Traffic Returns to NYC Streets

New York City traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent report by NY1. The report notes that “traffic jams are a familiar sight again in the city,” and cites one traffic engineer’s estimation that “85 to 95 percent of car traffic has returned, and truck traffic is completely back to pre-COVID-19 levels.”

According to the traffic expert, Sam Schwartz, “There are long backups on the FDR Drive, the Long Island expressway. The BQE looks as bad as ever.” NY1 suggests this is an especially noteworthy figure given that a mere 15% of workers in the Manhattan have retured to their offices. Schwartz also notes that despite the return of drivers to the roads, many city residents “are not yet comfortable riding buses, the subways, and commuter railroads.”

Still, according to NY1, “an average of 243,000 vehicles drove into Manhattan each work day on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensborough bridges” in the last week of September, a scant 6% decrease from the week before the city implemented lockdowns in March. Meanwhile, traffic in the city was 2% lower than the city’s daily average in 2019, and the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority projects that the city’s public transit system will regain “at least half of its lost transit riders sometime next year.”

These figures represent a striking increase in traffic figures over a short period. The New York Post reported in early September that at the end of August, “Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, meanwhile, saw around 70 percent pre-COVID driving rates during the same week,” while the rates in Staten Island “hovered around 80 percent.”A traffic analysis firm cited by the Post found that drivers were driving “10 to 16 percent faster compared to 2019,” and that the morning rush hour was less significant than it was before the pandemic.

Experts suggested to the Post that the roads are likely to get drastically more congested as employers bring their workers back to the city. “Each car that’s added on the road has a much bigger impact than the car before it. It can catch up rapidly,” one analyst said. “If one car is on a roadway and you add another, not a big deal. If there are a thousand cars on a roadway and you add one more, that’s a much bigger deal.” It remains unclear when employers will bring their workers back, and what effect this will have on road safety in New York City.

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