Traffic congestion in NYC

by Amy Patterson

New York City, famously known as the “City That Never Sleeps”, lives up to its name for every tourist or resident that navigates through the hustle and bustle of the densely populated city. With approximately 28,000 people per square mile, NYC is a city full of activity 24 hours a day and the sights and sounds provide cultural education and entertainment around every corner. While everyone in New York City seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere, daily commuters are often the last to arrive to their destination due to the traffic congestion.


Visit New York City and every street will be lined with bumper to bumper vehicles waiting to move nowhere quickly. New York City is not the only densely populated city in the country to feel the hassle of traffic congestion, but it ranks high on the most heavily congested roads. While the Washington DC drivers spend an average of 82 hours per year stuck in traffic, New Yorkers follow close behind with an average of 72 hours per year in traffic, which is well above the national average of 42 hours per year.

The traffic congestion in NYC exists for a number of reasons. Not only is New York City a relatively small piece of land, measuring about 305 square miles, but according to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2015 there were 3,627,513 drivers licenses on file (and that doesn’t include the number of drivers who visit from outside of NYC). In addition to the number of residential and business vehicles that navigate the busy streets of New York City, approximately 25,000 for hire vehicles (such as Uber and Lyft) have been added to the streets since 2011. As a result, slow and congested traffic has slowed down even more and busy boroughs like Manhattan have noticed a 9% decrease in traffic flow.


Not only does traffic congestion make navigating the streets of NYC nearly impossible and keeping drivers in their cars much longer than they expect, traffic congestion causes many problems from pollution to car accidents:

  • Pollution: In a densely populated city like New York, there’s enough industrial pollution that affects the air quality, but with the amount of vehicles on the roads, the air quality is detrimental to the health of NYC residents. Traffic congestion is not only hard on motorists, but it also wreaks havoc on the environment. With the continuous stopping and starting of vehicles in a traffic jam, the amount of harmful emissions increases contributing to air pollution and global warming.

  • Stress: In addition to physical health being affected by the increase of traffic, commuters who are stuck in traffic are more likely to suffer from stress and may even be prone to road rage, making the streets of NYC a violent and dangerous place to navigate.

  • Accidents: Even when traffic moves at a snail’s pace and seems to be slowing down each year, traffic accidents are still a common sight in NYC. According to David Resnick, car accident attorney in NYC, of David Resnick & Associates, PC, the risk of a car accident in New York City is higher than any other city in the state of New York due to factors such as traffic congestion and the amount of pedestrians, bicyclists, and tourists. According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2014, there were a reported 66,554 car accidents in NYC alone.


While many argue that ride services, like Uber, are one of the main contributors of current traffic congestion in NYC, others argue that all types of vehicles are to blame. While over 50% of NYC residents rely on mass transit to get around, there are still far too many single-driver vehicles on the roads. With mass transit options such as buses, trains, and subways, there seems to be a sufficient amount of options for commuters to get around there aren’t enough drivers opting for mass transit. According to the Partnership for NYC, improvements need to be made on bus, ferry, and subway services (unfortunately there’s a significant budget gap for these types of projects), increase pricing for on-street parking, and charging drivers to use highly congested areas.



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