On April 6, 2017, the New York Post reported that at least five bike sharing companies (competitors to Citi Bike) are attempting to distribute their bikes on City streets without docking stations. This had City officials up in arms and led Transportation Alternatives (a non-profit focused on improving the City’s transportation priorities) to urge the City to “…not allow companies to exploit public space for profit, especially when we have the most crowded sidewalks in America.”
This development is yet another reason to consider the nature of the proposed changes to 14th Street—which have been a topic of discussion in WestView for several months—by those who want to eliminate cars from the streets of Manhattan. As the Department of Transportation (DOT) continues to encourage and implement traffic-throttling measures across Manhattan, we should reflect on whether these changes would benefit the average tax-paying resident of New York City.
It is not just privately-owned cars that become affected as the landscape is made more and more hostile to vehicles with proposals such as these. The West Village, like all of New York City, depends on an army of service, delivery, and emergency vehicles to drop off and collect packages, allow access for building services, and provide critical medical care, just to name a few examples.
The problem is compounded by a crumbling subway system. For decades, under-investment in the City’s subway has worsened its condition. Even if the Second Avenue subway were further extended, it wouldn’t do anything for most riders, who face delays (or worse) in their daily commute. The subways should be the centerpiece of our mass transit initiative, but they are faltering. MTA buses are also being caught up in the DOT-created congestion, while the increasing popularity of on-demand car services like Lyft and Uber has signaled a broader disillusionment with the City’s public transit system.
The idea that somehow everyone can walk, ride bicycles, or take mass transit is a silly one. For better or worse, the automobile is going to remain an important part of the transportation grid in Manhattan for some time. Hopefully soon, our vehicles will be electric and less environmentally harmful, and maybe even self-driving.
The DOT’s and other groups’ solutions would make it more difficult to drive in Manhattan. Pedestrian plazas, the elimination of parking spots, increased bike lanes, and other measures to reduce vehicular flow would do us no good.