OPINION: Modest proposal to cure NYC’s growing traffic woes
Yes, I do have the solution to heal the rotten bruises in the Big Apple, bruises that are caused by traffic. But selfish, lazy urbanites would need to forego the pleasure of parking their big gas guzzlers so close to home.
The spirit-crushing plague of Manhattan is rapidly spreading to every borough and particularly the commuting trails. We’ve always heard the adage that Manhattan is 14 miles long and two hours wide (a reference to gridlock in crosstown streets). Now we find the same problems in popular outer-borough neighborhoods that have attracted residents who can (a) pay the rents and (b) afford to own cars.
Yes, it is simple to make owning a car more expensive, even prohibitive. But then how can we transport those people now getting around by cars? This constituency is an important “getting and spending” part of the city.
Before giving the solution, it is important to note that one of the worst problems in city traffic woe is not even discussed publicly: It’s the huge discrepancy in sizes of vehicles fighting for spaces, for lanes and for survival. (If a crash occurs between an SUV and a mini, guess where the potential fatalities fall?)
Here are a few simple steps in my Modest Proposal, and yes, it will take some time:
(1) GARAGE THE MONSTERS. Every car larger than a certain size, say a compact (those minis we see everywhere now, and the “Car2Go” cuties as well) MUST be garaged. This will create the need for more garages in specially-planned zones throughout the city. The further proliferation of mini cars and Citi Bikes will allow car owners to move from these “parking garage zones” to their residences.
Those who insist on having an SUV, for example, must comply with a new “no private parking on public streets” rule. (Remember that 26 to 30 percent of traffic congestion is vehicles looking for parking spaces).
(2) PROVIDE ALTERNATIVES. The city and state will invest heavily in promoting mini cars as the only non-commercial vehicles allowed to park on the streets. Simply put, the bike racks now provided for Citi Bikes will serve as the model for mini cars, but current overly-congested streets will become their holding spots. Once registered, anyone may just grab a mini car and skedaddle.
(3) STRATEGIC PARKING FOR MINIS. In addition to making current parking slots on city street limited to minis, there should be some strategic “hot spots.” Around the city, certain key geographic areas will allow free open spaces for mini cars to park when the street parking is inclined to get congested (midtown, Lincoln Center, spots near key subway stations, etc.)
(4) HELP BIKERS SURVIVE. Existing policies to push bicycle use will find a more “sympatico” existence with smaller powered vehicles. We might even find, as we can see in certain parts of Europe, bikes and mini cars actually sharing the roads more safely.
I hope readers will respond directly. Even angry owners of SUVs are welcome to take a shot at this open challenge to freedom of choice: Write to [email protected]. (To get me fired, send your remarks to the editor: [email protected].)
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