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New York Post

 

To Fix Traffic Chaos

November 01, 2012

By Nicole Gelinas

It’s a job for Sadik-Khan

Hours after service resumed Tuesday night, uptown-downtown buses in Manhattan were standing-room only. It’s a sign of health that people lucky enough not to have to deal with flooding, fire or power outages at home were up and about.

But yesterday’s huge traffic jams are a warning: The city and MTA must do a bang-up job meeting the rising post-Sandy demand for transit, or Gotham will stay choked by car traffic.

The MTA’s off to a good start. It had bus drivers (and dry buses) at the ready to get people going at leastsomewhere. And the early subway shutdown gave workers time to remove some equipment from tunnels, protecting it.

Now, three of seven subway tunnels are "dewatered." Some commuter-rail tracks are clear, too. So commuter-rail service started yesterday from White Plains, and limited subway service starts today.

The MTA did a good job of explaining this yesterday, too, so people could plan for today.

But it’s less — far, far less — than half of normal service. Subways won’t go below 34thStreet or through downtown Brooklyn because of power outages. And commuter rail will still be closer to nonexistent than running.

OK: With power out downtown, people can’t work in offices, anyway. But as more people make it into Manhattan workplaces next week, they’ll create a bigger strain on a weakened transportation system.

Already yesterday, with most offices still shuttered, car traffic was out of control, with hours-long waits on buses as well as chaos leading into Manhattan.

Some numbers explain why.

On a normal weekday, according government stats, only 26 percent of people come into Midtown or Lower Manhattan by car, van, truck or taxi. The rest (74 percent) come via transit — subway,commuter rail and bus.

The citycan’tfit the number of cars it would take to bring in even a fourth of those who normally come via transit.

And that’s ingoodconditions. Car tunnels and some major roads and traffic lights are still out, and cops have other things to do than police traffic.

As Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday, "The streets just cannot handle the number of cars." So City Hall — and Janette Sadik-Khan’s Department of Transportation — has got to do better.

The mayor started yesterday, saying he’ll restrict traffic over the free East River bridges to cars with three people. Gov. Cuomo said he’ll do the same at the Lincoln Tunnel and three bridge crossings.

The Port Authority and the MTA should also look at charging cars significantly more at tolled crossings into Manhattan as a temporary, emergency measure. That would lessen the need for police resources to enforce High Occupancy Vehicle rules. Let economics weed out whohasto come in (he’s the one with pallets of baby formula) and who is curiosity-seeking.

The mayor will also restrict some lanes to buses only, and work with MTA chief Joe Lhota on Lhota’s push for a "bus bridge" into Manhattan to replace still-suspended subway services.

The mayor must make sure this works, though — and the fact that it took the city well into late afternoon to get out even scarce details bodes poorly.

In fact, Bloomberg should go further, and close off major roads leading to the bridges — and Manhattan streets like Fifth and Sixth avenues and 42nd and 57thstreets — to car traffic.

That way, bus passengers wouldn’t have to depend on cars’ (and pedicabs’) willingness to stay out of bus lanes. People could speed along in buses and walk the rest of the way after coming over the "bus bridge" or on what trains are running.

Yes, enforcement would be hard — but the city DOT closes Park Avenue on summer weekends with enforcement by civilian employees and volunteers. Heavy public announcements would deter most vehicles, and metal barriers plus civilian "flaggers" could do the rest.

Yes, the city and the MTA will be experimenting on the fly — to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

One thing is for sure: 80 people standing on a bus for hours may try it once again — but won’t keep trying it.

Employers and employees may not give many second chances before they learn that it pays (in time and lost productivity) to stay home.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/to_fix_traffic_chaos_JvB4aR7vfhcPSx00BhuP4H

 

 
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