NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — There are some things that are easy in New York City, like ordering groceries and packages delivered, or getting car service at the touch of an app.
But there are also some things that are not, like driving around on the city’s clogged streets, where delivery trucks, for-hire cars, taxis, buses and bicycles are all jostling for space.
Experts keeping an eye on traffic and transit in New York City are suggesting some of the conveniences many New Yorkers take for granted to live their daily lives are coming with a cost: more street congestion.
According to the city’s Department of Transportation, average Manhattan traffic speeds declined from 9.35 mph to 8.51 mph between 2010 and 2014.
“The day never ends in New York,” Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU, told 1010 WINS. “This is a 24-7 city and people are going out at night to clubs, to restaurants. And so, the theory that it would just simply slow down after 6 o’clock is no longer true.”
The number of commuters coming into New York City each day by car has actually declined over the last decade, according to transit experts. But other demands have picked up.
“The real change, of course, is that we now have had an entire surge of trucks due to the Internet. So people are getting food from Fresh Direct and all kinds of Amazon-based deliveries are occurring every day,” Moss said. “And so it’s just much more activity on the streets.”
There “seems to be sort of an insatiable demand for more rapid and frequent deliveries, people want that, they expect that from online services,” said Richard Barone, director of transportation programs for the Regional Plan Association.
There’s also been huge growth in the for-hire car industry in recent years, with 25,000 vehicles being added since 2011, according to the city DOT.
City Councilman Stephen Levin, D-Brooklyn, is sponsoring a bill he calls a “timeout.”
“The bill would limit the number of new for-hire vehicle licenses,” Levin said.
The legislation would place a 1 percent growth cap on car services for at least a year while the city studies the impact of the influx of new cars on traffic.
If the hired car industry is allowed “to grow unchecked, it will grow to the point where we will slow down and all we’ll be providing will be seating for people in midtown Manhattan,” said Sam Schwartz, a transportation engineer who spent years with the DOT.
Uber, the app-based car service, has become a major player in New York City in recent years, with its cars now outnumbering yellow cabs. The company has said it hopes to add another 10,000 drivers in the city this year.
“The legislation is familiar because the taxi industry proposed it three months ago,” Josh Mohrer, general manager for Uber in New York, told Lamb. “So we’re familiar with it. Surprised that the city is taking it seriously.”
Moss told 1010 WINS there are steps the city can take to help ease congestion in the streets.
“We’re already seeing a shift to people using ferries and bikes, and in other cases we’re going to see, I think, a shift to these flexible modes of transportation, which should have an effect at the peak,” Moss said.
Sarah Kaufman, assistant director for technology at the Rudin Center, said there are other ways to combat congestion as well. She pointed to a city program that encourages businesses in Midtown and Lower Manhattan to shift when they get deliveries to off-hours.
“A restaurant in Midtown doesn’t need its new shipment of linens in the middle of the day,” she said.
Of course, New York City will always be a busy place.
“Congestion and traffic is considered sort of a barometer of success — up to a point, it’s a good thing,” Barone said. “But obviously you reach a tipping point where congestion affects your ability to get people to work in a reasonable amount of time and obviously impacts the cost of moving goods in the region.”
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