Flatbush Avenue congestion plan to be tested

Curbside loading ban starting Jan. 2018 in Brooklyn

October 24, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Deliveries during rush hours on Flatbush Avenue — like this Goya truck blocking traffic Tuesday morning — will be banned in a six month pilot test kicking off in January 2018. Photo by Mary Frost

Double parking and deliveries along busy Flatbush Avenue during rush hours snarl up traffic all the way to Manhattan, and now the city is testing a possible solution.

The avenue, one of Brooklyn’s most congested commercial corridors, is one of three thoroughfares targeted by Mayor Bill de Blasio in a series of initiatives designed to ease congestion citywide.

The mayor said on Monday that both he and city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg have gotten stuck on Flatbush on the way to the Manhattan Bridge and City Hall.

For six months beginning in January 2018, the city will ban curbside loading on both sides of Flatbush — from Grand Army Plaza to Tillary Street — during peak hours (7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.). This section of Flatbush cuts through Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope and Prospect Heights.

According to the city, focusing on the morning and evening peak periods will preserve business viability while addressing the most severe congestion.

The “expeditious pick-up and drop-off of passengers” — think Uber — would still be allowed, as would deliveries to off-street loading docks.

At a press conference on Monday, de Blasio said he is often asked, “Why are there so many delivery trucks right in the middle of the busiest parts of the city — not only in Manhattan, in the outer boroughs as well — when people are trying to move around the most during rush hour? Why aren’t the deliveries after hours?”

He added, “Many a time, when I drove myself coming out of Park Slope and going in to City Hall, I would go down Flatbush Avenue. And the Commissioner [Trottenberg] said exactly what I experienced. She said one truck — one truck in the wrong location can jam up all of Flatbush Avenue and can substantially slow down the commute.”

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The other two corridors in the curbside ban pilot program are in Manhattan (a zone bounded by Sixth Avenue to the west, Madison Avenue to the East, 45th Street to the south and 50th Street to the north) and Queens (Roosevelt Ave., Broadway to 108th St.).

These three areas were chosen because they serve as important links in the regional road network, carry high volumes of traffic and are subject to significant blockages by double parking and delivery activity, according to the city.

Additional NYPD staff will be assigned to the pilot corridors to enforce the new restrictions and keep curbs clear. The city will collect data on traffic congestion before and after the six-month pilot period and report on the new program in the fall of 2018. 

“If that test goes well, it’s something I want to lock in and expand to other parts of the city. If it doesn’t go well, we’ll re-access,” de Blasio said.

Other anti-congestion actions across the city include the creation of new moving lanes in Midtown, expanding NYPD enforcement of block-the-box violations and bringing coordinated attention to recurring traffic spots on local highways. Since 2010 the average vehicle speeds in Midtown have declined 23 percent.

Gov. Cuomo was skeptical of the mayor’s plan, saying the better way to reduce congestion is to improve the mass transit system and to charge tolls on bridges.

“He hasn’t been able to do that for four years. Enforcing the law now is a good idea, but I would have assumed he was doing that all along. It’s not a city problem, it’s a regional issue. You have people coming in from Westchester, from Nassau, from Suffolk. You want to control the number of cars that drive in, you have to look at the entire metropolitan area. What tolls are you charging on bridges and what’s the cost of the Long Island Rail Road and what alternatives do you have on park and ride and express buses?”

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