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Mayor de Blasio Announces Initiatives To Help Ease Congestion

October 22, 2017

Effort will create new moving lanes, test new curbside access restrictions, expand enforcement, address commercial corridors outside Manhattan, and tackle persistent highway back-ups 

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today 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:  

  • 60th and 59th Sts. (Fifth to Second Ave.)
  • 58th St. (Lexington to Second Ave.)
  • 54th St. (Eighth to Third Ave.)
  • 53rd St. (Ninth to Third Ave.)
  • 50th and 49th Sts. (Ninth to Third Ave.)
  • 47th and 46th Sts. (Ninth to Third Ave.)
  • 37th and 36th Sts. (Sixth to Second Ave)

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. 

“Mayor de Blasio is head-on tackling the complex issue of congestion, after showing leadership on so many other elements of transportation -- from the creation of a new ferry network to just two days ago, announcing an unprecedented commitment to improved bus service,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “No magic bullet can cure congestion challenges, but this toolbox of smart strategies in Clear Congestion will help keep people and goods moving safely and sustainably – and help our city grow. Our mobility is a key to helping us sustain the energy and dynamism that make New York City great.”

"The NYPD is committed to addressing the issue of congestion in New York City," said Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill. "Our dedication of additional personnel will support the Mayor's pilot program by focusing on moving and parking violations, double parking, and off-route trucks. Our enhanced role will improve the overall quality-of-life for New Yorkers as well as improve our public safety."

“New Yorkers are used to living cheek-by-jowl with our neighbors, but the stifling congestion on our streets is becoming a serious drag on our economy and our quality of life. It’s a problem that requires many solutions, including tackling dangerous intersections and the persistent problem of double-parked and illegally-parked delivery trucks. We need the right laws and we need to better enforce them.   I am glad that Mayor de Blasio is taking the challenges of congestion and pedestrian safety seriously, and I look forward to working with him to implement effective solutions,” said Senator Liz Krueger.

“Everybody complains about traffic in our city which has gotten progressively worse! It seems that we have taken baby steps in attempting to fix these problems. I agree with the mayor coming up with a plan that addresses some of the most annoying and serious traffic issues that New Yorkers are forced to endure every single day!” said Assembly Member Joe Lentol.

“Traffic congestion in New York City is complex with various factors that cause and exacerbate this issue. I welcome today's announcement of these measures as they seek to tackle many of them at once,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation.“Congestion is costing New Yorkers time and money. I will continue working with my Council colleagues to move legislation through the Transportation Committee and to create initiatives that will address congestion.”

“Six-lane streets can be narrowed to two lanes by motorists parking and double parking illegally, bringing traffic in our city to a standstill. Restricting loading and unloading to only one side of the street will for sure prevent traffic jams. We can have the best laws and regulations in the world, but only through enforcement will these laws make a difference," said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his leadership, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg for her expertise, and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill for redoubling efforts to enforce traffic laws.”

“Traffic congestion is a serious problem that affects the quality of life of our residents and I welcome the news of this proposal. This ambitious plan will help New Yorkers spend less time in traffic and more time with their families and guarantee the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his commitment on this issue and I look forward to the implementation of this plan,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

“New Yorkers pay a heavy price for the congestion that strangles our streets,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “These new initiatives, especially increased enforcement, are important first steps in addressing this crisis.”

“Chaotic and congested roads make our city less safe and prevent New Yorkers from getting where they need to be. Commonsense enforcement at the most challenging areas will go a long way to improving conditions. Through coordination and communication, our city can break the gridlock hampering quality of life. I applaud the Mayor's leadership and look forward to tangible improvements to New Yorkers' everyday life,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

“I applaud Mayor de Blasio for taking a critical step in addressing traffic congestion, which will get traffic moving across our city, while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions,” said Councilman Donovan Richards. 

“Traffic congestion in New York is a problem that needs to be addressed both efficiently and creatively. I commend Mayor de Blasio for delivering a five point plan that does just that. Introducing a combination of new and old techniques to keep the traffic moving, especially in areas of high congestion, and combined with stricter enforcement of existing traffic laws, has the potential to markedly reduce commute times. Improving transportation in New York City is a massive and complicated task. It is also a task at which we are succeeding. Projects such as this, in addition to recent accomplishments, such as the Red Hook Ferry Service and recently expanded bus routes, show that New York can handle the challenge of reducing commute times without compromising on safety,” Council Member Carlos Menchaca said.

“Congestion is a serious problem, wasting countless hours of New Yorkers’ lives and impeding our economy -- and not just in Manhattan. I’m particularly glad to see that downtown Jamaica in my district is included in the mayor's plan, and I look forward to working with the administration to unfreeze traffic in this important commercial district. I also hope we can expand the ‘Clear Highways’ initiative to include the Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck Expressway and Long Island Expressway in the areas around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.” said Council Member Rory Lancman.

"Congestion impacts all new Yorkers, but has an increasing impact on small businesses in Brooklyn and beyond," said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President. "We especially appreciate that curbside bans will be piloted allowing for adjustment as needed, and commend the mayor and his administration for tackling this challenging and important issue for Brooklynites and all New Yorkers."

“Traffic congestion is a major quality-of-life concern in all five boroughs,” said Alec Slatky, Manager of Government Relations for AAA Northeast. “We’re pleased that the administration is investing in traffic flow for drivers both inside and outside Manhattan. Increasing the number of TEAs and ramping up blocking-the-box enforcement will send a strong signal that drivers must obey the law and facilitate mobility for everyone using the street.”

"As President and CEO of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, I look forward efforts in reducing congestion in the Bronx and New York State's plans to convert the Sheridan Expressway into an urban boulevard and add new highway ramps. DOT efforts is appreciated in updating truck routes to improve access to businesses and to reduce environmental and quality of life impacts on the local community," said Bronx Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Nunzio Del Greco.

"We welcome this administration's efforts to reduce truck traffic congestion in The Hunts Point area that has contributed to the highest asthma rate in the City of New York.  We look forward to providing input to assist in the process," said President of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation Marlene Cintron.

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