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Carpooling Requirement Creates Nightmare Commute Into Manhattan

Traffic Approaching The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (credit: Matt Overton)

Traffic Approaching The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (credit: Matt Overton)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Drivers dealt with a traffic nightmare Thursday after a minimum passenger mandate took¬† effect early in the morning in an attempt to ease gridlock in Manhattan.

Vehicles entering Manhattan by the four East River bridges and the Lincoln Tunnel must have three or more passengers on Thursday and Friday between 6 a.m. and midnight. The same mandate applies to the Triborough and Henry Hudson bridges.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission announced Thursday morning that the HOV restriction had been lifted for taxis, liveries and “black cars.”

However, taxis are dealing with limited available gas since power outages have also affected gas stations.

“They’re having a hard time finding gasoline like everybody else. Many of the fleets have their own gas supply. Many of the fleet garages have gas pumps in the garage so they’re still on the road. I’ve been to a few of the fleets this afternoon. They have enough at least for the next day, the next few days,” Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky told WCBS 880.

Gas stations across the Tri-State Area had long lines and some ran out of gas amid high demand.

“I heard one driver tell me he waited two hours this morning. Another place that didn’t have its own gas supply some of the drivers were just waiting for other drivers who were already out to call them and say where they can find gas before they take their taxi out for the night. So it’s affecting them like it’s affecting many businesses throughout the city,” Yassky told WCBS 880.

Despite some early confusion, the passenger regulations do not apply to the George Washington Bridge.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued the restriction Wednesday to reduce the number of cars coming into the borough.

The restrictions do not apply to the smaller East River and Harlem River bridges, such as the Willis Avenue Bridge or Macombs Dam Bridge.

Bloomberg defended the decision — and the attendant traffic headaches — in the name of public safety.

“There’s no question that travel into our city yesterday was extremely difficult. In fact, the roads were so clogged we really did worry about getting emergency service vehicles through,” Bloomberg said. “No matter how inconvenient it may be to stop people from bringing their cars into the city or making it more difficult to do so, safety is once again our paramount concern, not convenience.”

“We are going to continue the HOV lanes certainly through midnight tomorrow. I think it made a big difference in getting around. It’s obviously always tough when the subway system goes down, but we were able to move hundreds of thousands of people on the shuttle system that the transit authority provided and more and more New Yorkers are getting to work,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told WCBS 880.

Bloomberg added he hoped Friday would be the last day of the HOV requirement.

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The morning commute was a tough one for many as police checkpoints that had been set up to enforce the HOV rules appeared to be causing delays.

The backup was up to 10 miles in places, CBS 2 reported.

Traffic was backed up in every direction at the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, where police set up a checkpoint at the mouth of the span leading into Manhattan, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.

One commuter said they waited three hours to get onto the bridge.

There was at least a two-hour delay throughout the morning getting into the HOV checkpoint for the Lincoln Tunnel.

“There’s quite a bit of traffic,” Port Authority spokesman John Ma said.

Adding to the chaos was a checkpoint that was mistakenly placed on the West Side Highway, CBS 2 reported.

Authorities confirmed commuters were denied access into the city via the West Side Highway, adding to the extensive delays on the George Washington Bridge.

Gridlock traffic also created severe delays on the westbound Long Island Expressway from Nassau County.

Meanwhile, the Holland, Brooklyn-Battery and Queens Midtown tunnels remain closed.

“The Hudson River crested and came roaring down into our tunnels. Both tubes of our tunnels are filled with 43 million gallons of water,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. “It stretches about a mile and quarter of nothing but water.

“We as New Yorkers will bounce back, we always do,” Lhota said.

Some mass transit service has been restored, including Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.

Alternate-side parking is suspended, but meter rules are in effect.

Staten Island ferry service is anticipated to return on Saturday.

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