By: Hellen Zaboulani
New York City traffic is returning to the pre-pandemic hustle and bustle—for better or for worst.
As reported by the NY Times, the traffic in NYC during Memorial Day weekend indicated that things may be edging back towards normalcy. On Thursday, 970,920 drivers traveled through city tolls, a high not seen since before the pandemic, and reaching about 96 percent of traffic during a normal year for that day, as per the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Strange as it may sounds, this Memorial day, the urban sounds of cars honking and the angry drivers, can instill us with hope, that things are coming back to normal—or rather what we were used to before the COVID-19 pandemic stole our way of life. “I don’t think people realized until it was gone how much normalcy is in their morning commute, and how much ‘New Yorkiness’ their morning commute brings them,” said Jamie Stelter, traffic anchor at Spectrum News NY1. “What is New York without the morning commute?”
Last April, less than 10 million vehicles passed through tolls on city bridges and tunnels, that’s close to a 65 percent drop from normal, as per the MTA. This month, preliminary data shows traffic is slated to be within 10 percent of normalcy.
“You’re like, ‘Oh, yeah this is great, it’s returning to normal,’” said Tom Kaminski, a radio traffic reporter for more than three decades. “Then you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this kind of sucks.’” He recalls the March when the pandemic began, it was one of the few times in his career at WCBS Newsradio 880, that there was no rush hour at all, he said. On Friday, traffic was piling up. “It is really miserable,” Karen Stewart, a traffic reporter for 1010 WINS, said Friday, before reporting a long list of delays. She ended her report with a sigh of, “Whew!”
Notwithstanding, there are new patterns of traffic forming. With many commuters still working remotely, or partially remote, rush hour now starts after 9 a.m. Also, the evening rush currently begins much earlier, at about 3 p.m. Transit reporters say the city’s streets now have traffic that lasts almost all day long. This may also be because subway and public transportation ridership is still at only about half its normal ridership rate. “Now traffic is so hard to predict,” said Stelter, who has been a traffic anchor for the past 11 years. “You used to know the patterns — any New Yorker knows the patterns — so you felt like you were useful.”