Skip to content

Posts from the "“Gridlock” Sam Schwartz" Category


The Right Way to Double Park a Delivery Truck


This handy illustration, courtesy of DOT via "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, should be in the training curriculum for every delivery driver who does business in New York. Streetfilms' Clarence Eckerson, who came across this graphic last week, says his appeals to delivery drivers stationed in bike lanes are often met by the excuse that it is not illegal to double park. When a vehicle blocks a bike lane, the law says otherwise:

No vehicle is allowed to block a bicycle lane at any time. If there is no curbside spaces on either side of the street within 100 feet of a delivery/pickup location, commercial vehicles may stand, “double parked,” next to a bicycle lane. If there is no active loading or unloading taking place standing a vehicle in such a manner can result in a violation. Please note also that this does not apply to midtown Manhattan.


T.A. Offers Reward for Park Slope “Post-Automobile Street” Designs

9th St. and 4th Ave.: "A dangerous crossing that divides surrounding neighborhoods and inhibits street life."

Transportation Alternatives is seeking proposals to reinvent the intersection of 9th Street and 4th Avenue in Park Slope. "Designing the 21st Century Street," a competition open to the general public, will reward the three most promising submissions with up to $6,000 in prize money.

TA lays out some of the obstacles at hand on the competition web site:

Ninth Street is excessively wide and allows motorists to travel at speeds greater than the posted City speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Furthermore, Ninth Street was recently treated with a new bicycle lane that leads people to and from Prospect Park. Though the reasons for placing a bike lane on this street are clear ... the bike lanes have attracted some controversy because of the rampant double-parking that occurs in the neighborhood.

Fourth Avenue has a raised median to separate travel direction for the length of the avenue. At this intersection, the median has been shaved away to create dedicated turning lanes. This is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and is not a safe refuge for pedestrians, particularly the children and elderly, who can not make it across the street in the allotted time.

To be contenders, TA says, "Competitors must re-imagine this intersection as a healthy, safe and sustainable street that serves pedestrians and bicyclists first, while functioning as a transit hub and truck route."

Jury members include city planning and transportation staff, along with "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz and Danish planner Jan Gehl. Entrants must register by July 18 and submit proposals by August 18.

Care to get the ball rolling, Streetsbloggers? 

Photo: Transportation Alternatives


High Gas Prices Won’t Cure Gridlock

2589176850_1534965ef6.jpg It's the New Math: a dollar-a-trip rise in the cost of fuel for a car trip to Manhattan is cutting traffic almost as much as Mayor Bloomberg's eight-dollar toll plan would have done.

Too good to be true, right? But that's the slant of the front-page headline in today's Times, "Politics Failed, but Fuel Prices Cut Congestion":

Soaring gas prices and higher tolls seem to be doing for traffic in New York what Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's ambitious congestion pricing was supposed to do: reducing the number of cars clogging the city’s streets and pushing more people to use mass transit.

The article reports that traffic on MTA bridges and tunnels within the city and the Port Authority's Hudson River crossings was down this spring by 4-5 percent compared with a year ago -- within hailing distance of the 6.3 percent drop sought by the mayor's plan.

Good news, but how much of the decline is due to the price of gas and how much to the toll increases that took effect around the same time?


SE Prospect Park Re-Design Includes Some Restrictions on Cars

Rendering of the preliminary design for Lakeside Center in Prospect Park.

A new Prospect Park skating rink and recreational facility will come with a smaller parking lot and improved bike access, reports neighborhood blog Hawthorne Street. The plan to re-design the southeast area of Brooklyn's flagship park, unveiled at a public meeting this Monday, will also restrict car access at one entrance, but stops short of doing away with the current rink's parking lot altogether. It remains to be seen whether the re-design will address the hazardous entrance at Parkside and Ocean.

A full report on how streets may be altered, courtesy of Hawthorne Street's Carrie McLaren, comes after the jump.


God Said, “Let There Be Parking Placards.” And It Was So.


Only three days remain until 20 percent of government parking placards must be surrendered, but as Gridlock Sam wrote here last month, that should be just the beginning of placard reform. Case in point: Uncivil Servants featured a story last week of an Upper East Side synagogue that manufactures its own bogus placards while the 19th Precinct turns a blind eye and infamous Community Board 8 lends a hand. Uncivil Servants reports that employees of the Park East Synagogue on East 68th Street have been getting away with the printing of homemade placards since the attacks of September 11, 2001:

The original baloney excuse for their parking was terrorism following 911 but the truth is they have used the tragedy of 911 as an excuse to get a free parking perk at the expense of the community. The signage by the way is either NO STANDING or NO PARKING 7AM - 7 PM. The location of this abuse is East 68th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues on both the South and North side of the street where typically you will find 8 to 10 of Park East employees' personal vehicles parked all day using bogus xeroxed placards.

Post columnist David Seifman picked up the story on Sunday, writing that the synagogue has agreed to gradually reduce -- but not eliminate -- its use of false permits, in a scheme brokered by Community Board 8:

"After a very lengthy and detailed discussion, [Park East] agreed to the recommendation that they reduce the number of placards to eight by the end of June 2008, then decrease by four by June 2009, and two the following year, until the number of placards in use is reduced to two by June 2010," said the e-mail from Assistant District Manager Latha Thompson.

City Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) told The Post the community board was way out of bounds. "It's unacceptable for individuals to be generating their own parking placards," he said.

Seifman also reports that Park East director Joel Baum offered an alternative explanation for the placards. Baum says they are used by teachers at the synagogue who are following the example set by the city's public school teachers. More proof that once one group claims a special privilege, the circle of entitlement tends to widen.

Photo: Dick Tracy / Uncivil Servants


Gridlock Sam: Mayor’s Placard Reduction Plan is Step One of Ten

The following was contributed by Samuel I. Schwartz, AKA Gridlock Sam.

Mayor Bloomberg correctly recognizes that reining in city workers' parking privileges is a pre-requisite to congestion pricing. But his goal of 20 percent is too modest, and he should know it's easier to do than it looks. Believe me I know; I led the effort to reduce government parking under Mayor Koch in the 1980s, even under threat of arrest. Here's what Mayor Mike needs to do in 2008 under my ten-step plan:

  1. ucfp2.jpgSet up a triumvirate to review every permit application. Put DOT, NYPD and the Mayor's Office on the team, an NYC parking version of "checks and balances."
  2. Publish the names and civil service titles of every placard recipient. A small number belonging to undercover officers would not be revealed, but their number would be published to ensure no significant changes without explanation.
  3. Establish just two recognized machine scannable permit types: 'Law Enforcement' and 'Agency.' Include State and Federal Permits into the mix. Currently, I estimate around 75 different permits, some of which are phonies.
  4. Ticket first, ask questions later. If a car has a permit and is in violation, tag it. Let the recipient pay or argue his or her case before the triumvirate.

  5.
3 Comments Holiday Traffic Plan Makes Way for NASCAR


Gridlock Sam warns of widespread "pedlock and "traffic wrath" today. Not helping matters was this morning's NASCAR Victory Lap around Times Square, conveniently timed to coincide with the morning rush.

Times Square will serve as one big pit stop for NASCAR's annual Victory Lap Wednesday, starting at 44thSt. between Broadway and Sixth Ave. and proceeding via the following route: 44th St., Broadway, 42nd St., Madison Ave, 53rd St. and Seventh Ave./Broadway, and ending between 43rd and 42nd Sts. outside the Hard Rock Cafe. Between 8:30a.m. and 9:30a.m., there will be rolling closures on the above streets, with 44th St. closed from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Traffic will be affected throughout the day.

Fear not, New York City, 2007 may very well be the last year of NASCAR's annual Midtown celebration of laundry detergent, motor oil and the lunacy of American car culture. Tom Bowles at Sports Illustrated writes

After 27 years in the Big Apple, strong rumors persist that this week-long celebration at the Waldorf will be NASCAR's last; the event appears ready and raring to shift to the bright lights of Vegas for 2008 and beyond.

On paper, it seems a smart move; with a race track already nearby and the shrewd promotion of octogenarian track owner Bruton Smith, the city will doubtless embrace NASCAR with open arms.

"I think we've worn out our welcome in New York," said Smith


Photo: Photo Gallery / Flickr


Gridlock Sam’s Compromise Plan

As if we didn't already know it, last week's Traffic Mitigation Commission hearings revealed that opposition to Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan among outer borough and suburban legislators may very well be intractable. Even in traffic-crushed districts where one would almost certainly find a majority in favor of some form of congestion pricing, we didn't see a single state legislator willing to stand up for the Mayor's plan. While support for congestion pricing was surprisingly strong among citizens and civic groups that showed up to testify, elected representatives' timidity was no surprise. As a Transport for London spokesman told me a while back, "If congestion pricing had to go through a legislative process it probably wouldn't have happened."

Enter Sam Schwartz to break the political gridlock. New York City traffic guru, consultant and former DOT Traffic Commissioner calls himself a "strong proponent" of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing efforts. Schwartz is quietly shopping around a variation on City Hall's traffic plan that he believes could generate "broad-based support" and serve as the basis for a "good potential compromise" between congestion pricing advocates and their outer borough and suburban opponents.

Schwartz's plan, which you can download here, is based on the premise that New York City's overall road pricing scheme is irrational, dysfunctional and makes very little sense from a traffic management perspective:

Adding to the dysfunction, Schwartz notes, is the fact that four separate agencies manage the city's traffic and control the region's transportation funds: The Port Authority, MTA Bridge & Tunnel, and the City and State Departments of Transportation.


Gridlock Sam Offers Four Ideas to Cut Traffic Congestion

In today's Daily News, former New York City Deputy Traffic Commissioner "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz says congestion pricing should "proceed now" and offers four additional ideas for creating a little breathing room on Manhattan's streets:

One way to reduce congestion is to reduce the number of taxis - permanently. I did the math when I was traffic commissioner and found that the optimum number of taxis was just under 12,000. We now have more than 13,000. With taxi medallion prices at $400,000, it would be too heavy a lift to buy back 1,000 medallions all at once. Instead, the city should purchase 100 medallions a year over 10 years.

There's a second kind of vehicle that's overpopulated on our roads, with more than 40,000 all over the city: black cars, or so-called limousines. The mayor's congestion pricing plan excludes them. It's time to create a black car medallion to 1) reduce those numbers and 2) generate the funding to buy back taxi medallions.

The third big troublemaker is the through truck, or trucks with neither origin nor destination in Manhattan's central business district. Our current pricing scheme - double tolls to go out via the Verrazano Bridge and no tolls to drive through downtown and midtown - encourages truckers to clog many key arteries inside the city. More than 10,000 trucks a day are doing this. We must do two things: 1) bring back two-way tolls on the Verrazano Bridge and 2) charge through trucks $100 for the privilege of using streets and avenues in central Manhattan.

Finally, we need to curtail "privileged" parkers. I estimate that some 150,000 government workers either park free in reserved spaces or just plain park illegally. That blocks access to curbs - and causes a chain reaction of other problems. Privileged parkers contribute to about 8% of the traffic downtown, and add far more than that share to congestion because of their "piggish" behavior of blocking bus stops, bus lanes and even hydrants. I haven't seen conditions this bad in 25 years.

No Comments

Gridlock Sam on Car-Free Central Park

Yesterday we put forth the argument that fastest, cheapest, easiest and most symbolically rich way for Mayor Bloomberg to initiate his new green agenda for New York City would be to make Central Park car-free during the summer of 2007.

Last fall, in a wide-ranging interview with Open Planning Project executive director Mark Gorton, New York City transportation expert "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz explained how eliminating cars from the Central Park Loop Drive will not result in long-term traffic nightmares for the surrounding neighborhoods or NYC in general.

Schwartz served as NYC's Commissioner of Traffic from 1982-86 and is a former Chief Engineer/First Deputy Commissioner at the NYC DOT. He also writes a daily transportation column for the Daily News.