guest was Ben when I posted the above comment. All I will add is that you obviously have not been in the same traffic situations that I have been in.  Also, I have been driving six times longer than you have.  So for you to say it’s “entirely avoidable” is just wrong.  It is avoidable most of the time but not entirely avoidable. 

          • http://secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

            You have no idea how often I drive. I drive quite regularly, and when I do, I wait behind the intersection until there’s room to go. If the light turns red and I have to wait, so be it. You don’t know me at all. Don’t you tell me what my comments “prove.”

          • Allan Rosen

            Just proves you rarely drive.  What do you do if you have a green light but there is no room for you to enter the intersection?  You wait until the light turns red, then green again?  Right?  Okay, what if during the red cycle turning cars fill up all the available queuing space in front of you and when the light turns green, again there is still no space for you to advance?  You must wait for the next cycle again. Right?

            Now what if this keeps happening for 15 minutes? What do you think the drivers behind you will do? Now I’m not exaggerating.  I’ve been in this situation more than once.  If you don’t violate the law and force your way in, you just won’t get through. Ben and Andrew, you don’t know everything although you think you do. 

          • http://secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

            Drivers shouldn’t get stuck in the middle of an intersection, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable.

            Incorrect. The law is that you’re not allowed to proceed through an intersection until you can clear it. Any driver that gets stuck in an intersection if violating the traffic code. It’s entirely avoidable.

          • http://secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

            Drivers shouldn’t get stuck in the middle of an intersection, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable.

            Incorrect. The law is that you’re not allowed to proceed through an intersection until you can clear it. Any driver that gets stuck in an intersection if violating the traffic code. It’s entirely avoidable.

  • MyBrooklyn

    DOT are bunch of savages..Stop narrowing our roads damn
    it. Not only drivers get to pay high registration fees to own a car. We have
    bad roads, meters going up in price, damn tickets and slow moving traffic
    everywhere all because of narrowing roads. Dumb asses. We drivers stressed out
    and anxious over your stupidity. Pedestrian oh please they cross roads however
    the hell they want to anyways…BTW Screw MTA one piece of shit public transportation
    slow and always packed when I take a train to work

  • LLQBTT

    There are just too many cars on the road and inadequate transit facilities to provide an alternative.  Especially ‘down the Bay’.  I hate driving there now because there are stop signs or traffic lights at every corner where they weren’t any before.  And there are no through routes.  In the old days, you could ‘cut across’ on both Aves Y and S because they went under the train and had relatively few lights.  Now forget it.  Good luck using the B3 as an alternative.  You’ll never get there.

    • MyBrooklyn

      B3 for sake argument good luck using any kind public transportation especially on a weekend

    • Allan Rosen

      Years ago, school crossing guards provided all the protection needed near schools. Nowadays communities demand that every school have one or two traffic lights. DOT makes sure these new lights are not synched with neighboring lights so that cars travel more slowly and have to stop at every single light. This wastes gas and delays everyone. That’s why there aren’t any through routes anymore except for one-way pairs which are overcrowded and congested because everyone gravitates to them.

      • LLQBTT

        I don’t even think there are any 1 way pairs in Sheepshead Bay any longer.  Farther up in Brooklyn, the Rogers/Bedford 1 way seems to work more than not.  But Nostrand only works until you get in the busier business area. Then it’s hit or miss

        • Allan Rosen

          And they both won’t work at all after SBS.

          • LLQBTT

            How do mean?  The streets won’t work?

            Sometimes, like on Ave V, it can take forever to go from Ocean Ave to Ocean Pkwy because you have to wait for the light on Ocean Ave., then again at 17th St, again at 14th St, again at 12th Street, again at CIA and lastly again at 7th St

            It just seems maddening whenever I have to drive out there.  It never used to be this way.

          • Allan Rosen

            I was talking about Nostrand and Rogers which both work pretty well, Nostrand better than Rogers. They would even work better if there were no double parkers. That’s because the signals are progressive and permit you to go at 30 mph without stopping. With the reduced road capacity by one-third there will be too many cars for the roadway and you will have to stop for a light every few blocks like on other streets where the signals are not progressive. When traffic gets really bad, drivers will switch to parallel streets slowing traffic there as well. In Sheepshead Bay, that means more traffic on parallel residential streets where DOT most likely will not be measuring any traffic increases. Your Avenue V example holds true for the other cross avenues as well, though the long lights at Ocean and Coney Island Avenue can’t be avoided since those streets get priority during the rush hours, but I agree that you shouldn’t have to stop three additional times between those avenues. I don’t mind hitting a red light, but it’s very annoying when the following light turns red just as the preceding one turns green. When this happens three times in a row, a trip of one half mile can take 8 to 10 minutes without traffic and 15 with traffic.

  • anonymous

    Don’t get me started!

    I have some suggestions:
    1) improve the timing of lights along avenue T. 
    2) the reason the FDR drive is backed up at the Brooklyn bridge is because the right 2 lanes of the bridge are backed up all to the entrance to the BQE southbound. Fixing the traffic pattern at the intersection of the BQE and  Old Fulton St would open up traffic on the bridge and fdr drive!  This is backed up every single day at the same exact place and nothing is done about it.  Very frustrating!
    3) do we really need the worlds most expensive parking lot exclusively used by NYPD?  I’m talking about the park row exit ramp. It’s really annoying sitting in traffic trying to get off the bridge and seeing cars parked on the ramp, simply because they can.

    • BrooklynBus

      3) I remember when they built that ramp to reduce congestion and it did for awhile. Then came 9/11 and they closed the ramp. I agree with you that it remains closed so the police can use it as a parking lot. Security is just an excuse. Just go to any police percent in the city and count all the illegally parked private police cars parked on sidewalks and anywhere else they can find room. The police believe that the City owes every police officer a parking space so they don’t have to use mass transit because they are privileged. This really sets a fine example for the rest of us not to break the law. Police were even given free transit privileges to get them to use mass transit to make system safer, but they still would rather drive even if they have to break the law to park because they know they won’t be receiving any summonses.

    • Andrew

      The FDR Drive is backed up at the Brooklyn Bridge because the Brooklyn Bridge is the toll-free alternate to the tunnel not far to its south.

      Apply the same toll to the Brooklyn Bridge as already applies to the Battery Tunnel and watch that traffic (and the traffic at the Gowanus-BBT/BQE split, and the traffic at the BQE exit for the Brooklyn Bridge) vanish in an instant.

      What’s particularly frustrating is that even people who want to pay the BBT toll often have to sit in traffic on the Gowanus, waiting in line with the freeloaders, until the BQE splits off.

      • Allan Rosen

        Why not cut the Battery Tunnel toll to $3 and also charge $3 on the Brooklyn Bridge as well?  Wouldn’t that be fairer than charging everyone $6.50 each way which will only increase by a dollar every two years so that by 2020, it will cost about $12 each way?

      • Allan Rosen

        Why not cut the Battery Tunnel toll to $3 and also charge $3 on the Brooklyn Bridge as well?  Wouldn’t that be fairer than charging everyone $6.50 each way which will only increase by a dollar every two years so that by 2020, it will cost about $12 each way?

  • somebody

    Allan,

    There are so many problems and misunderstandings of basic traffic engineering in your post, that I’m not sure where to start. Your heart might be in the right place, but I’m afraid that many of your suggestions would only serve to increase car traffic volumes and congestion.  I’ll reply with a more detailed post later, but the primary misconceptions you have is that more 1) capacity = less congestion, and 2) bike and bus lanes = more congestion. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and is not borne out by real world studies. The fact is that this DOT has done more to improve driving than any other DOT I can remember.  Of course, the number 1 thing they could do (when the State finally approves it), would be congestion pricing or East/Harlem River bridge tolls.  But until that comes (and it will), DOT has been doing an incredible amount of work to improve our streets’ efficiencies for ALL street users, particularly motorists. More to come later when I have time…

    • Allan Rosen

      I was waiting for a post like yours. 1) Never said more capacity = less congestion. I said take away capacity and you increase congestion. It’s not the same thing. You will cite studies where capacity was taken away and over time, and cars readjusted their routes and congestion was not increased. Those studies are flawed because those were the results that they wanted to show. Congestion was merely increased on streets outside the study area that were not measured. 2) “bike and bus lanes = more congestion.”. Never said that either. I have no problem with adding bike lanes when road capacity is not reduced (if it is needed). Bus lanes are also a good idea where the number of buses using those lanes justify the reduction in capacity or better yet when the parking lane is used and road capacity is not used. One bus every five or ten minutes does not justify removing an entire lane from traffic tripling non-bus commutes and saving only 2 minutes per passenger for bus passengers which is what will happen when SBS starts on the B44.

      Tolls and congestion pricing are subjects by themselves which I purposely avoided at this time.

      Let’s put it to a vote. How many believe that the current DOT has done the most to improve driving? My vote is for the DOT of the 1960s which converted two-way avenues to one-way and synchronized the traffic signals according to time of day saving 15 minutes on a trip across the borough. I find traffic today much slower. DOT’s actions and inactions and up zoning without providing proper parking are the prime causes in my opinion.

      • Andrew

        somebody is absolutely correct.  You are assuming that the total volume of traffic is fixed, and therefore, the more lanes they have, the less time that volume can pass, and the fewer lanes they have, the more time it takes for that volume to pass.  But, in fact, that’s not the case: most people have multiple options of where, when, and how to travel.  If drivers find a road to be congested, some of them will shift where they go, when they go there, or how they get there.  Conversely, if congestion is relieved on a road, some people will take advantage of that extra space for driving by shifting to peak hour car trips.  Drivers are willing to tolerate some degree of congestion (exactly how much depends, obviously, on the individual driver, on the purpose of the trip, and on the availability of alternatives), so, over time, that newly uncongested road will probably be come congested again.

        In other words, increasing the capacity for cars will increase the volume of cars, and decreasing the capacity for cars will decrease the volume of cars.

        The same, by the way, applies to parking.  If you insist that every development provide lots of parking, then people will drive to those developments.  If you allow the market to supply the parking (which generally results in far fewer spaces), then many people will choose to travel to and from those developments by other means.  The reason is twofold: first, the easier it is to find parking, the more people will choose driving over other modes; and second, parking facilities take up lots of space and are particularly unpleasant and unsafe to walk around, so the mere existence of parking facilities make it harder to walk from place to place.  This is why the parts of the city with the lowest parking availability per capita are also generally the parts of the city with the lowest car ownership rates.

        Your bias is showing clearly.  You seem to think that DOT’s mission is to maximize the number of lanes for cars.  But over half of the households in the city – over half of the people who pay Janette Sadik-Khan’s salary – do not own cars, and plenty of the households that do own cars make heavy use of other components of the city’s transportation network.  Most of the city’s public space is devoted to cars, and that hasn’t changed under Sadik-Khan – her “controversial” projects (most of which aren’t actually particularly controversial) have reallocated a tiny fraction of that space to other modes.

        Let’s take the Prospect Park West bike lane, which replaced one of three car lanes.  PPW had a rampant speeding problem, and the local community asked DOT to do something about it.  The cause of the speeding problem was the width of the street: traffic volumes clearly didn’t need three lanes.  So one lane was removed – at the local community’s request – because it was not needed for cars.  That lane has since been repurposed as a bike lane – one which, last I was in the area, was very popular.  Safety on the street has improved for all users – bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike.  And despite the reduction in speeding, it isn’t actually taking longer to drive from one end of the street to the other!  So this was clearly a success all around.  Oh, the controversy?  That was a handful of politically connected PPW residents who are used to getting their way and were surprised to find a DOT commissioner who wasn’t willing to place them ahead of the rest of the community.

        Let’s take the Times Square and Herald Square plazas.  As long as I can remember, that part of the city has always been a mess for motorists and pedestrians alike: for motorists due to the extra signal phases required for Broadway, and for pedestrians simply because there wasn’t nearly enough space for them.  The new plazas brilliantly solved both problems: they eliminated the third signal phase at Herald Square, which had clogged up 6th Ave. traffic every afternoon, and they provided a lot of extra space for pedestrians.  You’ve claimed many times that traffic has gotten worse outside of the study zone, but you haven’t provided any evidence nor does my own experience bear out your claim.

        What has Sadik-Khan’s DOT done for drivers?  See for yourself: 
        http://www.observer.com/2011/09/road-warrior-janette-sadik-khan-is-the-best-mechanic-the-city-streets-have-had-in-a-generation%E2%80%94so-why-do-motorists-dislike-her-so-much/?show=all

        • Allan Rosen

          No problem with your first paragraph until the last line.  There are other reasons why an uncongested road may become congested over time.  The prime reason is overdevelopment without increasing the number of trips needed to be made without making a corresponding increase in the mass transit system to give people an alternative to driving.  My friend just told me that when he left my house the other night at 9:30 PM he had to wait a half hour for the bus so he could travel under two miles.  The reason?  Two overcrowded buses bypassed him and he had to wait for a third bus to stop.  This is the reality why people prefer to drive if they can. And roads don’t become over congested by themselves.  In the 1970s, the BQE southbound between Atlantic and Prospect Avenues was chronically congested and bumper to bumper at all times except between 11PM and about 6AM because three lanes merged into two. That bottleneck was eliminated in the 1980s when a new ramp was built and a third lane added eliminating the merge.   According to your theory, it should have encouraged more cars making it still bumper to bumper but that did not happen. Now it is only bumper to bumper in the rush hours.  All other times it flows nicely at between 20 to 50 mph.

          Therefore your second statement is not always the case, although that’s what the urban planners tell you.  It all depends on what your alternatives are.

          Never said every development should provide the same amount of parking.  It depends on which neighborhood you are talking about and if there is a nearby subway line and its proximity to Manhattan.  Clearly a new development in Park Slope which already has a high density needs less parking than a neighborhood such as Sheepshead Bay where much of the neighborhood does not have access within walking distance to the subway and is much more car reliant because it is not as centrally located as Park Slope which has multiple subway lines and is 15 minutes from the LIRR.  From Sheephead Bay it takes an hour just to get to the LIRR by train and perhaps a bus so a trip to Nassau County is two hours plus as compared to 45 minutes by car. Every time a one family home is torn down and replaced by a six family condo, at least three additional cars are looking for street parking.  Three new condos on one block, and there are at least ten new cars, meaning more circling the block looking for parking and hence more traffic and congestion.

          Your theory that more parking facilities makes it unsafe to walk around is ridiculous.
          It all has to do with development.  In New York we insist that every vacant lot must be developed and that’s what causes the congestion, not the cars.  When I was in Seattle in 2003, we stayed 15 minutes outside the city.  Thinking it was like New York, I was afraid to drive downtown but didn’t know the bus routes. Thought I’d chance it.  I was amazed to find that half the downtown area was parking lots and if you were willing to walk a few blocks the rates were very reasonable, only $3 for for half a day.  There also was no traffic congestion.  During the rush hours, 30 cars would queue up at a signal and all would get through and the street would be empty.  Plenty of skyscrapers and not even a subway line and no congestion.  We have congestion because we put too much stuff in too small a container, not because of the cars.

          Your statement that most of the public space is devoted to cars is also wrong.  Last I noticed, the roads are used considerably by buses and trucks as well that deliver our goods. If we had fewer streets congestion would only increase.

          The speeding problem on Prospect Park West was not caused by a road with too much capacity. It was caused by the signal timing which required drivers to speed up to 35 mph in order to catch all green lights to 15th Street.  If the lights had been timed for 20 mph, traffic would have moved slower.  You claim the bike lane is a success and it doesn’t take longer to travel from one end of the street to the other.  Perhaps that is true, but what about the traffic on Flatbush Avenue.  Is that more congested?  Did DOT even measure what was happening there? What about cars that shifted to the BQE that formerly used Vanderbilt, PPW and Ocean Parkway?  Was that measured?  You can’t just look at one corridor to conclude it was a success.  You yourself said that drivers will seek out alternatives and if traffic is not heavier on PPW since the bike lanes, it just went elsewhere increasing congestion there.  The cars did not disappear because mass transit did not simultaneously improve for them to switch, and don’t expect me for one minute to believe that they gave up their cars to ride bicycles as a result of the bike lane.  And Park Slopers still aren’t satisfied.  Some still are asking DOT to ban cars from Prospect Park during the few hours it is still allowed.  Where will those cars go?  Will they also disappear?  You say that the bike lane is clearly a success, but you haven’t asked anyone who doesn’t live in Park Slope.  Last I heard the streets are public.  Shouldn’t someone who travels say from Williamsburg to Borough Park and uses Prospect Park West have the same voice as someone who lives in the Slope?  Why is it that it is only their voice that counts and almost half of them were still against it.

          I am not against providing more space for pedestrians in places like Herald Square and Times Square, but I wouldn’t say there haven’t been negative consequences.  For one thing the MTA claimed that 10 minutes have been added to bus trips.  Of course DOT wouldn’t mention something like that.  When I visited my doctor last year at 57th and Broadway, I noticed that traffic was gridlocked on all the east-west streets in the upper 40s.  Never seen it that bad.  I never said that traffic outside the study area got worse.  What I said was what is DOT hiding that they ended the study area at 9th Avenue.  Logic dictates you either measure river to river or between say Park Avenue to 9th Avenue.  A study area from the East River to 9th Avenue raises suspicion that the reason 10th, 11th and 12th Avenue (West Side Highway) were not included because that is where the traffic went and DOT didn’t want to show that.  DOT as well as the MTA are known to slant data to show the results they want to show and that certainly is not unique to them.  Rarely is any study objective these days.  How can I provide evidence when the data is not there.  Do you expect me to perform my own study when the agencies in charge do not collect the proper data for a fair evaluation?  

          • Allan Rosen

            Correction – Third sentence should read as follows:

            The prime reason is overdevelopment without providing the proper parking needed or correspondingly improving the mass transit system to provide an alternative to driving.

      • LLQBTT

        I’d say that the DOT has done more to try and make the street space more wholly universally usuable by all.  9th Ave is a good example.  There are bad examples too though that result in more traffic.  And some of their traffic calming measures simply by painting lines in the road I think encourage more driver scorn and those aggressive drivers just drive over the lines because there is no enforcement

        • Allan Rosen

          The problem is how they measure their so-called improvements. They only do a reversal when there is a huge public outcry because the way they collect their data always shows whatever they do is a success. They agreed to remove islands they installed on Fort Hamilton Parkway near Maimonides Hospital because of many complaints, some by emergency personnel.

          The islands on Gerritsen which are also bad remain. Initially, after the installation, the intersection was chronically clogged. It is better now because half of the northbound traffic shifted from Gerritsen Avenue to neighboring residential Stuart Street, but DOT doesn’t look at neighboring intersections to see the real effects.

          The island on Brighton Beach Avenue at Coney Island Avenue backs eastbound traffic into the intersection. The one on Coney Island Avenue is okay and makes the intersection safer. I also have no problem with the one on Neptune and Ocean Parkway. Some of what they have done is good, but much of it make matters worse.