In the past year, so much attention was paid to the mayor's congestion pricing plan that some might think only Manhattan is suffering from serious traffic congestion that pollutes the air, wastes gas and distracts drivers. The more than 400,000 drivers living in Queens and relying on their vehicles to get to work know that is untrue.
Each morning brings an influx of drivers from Long Island, Brooklyn and New Jersey, turning highways like the Long Island Expressway, Grand Central Parkway and Belt Parkway into parking lots. According to the U.S. Census' 2006 American Community Survey, Queens has one of the longest commutes in the nation: 41.8 minutes.
We are disappointed that City Hall appears unaware of outer borough congestion. In researching an article on the congestion, our reporters found Queens residents willing to share their frustration.
“It's a nightmare every day. Every single day. You're on the roads near where those highways come together and forget about it,” said a Fresh Meadows resident. “My job requires me to go from Corona down to Jamaica a few times a week and I've gotta plan an extra 15 minutes at least into my trip. If I didn't, I'd be out of a job.”
The mayor's plan would have helped, especially in areas near the East River crossings. Each day 87,635 vehicles cross the Queensboro Bridge. The Triborough Bridge averages 50,819 daily trips, and 46,309 vehicles use the Queens-Midtown Tunnel daily.
The city must encourage people in Queens and Long Island commuting to Manhattan to use public transportation. The city should increase the number of express buses to Manhattan. These buses are popular, but there are few routes. With gas at more than $4 a gallon, $5 each way has become an attractive alternative.
The city should make more public parking available near borough subway stops. When the number of cars heading to Manhattan is reduced, drivers commuting locally will experience less congestion.
The mayor was on the right track with congestion pricing. That plan's defeat speaks volumes about Albany's political paralysis. We encourage the mayor to turn his attention now to the traffic problems in the outer boroughs.