Earlier this week, The New York Post published a front-page propaganda piece about the reason why vehicular traffic in Manhattan has been getting worse. The story claims that it’s a conspiracy, between two different mayoral administrations, to “shift as many drivers as possible to public transit or bicycles.” Talk about blatant lies.
Of course, the story quotes two unnamed sources within the NYPD to base this conspiracy, and you should be really suspicious about the story. First, the whole story relies on anonymous sources. Who are these guys? Traffic beat cops? Second, these sources don’t point to any directive or mandate from one of their superiors or from the mayor’s office. They just know…like in their gut. Or maybe they overheard something at a station house. We don’t know because they don’t say.
Not only that, the article lets one of the sources claim that traffic is being engineered for partisan reasons to “blame congestion on President-elect Donald Trump, whose Trump Tower in Midtown is now ringed with security.”
But again, how do they know this? Do they have a proverbial “smoking gun” for a partisan plot to cause a massive traffic jam?
Clearly, the whole traffic-engineering conspiracy theory is partisan propaganda: to support the flooding of Manhattan streets with automobiles and reverse just about every traffic calming measure the city has undertaken to make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists—and other automobiles, too.
Since what this story propagates is bullshit, what is the real reason for traffic? According to De Blasio spokesperson, Austin Finan, who was the only official source to go on the record, the increased traffic is a healthy sign of “economic growth, record tourism, construction activity and a growing population.” The streets, he continues, “are overburdened like never before.”
But since The New York Post is listening to crackpot theories, here is my list of reasons behind the insane gridlock on Manhattan streets:
- Deliveries: It’s the Christmas season, and there are an insane number of delivery trucks circling the streets to drop off your Amazon purchases. That’s a lot of additional traffic. And in Manhattan, it’s not like they can pull up to a parking lot. They usually have to double park.
- Double parking: I don’t understand how on-street parking is legal in Manhattan. When all those spots are taken, others resort to double parking to pick up and drop off passengers or goods.
- Dignitaries: And, even if Trump wasn’t President-elect, Manhattan streets were already crowded with all kinds of VIPs who drive and park as if they’re above the law. These dignitaries take up bike and car-traffic lanes to park their vehicles.
Those who complain about traffic forget that the purpose of streets is not to maximize the number of cars it can carry, but to transport a maximum number of people and goods.
One thing that certainly won’t ease traffic is to undo the pedestrian plazas and bike lanes to add more traffic lanes.
For example, Los Angeles learned this lesson after spending five years and $1.6 billion on expanding the perpetually congested Sepulveda Pass on Interstate 405. Adding 15% more automobile capacity on that stretch of freeway didn’t reduce commute times. They actually increased, on average, by a minute. How is that possible?
According to Juan Matute, who is the Associate Director of UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies and also spoke on the record, “increases in traffic generally correlate to economic activity. When construction on the Sepulveda Pass began in 2009, the country was in the midst of an economic recession. As the recovery progressed, more people began traveling for work or to go shopping or out to dinner.”
“Moving more people,” he says, “is a social benefit in and of itself.”
It’s not a conspiracy. It’s the economy, stupid…