Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New York's Traffic Problem, Solved!

(Courtesy NY Times)
Musing on Paul and Percival Goodman's proposal to ban passenger cars in Manhattan got me thinking about other ways we could improve our quality of life in NYC. Thoughts turned naturally to Colombia, specifically its capitol, beautiful Bogotá. At 8 and a half million, Bogotá has roughly NYC’s population. It also has some of the worst traffic congestion and associated problems in the world.

Since 1998, the city has been introducing measures to combat this, including bike lanes, dedicated express bus lanes (the fabulous Transmilenio, above), and regular car-free Sundays. These have been studied and copied by cities throughout the world, including NYC.

However, we haven’t yet had the guts to implement the most effective measure: banning cars from driving in the center city based on the last digit in their license plate, two digits at a time, which means on any given workday, 1/5 of the cars are not allowed to drive there. (Mexico City has done something like this since 1989). 

Jerk in the Merc
I think we can go Bogotá one better here. Rather than use license plate digits, let’s base the ban on make of car. Specifically, brands with the worst records for safety infractions would bear the brunt of the ban. Imagine: No Mercedes Mondays, Beamerless Tuesdays, and so on.

This approach has several benefits. First, it would reduce traffic volume on city streets and expressways. Second, it would motivate (“incentivize,” in the parlance of our times) drivers of the marked makes to improve their driving. Regular rerankings would allow brands to move up or down based on recent stats, much like clubs move between divisions in British soccer.

Of course, if the brand of my own ride made the banned list… as the Poles say, raz na wozie, raz pod wozem (once upon the cart, the next time under it).

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