FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND BOROUGH PRESIDENT STRINGER ANNOUNCE AGGRESSIVE MEASURES DESIGNED TO PREVENT INTERSECTION GRIDLOCK
Heightening "Block the Box" Enforcement and Adding New Traffic Enforcement Agents Comprise One of the 16 Transportation Initiatives of PlaNYC, the City's Long-term Sustainability Plan
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced plans to reduce congestion and prevent drivers from blocking intersections by increasing enforcement efforts against "Blocking the Box," including funding 117 additional Traffic Enforcement Agents. Blocking the box is a common term for driving into an intersection as the light is changing without room to continue through it, thus blocking traffic. Joining the Mayor at the announcement held on a traffic island in Times Square were New York Police Department (NYPD) Chief of Patrol for Manhattan South James Tuller, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Members Jonathan Bing and Brian Kavanagh, and Council Members Gale A. Brewer, Daniel R. Garodnick.
"To reduce congestion throughout the City we've got to come at it from all directions, and nowhere is that more evident than here at the crossroads of the world," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Strengthening the enforcement of traffic violations, one of the critical transportation initiatives of PlaNYC, will help us ease traffic and lessen the pollution it causes. Putting additional Traffic Enforcement Agents on the streets and allowing them to ticket those who 'block the box' will yield tangible public health and economic benefits."
"Blocking the box does not just result in the jamming of one intersection," said Borough President Stringer. "The spillback effects can be felt neighborhoods away forcing cars to idle longer and increasing the costly health effects too many of our residents suffer through on a daily basis. I applaud the Mayor for his aggressive efforts to crack down on this offense and look forward to joining with him to see the law enforced to the fullest for the benefit of all New Yorkers."
Today, blocking the box, a major cause of intersection gridlock and Citywide congestion, is classified as a moving violation. As a result, only police officers and a small number of enforcement agents are authorized to issue a violation, which comes with a $90 ticket and two points on the driver's license. As a moving violation, tickets must be issued on scene, a ten-minute process which often causes even more traffic and occupies police officers' time. By seeking state legislation to make blocking the box a non-moving violation, the City could enable
all 2,800 traffic enforcement agents to issue a ticket by entering a vehicle's registration number into the handheld devices they carry with them. The ticket, in the amount of $115, would be mailed to the offending driver.
In addition, to further increase enforcement efforts, the NYPD will increase the force of "level 2" agents by 117 agents this year. The NYPD currently has approximately 500 "level 2" Traffic Enforcement Agents, whose main role is to direct traffic and control the flow at busy intersections. Often, many of them wind up ensuring the movement of traffic around construction sites and other disruptions.
"Today's proposals are important for one very simple reason - New Yorkers should feel safe when crossing the street," said State Senator Krueger. "Not only will better enforcement of existing traffic laws decrease congestion and improve air quality, it will facilitate safer street crossings for everyone, notably children, seniors, and the mobility impaired. Increasing New Yorkers' access to reliable mass transit, followed then by congestion pricing, as well as enabling an increased number of traffic officers to prevent cars from 'blocking the box' at intersections, will greatly improve New York."
"I am proud to support Mayor Bloomberg's effort to increase penalties for 'blocking the box' as a means of reducing traffic congestion in New York City," said Assembly Member Bing. "PlaNYC represents a forward-thinking, long-term approach to improving our environment and the health and well-being of generations to come. I look forward to continuing our dialogue on the specific aspects of PlaNYC and hope that we are able to pass major portions of the Plan in the Assembly before the end of the 2007 legislative session."
"The Mayor has laid out an enormously ambitious agenda to green our city," said Assembly Member Kavanagh. "But as the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And there's no better first step we can take to reduce pollution-causing congestion than un-blocking our intersections."
"The time has come to think outside the box about blocking the box," said Council Member Dan Garodnick. "We need to act boldly to solve our growing congestion problem, particularly as the City grows. I applaud the Mayor for his vision, and look forward to discussing how we can implement his plan in a way that benefits all New Yorkers."
"Many New Yorkers - particularly seniors and the disabled - are dependent on buses to get around. When cars 'block the box,' other drivers and, more importantly, buses cannot move," said Council Member Brewer. "Selfish drivers are one of the causes of our congestion problem. I fully support Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to control this nuisance."
"Anyone familiar with cross-town traffic, or north-south traffic for that matter, recognizes box blockers as the frequent culprit," said NYPD Chief Tuller. "These are welcome initiatives to discourage the practice."
Stu Loeser/John Gallagher (212) 788-2958