Opinion: Councilwoman on Canal St. Congestion

Gridlock on Canal Street is at an all-time high. Every week this summer, my constituents contended with non-stop traffic brought on by the evening rush hour, weekend getaways and, of course, holidays. The enormous amount of traffic on Canal Street is a public health crisis, clogging our streets as well as our lungs while car crashes become more and more frequent. This is a crisis that should not and need not exist in the era of Vision Zero. 

The congestion can defy logic at times, with a trip between Manhattan Bridge and Interstate 78, a distance totaling 15 city blocks, taking up to an hour. For years, we have looked to traffic enforcement agents for help, but the tremendous burden of Canal Street’s public safety should not fall on any individual municipal worker’s shoulders. With crosswalks often blocked pedestrians are forced to utilize narrow sidewalks that cannot handle the amount of foot traffic. 

We cannot wait for congestion pricing to take effect. The City can act today. By implementing wider sidewalk expansions, commercial loading zones, signal improvements and left-turn bans, we could dramatically improve safety. Best of all, none of these safety improvements would require capital investment. It is time to put pedestrians first.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin represents Manhattan's 1st Council District.