The New York City subway system will return to partial service tomorrow above 34th Street and in some of the outer boroughs, with connecting bus service from Brooklyn. The Long Island Railroad and Metro North resumed limited service today. And the NBA cancelled a scheduled game in Brooklyn between the Knicks and Nets, which cuts down on additional non-essential travel. This will definitely improve the horrific transportation situation in Manhattan, but still does not approach a full solution.
So the Mayor’s Office has mandated a new policy for car travel. All cars coming into Manhattan from almost all bridges – Transportation Department-manage Harlem River bridges and the George Washington Bridge are currently exempt – or the Lincoln Tunnel (and that’s practically all vehicles, as the Holland Tunnel and Brooklyn/Battery Tunnel remain closed) must contain three or more riders. This restriction lasts from 6am to midnight every day until further notice. And it includes taxis, except for times during a shift change.
This should dramatically reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and lessen a really bad situation this morning, where some drivers spent 2 hours in their cars to go 2.5 miles. In addition, I would expect the same rideshare culture to pop up in the near term that you see around the Bay Bridge between Oakland and San Francisco. People get dropped off on the Oakland side and get into cars who want to take advantage of high occupancy lanes, getting dropped off on the San Francisco side. Because this is mandatory for New York City for an indeterminate amount of time, surely ridesharing will spike. And maybe, just maybe, it will flourish, and continue even after services return to normal.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also announced that they would dedicate certain lanes on “key corridors” for buses, though with less cars on the streets, buses should be able to maneuver much better.
Bloomberg was a proponent of congestion pricing. This is actually a form of it; restrictions punishable by fines that have the effect of significantly reducing traffic. They came to pass out of necessity, but I think they will end up being broadly palatable and may change minds around their efficacy.