When New York City established Vision Zero Action Plan in 2014, its ambitious goal was to eliminate traffic deaths within the five boroughs by 2024. Some of the numerous measures the city has implemented to protect people who walk, bike and ride on its streets seem to have worked. But five years after the program’s establishment, motor vehicle traffic is up significantly, and it is an unavoidable conclusion that when more people use cars to get around, more accidents result.
Traffic volume in New York City has risen over the past few years due to several factors, including:
- Ride shares — Companies such as Uber and Lyft offer convenience, personalized service and privacy to city residents, tourists and workers. This has triggered a 52 percent increase in Taxi and Limousine Commission licenses in the city since 2015. Ride-share drivers often take passengers as a way to make money on the side and might not have the experience that full time cabbies and chauffeurs do.
- Mass transit problems — Whether due to poor service, new transportation alternatives, old vehicles or other reasons, bus and subway ridership within the city has dropped over the past five years. Though some ride shares operate like car pools, a person’s choice not to use mass transit typically results in another car on the road. The impact seems to be heaviest outside Midtown Manhattan, with subway ridership in Queens, Bronx and uptown Manhattan showing sharp decreases.
- Increased car ownership — Between 2013 and 2017, the number of private vehicles registered to city residents increased by more than 8 percent, leading to more than 100,000 extra cars on the road.
The upswing in motor vehicle traffic on New York streets poses a particular threat to pedestrians and bicyclists, who lack the protection that people have in cars and trucks. Though tougher enforcement, bike lanes, speed cameras and improved design can all contribute to safer streets, the city needs to grapple with the fact that heavier vehicle volume leads to more injuries and deaths.
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