What Gertrude Stein said about Oakland is what must be said about City Hall’s new traffic study: There’s no there there.
A research effort that was going to explain how congestion in Manhattan has increased even as vehicle trips to the core have dropped has shrunk to a 12-page report bereft of conclusions supported by evidence.
It may be true, as the report claims, that increases in Uber traffic in the Central Business District (CBD) have been largely offset by decreases in trips by traditional yellow cabs, leading to little or no net traffic impact. But as best as I can tell, that assertion is based on hypothetical 2010 and 2020 traffic estimates plucked from a NYC travel model and interpolated to 2014 and 2015.
Not only is this kind of interpolation volatile and unreliable, it should have been unnecessary since yellows are fully (and competently) tracked by the Taxi and Limousine Commission while Uber was opening its books to the city’s consultant.
The question of Uber “substitution” or “additionality” vis-à-vis yellow cabs was the presumed fulcrum of the $2 million study. Ignoring the wealth of data tailor-made to answer that question, and relying on constructed numbers instead, as the study appears to have done, is dumbfounding.
The City Hall report is almost as opaque in its asserted findings of factors that have contributed to increased congestion. Here’s a rundown: