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Is Solving NYC’s Transportation Problem Beyond Reach?

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The Department of Transportation's annual mobility survey makes it clear that travel time in Manhattan is slower than it has been in many years due to cars, including for-hire vehicles and more deliveries everywhere. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

By: Deidre Farquar

It is telling that whenever transportation around New York City is discussed, the word “crisis” makes an appearance.

The Department of Transportation’s annual mobility survey makes it clear that travel time in Manhattan is slower than it has been in many years due to cars, including for-hire vehicles and more deliveries everywhere.

“Both citywide bus speeds and the average travel speed within the borough’s central business district (the area south of 60th Street) are the slowest they’ve been in decades Buses average 7.58 miles per hour—it was 8 miles per hour in 1990—while the travel speed in Manhattan is now just over 7 miles per hour, down from 9 miles per hour in 1990. (It’s even worse in the “Midtown Core,” where speeds average a paltry 4.9 miles per hour.),” reported ny.curbed.com.

As an executive summary of the survey makes clear, “The City’s post-recession growth in population and employment has not been uniformly mirrored in indicators of auto use.” Specifically:

  • The number of household vehicle registrations increased by 8.8% since 2010, resulting in a slight increase in the ratio of vehicle registrations to the total number of New Yorkers— from .215 to .223. While this continues the City’s car-light growth pattern, it is in contrast to its previous period of growth (between 1990 and 2000), when per capita car ownership declined as the population increased.
  • The number of vehicles entering Manhattan south of 60th Street on a daily basis dropped again in 2017.
  • Having previously only reported on Yellow Taxi trip totals, this year’s Mobility Report has combined all Taxi and ForHire Vehicle trips in order to better account for the immense growth in FHV trips citywide since 2010. As a result of continued increase in trips made by app-based ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, overall FHV trips are up by nearly 90% since 2010, adding 36.9 million trips a year between 2016 and 2017 alone.
  • The number of for-hire vehicle registrations—which includes taxis, green cabs, black cars and private cab companies—has more than doubled since 2010. New York City has added just under 60,000 for-hire vehicle registrations since 2010.

“The city is putting measures into place that may combat these problems; congestion pricing, which will be implemented in the CBD, is the biggie, but a “cruising cap” on for-hire vehicles is also expected to help,” ny.curbed.com added. “Still, the trends are “unsustainable,” (DOT Commissioner Polly) Trottenberg notes in her intro. (One way to not sit in traffic hell? Take a bike: According to the report, a Citi Bike across town is a minute faster than taking a taxi or Uber.)”

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