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Merry Gridlock

It's the holiday season and of course that means time for the city's annual Gridlock Alert Days. What does that really mean?

Well, we went out on the traffic-choked streets of Brooklyn with Streetsblog's editor Aaron Naparstek to talk to drivers to find out and see how they feel about Congestion Pricing and a whole host of other transportation issues.

Aaron Naparstek: [00:02] Hi, Aaron Naparstek, New York City Streets Renaissance. It’s Thursday, December 20th. We’re here on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn near the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush, one of the busiest, most crowded, congested intersections in the city. Today is a Gridlock Alert Day, supposed to be one of the heaviest gridlock days of the year, and we’re here to talk to drivers, check it out, see what’s going on and try to feel their pain. Merry Gridlock. So if you look behind me here that’s… that’s South Brooklyn and you’ve just got all this traffic pouring down 4th Avenue, most likely a lot of it is on its way into Downtown Brooklyn, or on its way over the Manhattan Bridge, which is a free crossing into Manhattan. It’s just jam-packed. 50 blocks worth of traffic just heading straight back deep into South Brooklyn. Yeah, we’re doing a little film about traffic.

Speaker: [00:53] It sucks.

Aaron Naparstek: [00:54] Say that again.

Speaker: [00:55] It sucks big time.

Speaker: [00:57] It’s horrible.

Aaron Naparstek: [00:58] Where are you coming from?

Speaker: [00:59] From 41st Street.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:00] Okay, so in set park back there?

Speaker: [01:02] Yes.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:03] And has it been just like gridlock all the way?

Speaker: [01:05] It’s been a nightmare. I’ve had to go up and down avenues, try and get as far as I am now and I think I’m still running a little late.

Speaker: [01:14] I love traffic. This is the best part of my day.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:16] Is it really?

Speaker: [01:17] Yes.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:17] Well this is a nice traffic in here.

Speaker: [01:20] It’s not so bad, have a little Christmas music, a heated seat, it couldn’t be better.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:24] I almost don’t want to end this interview it’s so nice in here. It’s nice and toasty. So what do you think, is it… how’s the traffic today in general, is it okay?

Speaker: [01:31] It’s the same, you know, typical traffic in the morning.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:35] Did you know it was Gridlock Alert Day?

Speaker: [01:37] That doesn’t really make a difference to me.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:39] Did you know it was… Mayor Bloomberg declared it a Gridlock Alert Day today?

Speaker: [01:42] Yeah.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:44] Didn’t…

Speaker: [01:45] No.

Aaron Naparstek: [01:46] Okay.

Speaker: [01:47] It seems more congested than normal today.

Speaker: [01:49] I’ve lived here for… I’ve lived right on this block for a little over five years and in the last, I would say, year, it’s exponentially just been doubling, doubling, doubling and it’s really bad now. And I know you’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk and I primarily don’t, but I’m forced to now because of all the trucks and double-parking and construction and the amount of traffic, there’s nowhere else to ride.

Speaker: [02:15] Traffic used to be very light but now it’s like back to back. It remind me a lot of Manhattan.

Aaron Naparstek: [02:21] Would you guys consider the train or is it like it’s just too much a pain in the butt, or…?

Speaker: [02:26] I like the convenience of the car.

Speaker: [02:26] Well my wife’s pregnant.

Speaker: [02:29] She’s pregnant, so I don’t want to…

Aaron Naparstek: [02:30] Yeah, yeah, of course. Great. Have you heard about Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan that he…

Speaker: [02:35] Yes, I have

Aaron Naparstek: [02:36] What do you think about this?

Speaker: [02:37] You know we don’t have to pay for… to clear the congestion, it’s not


Aaron Naparstek: [02:41] Right.

Speaker: [02:42] Yeah, I’m not agree with that.

Aaron Naparstek: [02:43] You know you got to pay for the subway. If you put a toll on the Manhattan Bridge…

Speaker: [02:50] Oh it’s crazy.

Aaron Naparstek: [02:50] You think that’s crazy?

Speaker: [02:51] That is crazy.

Aaron Naparstek: [02:52] But what if it took like 10,000 cars off the street or…

Speaker: [02:54] It’s not going to happen because now you’ve got all the highways and everything, everybody’s going to Manhattan. You know what kind of traffic that’s going to be? That’s crazy.

Aaron Naparstek: [03:02] You don’t like it?

Speaker: [03:04] It’s going to be ridiculous.

Speaker: [03:05] $8, I think it’s too much. It’s too much. You can charge something but not $8, maybe $4.

Aaron Naparstek: [03:11] Do you think it would be effective in getting people to leave their cars at home?

Speaker: [03:15] I think so.

Aaron Naparstek: [03:16] Would you be willing to pay say $4 over the Manhattan Bridge to be… for a faster ride?

Speaker: [03:20] Yes, yes.

Aaron Naparstek: [03:21] You would?

Speaker: [03:21] But not all the time. Not all the time, but if I really need to get there and it’s going to be faster, yeah.

Speaker: [03:28] I think it’s just another scheme to make some money. It’s not going to prevent anyone from going to work in their cars.

Aaron Naparstek: [03:31] Alright.

Speaker: [03:34] Leave it the way it is because if he’s going to put tolls on the bridges, it’s going to be ridiculous. People are still going to drive. It doesn’t make a difference. Look at the fuel prices right now, people are still driving.

Aaron Naparstek: [03:44] Right.

Speaker: [03:44] So it doesn’t make a difference if you’re going to put in tolls. The only way he’s going to do it, he’s going to create more traffic.

Aaron Naparstek: [03:50] And pretty much everyone we’re talking to says that the traffic congestion today is, as you’d expect, atrocious. Congesting pricing doesn’t really seem to be on the radar out here at all, but the congestion is definitely, definitely here. So it seems kind of like this sense of resignation that this is… this traffic congestion is just sort of a natural order of things and nothing can be done about it. There are a lot of single occupancy vehicles in here. There’s a nice single occupancy GMC Yukon gone. There’s a twofer. Where do you park this thing?

Speaker: [04:27] On Canal Street. I get a park every single day. There are places in Manhattan…

Aaron Naparstek: [04:31] Are you a government employee?

Speaker: [04:31] I am not. I’m the wife of a police officer, but he told me where to park and I know exactly where to park.

Aaron Naparstek: [04:37] Okay.

Speaker: [04:37] It’s not illegal or anything, so…

Aaron Naparstek: [04:38] Gotcha. Right, thanks a lot.

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  • http://web.me.com/christow saxman

    If you choose to drive alone in a car, you should pay for being the cause of congestion! I love the saying, "you aren't stuck in a traffic jam, you are the traffic jam!"

  • LD_Planner

    I'm an urban planner and I talk to people all the time about this... the responses from motorists are always the same: "we need more highways, we need to make parking free, etc." Basically, the exact opposite of what we now know to be true.

    I understand these kinds of responses. It's intuitive, after all. Induced demand is just not an intuitive concept. Of course, induced demand is quite real, and unfortunately the people calling for more highways, free parking, et al, are very wrong indeed.

    This is why I strongly we believe we need public awareness campaigns to inform people of how induced demand works, how congestion pricing actually saves us a ton of money, how externalities related to transportation operate, etc.