Destination NYC – The First 36 Hours

Posted by John on November 10, 2008

Traffic in Times Square

Update from NYC: Reinforcing the notion that this city is by far the best example of organized chaos in traffic engineering and parking control in the country, New York has their traffic enforcement down to a science.  Street signs are stacked six tall with curbside parking instructions that local drivers cruising for spaces digest in seconds as they pass while dodging pedicabs, cyclists, scooters, film crews, tourists, and taxicabs.  It is no wonder that handheld cell phones were outlawed in this state for drivers; one more distraction and these cars (along with any nearby tourists, hot dog stands, and local hipsters) would be piled on top of each other at every intersection.  While our fair city could learn a lot in terms of efficiency, consistency, and overall traffic management from the big apple, it isn’t all good news from the city that never sleeps.

Some initial impressions from the first two days:  

The Good
  • Light timing!!  Living in Boston, I had forgotten how quickly 10 city blocks can go by when the lights are properly timed.  In the grid, a car can go the length of Boston in a single light cycle with proper timing.  Incredible.
  • Double parking enforcement seems stronger here with respect to blocking traffic flow.  On the other hand, the streets are generally wide enough to prevent short-term double parking from causing any major slowdowns on the roads.
  • Enforcement is like a well oiled machine.  Regulations are applied swiftly and consistently by people who know the letter of enforcement policy.

The Bad

  • Need to research this, but the Massachusetts “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” rule must not exist in New York because about a block from our hotel, I see taxicabs cruise through crosswalks at 40mph, leaning on their horns and swerving around the folks in their way.
  • Metered Parking is about as unintuitive as I’ve ever seen.  Some areas in Greenwich Village have tiered parking prices, where street parking doubles in price per hour during high volume hours of the day.
  • There is no neighborhood parking that we’ve been able to find.  All spaces open for parking are open to the general public as well as city residents.
  • There are no open spaces anywhere.  So far, the best approach I’ve seen is to follow the garbage truck around until it removes a pile of trash bags from the street and then park there.
We’ve also seen some great examples of parking acrobatics, ‘creative’ driving, and general auto-insanity.  The car owning breed here is as dynamic as the city that surrounds them.  More to come after continued exploration tomorrow and Tuesday!

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