Wild, Wild West Side Has Its Own Vigilante Traffic Cop

You’ve got to already be a little bit crazy to choose to drive into Midtown for work each day (as the record-breaking ridership numbers on the PATH train attest). Sitting in traffic, dodging the even crazier driver next to you — perhaps the only thing worse than driving near the Lincoln Tunnel is trying to walk safely along those traffic-clogged streets.

Last Thursday, evening rush hour congestion caused one tunnel-bound commuter to finally snap. This driver, captured on video by Animal New York, decided she’d waited long enough to get out of Manhattan and took actions into her own hands. She got out of her car, walked into the middle of Eleventh Avenue and W. 43rd Street, and did her best impression of a traffic cop. One key difference: She waved cars through in just one direction — hers.

It’s impressive as a work of urban anthropology — look at that deference other drivers show to the trappings of authority — but even more so as a case study in psychology. This is your brain on traffic.

The city has the power to make this neighborhood, which is becoming an increasingly residential community, a little less exhaust-addled. The Lincoln Tunnel is already tolled (and last year’s sizable toll hike helped drive people toward transit), but there’s another way to do it, through parking policy. Every time the city lets a little piece of Midtown and the West Side get  gobbled up by automobile storage, it becomes that much more appealing and affordable for drivers to try and squeeze through the Lincoln Tunnel (and during the evening, when there is no Lincoln Tunnel bus lane, that much slower for transit riders thrown into mixed traffic).

In just the first five months of 2008, before the real estate market fell apart, the city approved special permits for 500 new parking spaces in Hell’s Kitchen alone. Now, the city wants to allow more parking to be built in the Theater District. If nothing else, it’s a good way of encouraging more vigilante traffic cops.