Mayor de Blasio Announces Initiatives To Help Ease Congestion

Mayor de Blasio Announces Initiatives To Help Ease Congestion

Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced action on a series of initiatives designed to ease congestion in busy thoroughfares across the five boroughs. The new effort will include both new and proven approaches to traffic congestion, including the creation of new moving lanes in Midtown, clearing curbs during rush hours, expanding NYPD enforcement of block-the-box violations, limiting curbside access in crowded corridors, and bringing coordinated attention to recurring traffic spots on local highways. The Mayor announced the steps along one of the new Clear Lanes corridors in Midtown Manhattan, where vehicle travel times have declined by 23% since 2010.

“With 8.5 million people, New York City is experiencing both record population and economic vitality; but our success has put serious demands on our already crowded street network,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “New Yorkers have been telling me loud and clear about the quality-of-life problems created by traffic where they live and work.  With a targeted effort to help clear travel lanes, delivery zones, intersections and highways, these initiatives will address these concerns head-on, using established and new tools that will keep our City moving, from midtown to all of our neighborhoods .”

These initiatives will encompass the work of the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Police Department (NYPD), the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Department of Finance (DOF) -- and will include five major elements:

1.       Clear Lanes:  Keeping Traffic Moving in Manhattan’s CBDs  

To address congestion in the core of Midtown, the City will create continuous curb moving lanes during busy times on 11 key crosstown streets. Deliveries will generally be permitted on one side of the street, while the other curb will be signed for no standing from 6 am to 7 pm.  To enforce these Clear Lanes, the NYPD will double the Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) in the Midtown Manhattan Traffic Enforcement Task Force from 40 to 80 and increase uniform headcount by 110 officers. These officers will focus on moving and parking violations, double parking, and off-route trucks. The City will also expand its off-hour delivery program to assist businesses that are interested in shifting their deliveries to less busy times. Clear Lane streets will include:

  • 36th Street and 37th Street, between Second Avenue and Sixth Avenue
  • 46th Street, 47th Street, 49th Street, 50th Street, and 53rd Street, between Third Avenue and Ninth Avenue
  • 54th Street, between Third Avenue and Eighth Avenue
  • East 58th Street, between Second Avenue and Lexington Avenue
  • East 59th Street and East 60th Street, bwteen Second Avenue and Fifth Avenue

To address congestion in Lower Manhattan, the City will expand its network of traffic cameras to better monitor traffic conditions and extend Midtown in Motion, NYC DOT’s signals-based congestion management system, to include Lower Manhattan. Finally, the City will reform its double parking and other curb regulation rules to make them easier to understand for drivers and easier to enforce.

2.       Clear Curbs: Testing Curb Access Restrictions  

In an effort to develop additional tools to manage traffic congestion, the City will test curb access restriction on two major commercial corridors and in a zone within Manhattan. The City will then monitor the impact of the pilot program and, if successful, expand the approach to additional corridors. For six months beginning in January 2018, the City will ban curbside loading on both sides of the street on the pilot corridors and within the pilot zone during peak hours (7 am-10 am and 4 pm-7 pm). 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 would still be allowed, as would deliveries to off-street loading docks. This treatment will be implemented in:

  • Manhattan (Midtown): the zone bounded by Sixth Ave. to the west, Madison Ave. to the East, 45th St. to the south and 50th St. to the north. 
  • Queens (Jackson Hgts and Corona): Roosevelt Ave., Broadway to 108th St.
  • Brooklyn (Downtown, Park Slope, Prospect Hgts): Flatbush Ave, Grand Army Plaza to Tillary St.

These corridors 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. Additional NYPD staff will be assigned to the pilot locations to enforce the new restrictions and keep curbs clear. The City will collect data on traffic congestion, double parking, delivery activity, and curb regulation compliance before and after the six-month pilot period and report on the new program in the fall of 2018.  

3.       Clear Intersections: Expanding Block-the-Box Enforcement to Reduce Gridlock

Drivers who enter intersections without sufficient space on the other side “block-the box,” which can have cascading effects on traffic and create dangers to pedestrians who cannot cross streets safely.   The City will reinvigorate its efforts against block-the-box with focus at 50 key intersections citywide. NYC DOT will install special block-the-box markings and update signage to make drivers more aware of block-the-box restrictions, while the NYPD will increase enforcement at these locations to keep traffic moving. NYPD will hire an additional 50 uniformed officers to enforce block-the-box rules.

The City will target about 30 intersections in Manhattan and 20 intersections outside Manhattan, with a focus on major routes leading to river crossings, highway on-ramps, and commercial centers. A new public-awareness campaign will also target drivers.

4.       Clear Zones: Reducing Congestion in Commercial Districts Outside Manhattan

The City will undertake a range of efforts to address congestion at hotspots outside Manhattan, including: 

  • Downtown Flushing:DDC is reconstructing Main Street and expanding sidewalks to improve pedestrian, vehicle, and bus circulation. DOT is also implementing Flushing in Motion, a dynamic signal system based on Midtown in Motion, to better manage traffic. Flushing in Motion and the capital project will be completed by the end of 2017.
  • North Shore of Staten Island:  Inpreparation for the opening of new developments --including the Empire Outlets next spring -- and the expected increase in traffic, DOT has developed a potential program of traffic management measures, including signal timing changes, street and intersection redesigns, bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, and enhancements to Staten Island Ferry service.
  • Hunts Point:  Inconjunction with New York State’s plans to convert the Sheridan Expressway into an urban boulevard and add new highway ramps, DOT is updating truck routes to improve access to businesses and to reduce environmental and quality of life impacts on the local community. 
  • Downtown Jamaica: In support of EDC’s Jamaica Now Action Plan, DOT is developing a congestion action plan for the downtown core as part of a larger Jamaica-area transportation study. Findings will be released in 2018. The plan will include recommendations for street redesigns to enhance safety and mobility, signal timing changes and one-way street conversions to promote traffic flow, and curb regulation changes to reduce congestion, among other efforts.
  • Address Other Outer Borough Congestion Hotspots:  In parallel with the above efforts, the DOT is buying citywide traffic data sets, both real-time and historical, that include information such as origin-destination, vehicle type, relative volume, travel times, trip length, speeds, and delay costs. DOT will use the data to evaluate congestion and to identify and evaluate, for example but not limited to, the most/least congested, slowest/fastest, unreliable/reliable locations citywide.

5.       Clear Highways: Reducing Congestion on the Arterial Highway System 

The City will engage state and local elected officials with the goal of convening task forces to focus on persistent congestion on highways outside the City’s jurisdiction, starting with the Cross Bronx Expressway and the Staten Island Expressway (SIE)/Verrazano–Narrows Bridge/Gowanus Expressway corridor. These task forces will seek to work with partner agencies, including the MTA, NYS DOT, and the Port Authority, to improve highway operations and address choke points. The SIE and Cross Bronx task forces will be convened in the coming months. Moving forward, the City may convene similar groups to focus on additional highways, such as the LIE.