Dec 19, 2011

Rudin Center 's Holiday Advisory: Avoid These Roads!

Planning to drive in the New York City area this holiday season? The Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, in a new report, has identified the 10 worst bottlenecks to steer clear of when you get behind the wheel during peak travel hours.

"The holiday season is one of the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year, and the weekend before Christmas is the busiest of the holiday season, bar none," said Professor Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center, housed at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.

"Travelers should consider alternative routes-or better yet, use alternative routes if possible," he said. "Our list indicates the 10 roads in the New York City area definitely to avoid so that your trip doesn't end up taking two or even three times longer than expected."

Moss and his colleague Carson Qing at the Rudin Center compiled the 10 worst bottlenecks using data developed by the Texas Transportation Institute. The data identify the most congestion-prone corridors in the country and measure how much additional time should be allocated to travel along these corridors when they are congested.

Among the 10 worst New York City-area traffic "hot spots" during the holiday season, for example, are the evening rush hour (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) on the Whitestone Expressway northbound in Queens, and the morning rush hour (6 a.m. to 10 a.m.) on the Hutchinson Parkway northbound in Westchester County.

"The two-lane northbound Hutchinson Parkway requires motorists to plan on a trip three times longer than normal to guarantee on-time arrival at the end of the route," Moss, an urban policy professor at NYU Wagner, said. "While the Whitestone from Flushing to the Bronx is twice as wide as the ‘Hutch,' it is just as prone to intense congestion during peak traffic hours, and motorists should plan for a trip that is three times as long as normal."

For the report, the Rudin Center estimated how much time should be allocated for travel along each of these 10 arteries in order to guarantee on-time arrival in expectation of holiday traffic congestion. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, nine of 10 Americans who travel during the holiday season do so by car, while long-distance travel over this period increases by 23%. During the weekend before Christmas, there are 93% more long-distance trips than the daily average. AAA Travel Services has projected that the coming 11-day holiday period will bring the highest traffic volume the country has seen in 10 years.

Among the routes the Rudin Center finds to be especially prone to traffic jams are three leading northbound out of New York City between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. These are the Henry Hudson Parkway, FDR Drive, and the Major Deegan Expressway.

The New York City-area traffic bottleneck where you can expect be stuck for the longest duration during the evening peak traffic hours (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) is southbound I-95, which includes the notoriously slow Cross-Bronx Expressway and leads into the New Jersey-bound lanes of the George Washington Bridge. Evening commutes along I-95 can be expected to increase from 15 minutes (best-case scenario) to a patience-taxing 40 minutes during the holiday period.

Heading into Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel will be no treat, either. The Pulaski Skyway northbound, which feeds into the tunnel, is one of the least reliable stretches of highway in New Jersey, slowing a five-minute morning commute to at least 15 minutes, according to the report.

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