Service of Being Stuck in Traffic

June 5th, 2017

Categories: Driving, Traffic, Travel

George Washington Bridge midday traffic. Photo

Manhattan doubles its population to 3.1 million people daily according to a 2013 census estimate. No surprise that as long as I can remember I’ve heard morning traffic reports. When my uncle commuted by car to the city from Westchester, and for years after, I thought of him when there was an accident holding up traffic on the Hutchinson River Parkway.

I feel for drivers who almost every day are faced with one hour waits to cross bridges and tunnels from NJ. According to, “New Jersey workers…..seem to prefer cars more than most other areas.”

Long Island isn’t an easy place to commute from either and it may soon be getting worse. After 70 minutes waiting my turn in less than a mile outside the Midtown Tunnel one recent Saturday evening, I wondered aloud, “How do commuters do it?” I have to hand it to them.

Waiting so long to return to Manhattan from Long Island wasn’t bad enough: I had to fight off predator drivers who jumped the line which further slowed the process. Imagine a daily diet of such stress. This particular Saturday the bottleneck was caused by elimination of all but one lane in the tunnel giving Long Islanders access to the city due to ongoing repairs. I wondered why there were no traffic police to keep things civil and moving. And by the way: There were traffic slowdowns on various highways to and from our destination and it wasn’t weekday rush hour.

Queens Midtown Tunnel traffic. Photo:

What happens to the citizens of Long Island who take the railroad to the beleaguered Penn Station that will be closing countless gates this summer to repair long-neglected tracks? How will they get to work? The exorbitant cost of parking aside, driving is clearly not an option unless you travel to the city at 4:00 a.m. and return home by 2:00 p.m.

What do people do to calm their nerves when faced with such daily drives that eke the energy they should apply to their jobs? When will politicians stop playing “hot potato” passing disaster on to the next administration and learn to routinely maintain their bridges, roads and tunnels? Citizens will pay the piper in time and money whenever it happens so it might as well be for quick patches rather than years-long major repairs.


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4 Responses to “Service of Being Stuck in Traffic”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Hats off to patient motorists, unless they add to the problem by being able to take available public transportation. But then, frustration & annoyance await regardless of choice.

    The car problem won’t go away because of bottlenecks automatically caused by multiple lanes condensed to a fraction when entering the City. Carpooling is negated by population and job growth. Inflated city living costs, scary neighborhoods and ill run schools keep thousands away. Whatever relief exists lies with sizeable growth of well managed train/bus companies, able to profitably function at attractive rates.

    Despite the bad publicity, if in a hurry, especially during commuter hours, take the bus or train. Chance of prompt arrival in unruffled condition is vastly greater than being held up by an unexpected Presidential or related Pooh-Bah motorcade which now adds an even greater strain to existing conditions.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I can’t think of another way to get to the city and maintain sanity but by train or bus with fingers crossed that 1) you have the luxury of making all appointments after 11 am 2)you get a seat so you can read, work on a laptop or snooze.

    As I began to write you I suddenly thought of ferries. There have been more of them and hopefully even more to come. Trouble with the ones I’ve used to get to NJ the cost was prohibitive. Some five or so years ago one way was almost $30.

    Folks in Connecticut and Westchester and counties north are so very lucky. Metro-North isn’t perfect but Grand Central is a dream compared to Penn Station.

  3. hb Said:

    When I first came to New York a half century ago to take a new job, my nine month pregnant wife and I did what my few relatives living in the area all did. We bought a heavily mortgaged “starter” house, actually a charming little 1780 salt box on 2 plus acres right on an under-travelled “country” lane, about 25 minutes by car from both Chappaqua and Stanford. I commuted.

    For about three days after we moved in, it seemed like an idyllic solution to the “Where do you live, when you work in New York?” question. Then reality set in.

    Work was at first a 30 minute subway ride from Grand Central. I was supposed to show up by 9:00 AM sharp. That meant I had to take a 7:15 AM from Stanford. We had one car, a Ford, between us and the bank owned that also, therefore, my wife, who was not an early riser, had be up, baby fed and ready to go by 6:30 AM to get me to the station on time. To make matters worse, it was winter and either the roads were not cleared or the trains broke down.

    The commute home was no better. If you want to get ahead in New York, you don’t work a 40 hour week. That was fine by me because the work was interesting, but I seldom left the office to go home before 6:30 PM. That meant if everything went right, I was home by 9:00 PM an hour before bed time to get enough sleep to be able to be up before 6:00 AM to start the cycle all over again.

    Within the year, we had sold the house at a small loss and rented a modest 5th floor, two bedroom apartment in a nice rent controlled doorman building with a first class super on 90th Street just off Madison for $275 a month. (If I had any sense, I’d still be there.) I paid the bank to take the car away. (It was the last one I ever “owned.”) As little “Being Stuck in Traffic” for me as possible, thank you!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    My heart beats quickly at the nightmarish picture you paint. Another deadline in many jobs is enough to push anyone around the bend…the threat of missing that train every morning gives me goose bumps. On snowy days you need to add time to clean off the car and hope like the dickens that you can get out of the driveway and that the roads are plowed. In addition, you had little life Monday – Friday except for doing the job you loved–a good thing–and commuting.

    Early this morning I heard that there was a 2 hour wait for cars to cross the George Washington Bridge. How many people factored in that kind of time to make it to where they were going? I felt so terrible for them and for those stuck in the F subway at rush hour for over an hour last night. Even after another train pushed the disabled one into the station, the doors wouldn’t open. Seems there was no AC and people were in terrible shape.

    There are no easy answers. That apartment on 90th street is probably a $1million co-op today but sounds good as in NYC you can always walk.

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