Saving New York City

In the four years I’ve lived in New York City, some things have gotten better and some things have gotten worse – much, much worse. One of the key things has dramatically deteriorated is the traffic situation.

There is gridlock in so many parts of the city and not just at rush hour, but almost all the time. It is unbearable. Don’t ever try gong up Sixth Avenue – except late in the evenings, and a few short patches in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, it is like being in a parking lot. While I often take the subway, sometimes I can’t and I sit in traffic wondering how much worse things will be in another year’s time.

Well, if you leave it to Mayor Bloomberg, things will get better not worse. He has proposed a plan that addresses a lot of the environmental and infrastructural issues that NYC faces, including the traffic issue. Having spent a fair amount of time in Singapore, I know that they have a surcharge for going through the CBD (Central Business District) during rush hour. Perfect – all non-essential, non-urgent traffic will use another route.

NYC traffic mapBloomberg’s idea is a little different. He wants to impose a $8 fee on anyone who enters Manhattan below 86th street. Great start, but I would also like to see a fine on those folks who violate basic traffic laws! One of the biggest issues that makes the traffic worse in New York (and therefore one of my pet peeves) is the sheer stupidity, arrogance and thoughtlessness of the drivers. NYC is filled with intersections. Tons of them. And every single one of them can become a traffic nightmare with just one inconsiderate driver. Here’s the situation – let’s assume uptown traffic (on an avenue) has a red and crosstown traffic has a green. The cars start moving – all is well so far. The light starts to turn to red for the crosstown guys, but a stupid jackass decides that he can still get across. Of course he can’t. There is no where for him to go. So what does he do? He blocks the avenue, preventing uptown traffic from moving. What the heck?? Since most streets and avenues have timed lights, the avenue gets backed up and then those drivers block the intersection and the vicious cycle continues… I say, ticket them all! Just a day a week, get cops to hand out big fat tickets. It will solve the problem within a month. Where are all the traffic cops??! I have yet to see one ticket handed out for this gross misbehavior.

The traffic rant aside, I like a lot of Bloomberg’s other ideas too, especially the bit about adding trees and parks –

The mayor is proposing 127 new initiatives dealing with land, air, water, energy and transport. His proposals include introducing molluscs into the city’s waterways as natural bio-filters, adding bicycle lanes and hastening the cleaning and rezoning of 7,600 acres (3,100 hectares) of contaminated land. He hopes to add 1m trees. New parks should mean that every New Yorker lives no more than 10 minutes away from one. School playgrounds will be open to the public.

Some of his provisions are even more ambitious. He plans to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in part by improving the efficiency of power plants. To pay for this, a $2.50 monthly surcharge will go on electricity bills. He argues that by spending $30 a year until 2015, every household will save $240 a year after that. This bid for energy conservation would be the broadest attack on climate change ever undertaken by an American city.

I hope the residents step up and support him. We need to think ahead and make the hard decisons to save our city. It is the only way to continue to keep it the coolest city in the world!

Photo courtesy of The Economist, which retains all rights.

  • Rathi

    I entirely agree. We need to keep NYC the coolest city, especially since various young family members are joining NYU. But aside from the selfish reason, I just read the Economist on the scary fact that we officially crossed the 51% mark of the world population that is Urban!! First time!! NYC has a lot riding on its face to the world. How to be a happening place and yet not add to the environmental crisis. Preferably make it a contributor. Those office buildings need to do something about their huge carbon footprint…..

  • Prithvi

    I love how activist and decisive you are – ticket them all šŸ™‚ I would take it one step further – if you’re making over x money you pay 0.05% of x as a traffic infraction – I mean $50-$250 tickets don’t hurt everyone equally :)especially in a city like Manhattan and if the amount is too low they just feel like they’ve paid for the privilege to break traffic rules.

  • Shripriya

    @ Rathi – Office buildings should have motion sensors that turn the lights off after a certain time in the evening. We had those in California. And those buildings that don’t have them should be fined.

    Hmm… I think Prithvi is right that I am in a very activist mood!

    And since one of your young family members will be a new citizen of the city, maybe one of your older family members who works in one such energy guzzling building can promise to turn off the lights in his office as a starting point šŸ™‚

    @ Prithvi – You know, I think Switzerland has exactly such a rule! Traffic tickets are a % of income. I know a guy who got a ticket there and he had to figure out if his recently exercised options counted in the income number (and if they did, he would have to add a few zeros to the ticket!)

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