“Faster buses. Plentiful parking. Cleaner air. A shift in habits offers a glimpse of what the city could be like without so much congestion.” write Winnie Hu for The New York Times.
Staying at home to slow the spread of the pandemic has had some unexpected consequences. Cities like New York have experienced an enormous reduction in motorists and traffic. According to INRIX, traffic had fallen by 64 percent in NYC by April 2.
A mere month earlier officials were struggling with how to manage limited road space for ever more users. The pandemic lock-down has revealed unexpected new possibilities. Now we might imagine a future with car-free zones, many more bike lanes for personal and delivery use and entire streets given over to pedestrians.
Even a small reduction in traffic can greatly improve how the entire transport system works. With less traffic comes more speed. On the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, for example, the average rush-hour speed used to be 13 miles per hour. It’s now 52 miles per hour – an increase of 288 percent. This means that buses can go faster and are more often on time. New Jersey Transit’s buses have already shown an 89 percent improvement on meeting timetables.
Parking, which was always difficult to find in New York, has become more plentiful.. According to the city, parking meter usage is only 25 percent of what it was before the lock-down.
But perhaps the best outcome of reduced traffic congestion is the enormous improvement in air quality. In March the levels of particulates and nitrogen dioxide were down in New York by at least 20 percent compared to the year before. Eric A. Goldstein, a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, says “It proves that changes in public behavior can make a real difference in pollution levels, and that holds real promise for tackling the climate crisis, which is still going to be with us after the coronavirus crisis abates.”
While traffic will ramp up again after the lock-down is eased, there will continue to be lingering changes in habits that are bound to have a long-term effect, like teleworking. The pandemic offers an opportunity for transport officials to assess what our roads look like when traffic is reduced to only the absolutely essential. It’s an opportunity for New York to re-think its mobility future.
Read the original article here.
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