Friday, May 23, 2014

Gridlock city

Manhattan and the major arteries into the city have become more intensely crowded than ever in recent years.  Taking the Long Island Railroad, using subways, and cabs at times, the impact here had not been great and the experience had mostly been missed.  Not so recently.

Out of necessity, several times in the last month I have taken a car service into Manhattan for doctor's appointments.  The drive into Manhattan was helped by the midday timing but once into Manhattan it was bumper to bumper almost everywhere.  Even driving in areas like uptown 3rd Avenue were packed.  That was not remotely the case even five years ago.  The drivers blamed bike lanes for both taking over space and leading to trucks needing to park in formerly drivable space in order make deliveries.  They also note that pedestrian malls like the one in Times Square and around parts of Herald Square have eliminated major parts of 7th Avenue and at the edges of 6th Avenue.  Apart from the driver's thoughts, my best guess is that the problem is just simply more cars.

Yesterday was a live first hand experience with what is going in this traffic.  We drove into Manhattan to visit K's ailing parents.  Despite their lack of much awareness, the event was my father-in-law's birthday, and K's sister from upstate was with us.  This required us to bring food and desserts, thus the need for a car.  I drove.

We left our suburban home that is only four miles from the Queens, New York City border, so obviously this is a close in suburb.  It was 11:30am as we backed out of the driveway.  The usual area traffic was there but we made it to the Long Island Expressway easily and then merged into fast moving but thick traffic.  Within a few miles we were in slow moving thick traffic.  A few more miles and we were in bumper to bumper creeping traffic.  We made it to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in this fashion, circled around the entrance ramp and squeezed our way into bumper to bumper stalled traffic.  For a while it did not move at all and then ever so slowly the crawl began, with the only occasional entertainment being New Yorkers getting out of their cars and into the roadway to scream at each other or at truck drivers.

By 12:15pm we were near the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge(this is approximately 15 miles from our house) and worked our way into the appropriate lane, and then it was bumper to bumper to Delancy Street.  Relatively speaking, we made it to Bowery and then down to the apartment tower on Worth Street without major issues, although needless to say it stayed crowded.  At 12:35 we were there, extremely ready for a pit stop and a little frazzled.

If this has been tedious to read, then I got the point across.

We began the return to our north shore Long Island home a little later than was hoped for, at 3:45pm.  The late afternoon traffic was underway.  K's sister was manning the traffic warnings and GPS suggestions on her Iphone, and we headed up Bowery.  As we moved toward Delancy the traffic became intense, as aggressive drivers nosed into every crevice of space.  Then came news from the Iphone that the Williamsburg Bridge was completely stalled with traffic, no movement there or on the BQE.  I made the executive decision to head uptown to the Midtown Tunnel at 34th Street.  The entire way up Bowery and eventually up Third Avenue was moving one block at a time.  In order to survive I became an aggressive driver as well, as there was no choice.  Doing that was also much more entertaining than sitting as a passenger.  Somewhere around Bowery and Houston, I maneuvered a pass of the double linked bus that we were stuck behind in the right lane.  It was fast and possibly stupid, but it worked.  Finally we made it to the midtown tunnel access road that K spotted.  It was already after 5pm.

We made it through the toll booth area with surprising ease, and then began our ride on what looked like a free flowing I-495.  The free flow stopped after about a mile, and again we were in bumper to bumper traffic.  It finally began to move more rapidly and dangerously as we approached Nassau County, and then we edged our way right to exit, a responsive engine required.

When we finally hit the driveway again it was 6:05pm.  That's 2 hours and 20 minutes from when where our 22 mile drive began.  Getting out of the car I felt almost too crippled to make an emergency bathroom visit.  K's sister said, "why do you live here?"  I really didn't have an answer. 


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