September 09, 2007

Ode to James Stockdale

I had planned on blogging today about Jewsapalooza, occurring in Riverside Park this afternoon, but after nearly two hours of driving I found myself only on First avenue and 64th Street, with all of Manhattan to cross and several blocks north to travel before I could even begin looking for parking. So I bailed on the event and came home.

It's so hit or miss with driving in the City. Most of the time I have relatively little difficulty, such as yesterday when I left my place at 10:15, drove to the lower east side, found a metered spot across the street from where I was meeting Rob for lunch at 11:00, and walked in to the BBar and Grill fifteen minutes early; the whole thing couldn't have been easier. I tend to have decent driving/parking karma overall, and I test it with some regularity, but when it goes wrong it goes spectacularly wrong, like it did this afternoon.

The source of the problem today? For some reason New York City loves to give permits to these roving street fairs we're plagued with every summer. Weekend after weekend the exact same collection of bad street food, towels, tools, and as-seen-on-tv products stretch for blocks and blocks. Today, a whole swath of third avenue was closed to traffic, which would be fine except for this particular swath is the neighborhood that the 59th street bridge feeds into.

With backups all the way into Queens, I assert that thousands and thousands of cars spent at least an hour in traffic just to get by the snarl this fair caused. I spent more than an hour, but let's be generous, and say one. And let's assume that there was an average of two drivers per car - I was by myself, but there were plenty of full cars next to me, so let's just say two. So I assert that eight thousand person-hours were lost to traffic today, with three thousand gallons of gasoline (at 2.85 a gallon) fuming into the air, just so that a thousand pedestrians could stroll along and perhaps buy some irregular socks. This is the sort of thing that makes me crazy about city planning: to wit - the lack of all planning.

It doesn't help that the only way I could have more road-rage while driving in Manhattan is if I were taking anabolic steroids as well. Nothing makes me angrier, crazier, and hate NYC more than driving in it, when the driving is going poorly. It always seemed to me that the focus of traffic patterning should be to get cars off the roads as soon as possible, and yet the poor signage, absurdly inconsistent one-way streeting, and complete lack of traffic enforcement all contribute to the eternal gridlock. The city has for years run a "don't block the box" campaign, to attempt to keep intersections clear, with dubious results. Part of the reason the program isn't more successful is that the worst offenders are the city buses themselves. I'd love to set up a camera at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street one week, and record the sheer tonnage of traffic violations the buses should be cited for, it would be staggering.

I've been considering moving out of Queens for some time now, as some friends of mine are putting together a crash-sublet in NYC (place to shower and sleep, for those of us who are home less and less). I originally got my two-bedroom apartment because I had a live-in girlfriend and a dog, and now that I have neither I just don't need this kind of space. I like my place, but it's accumulating stuff at an alarming rate as I'm filling the empty spaces of my apartment with things that I've become attached too, and yet I don't want to live like that just now.

One of my biggest concerns about moving back to Manhattan is my car - I don't think I could keep it in the city, and I would hate to pay for a spot, but I like having it so much... yet this afternoon I noted that I'm never so angry as when I'm driving, which got me thinking that perhaps the car wasn't so great for me after all. Tonight I'm going to assess the yearly cost of the car, and do some checking vs. the expected costs of the occasional rental for out of town trips, and get an idea of where I land. I love having it, I'd miss it, but is it a legitimate reason not to move back into the city?


At 7:46 AM, Blogger adriaan said...

So let me make sure that I am clear on this. You want to get rid of your place for a crashlet. Then get rid of your car as well. As if getting you to come up and visit us isn't hard enough. You are now going to get rid of your apartment so that the wife, two kids, the dog and myself can't stay at your place either? WTF!!! How are we ever going to see each other again? ...If you haven't noticed it is all about me.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger broadway2boston said...

When I lived in the city, I thought about this idea a lot. A crash sublet rocks... although, I thought the idea was to crash occasionally... not to call it home. Regarding the car situation, you could keep it parked in Queens and play parking tag with the street cleaners. If you know a street that only cleans once a week, this may not be too bad. Does your job allow you to telecommute? You could work in a Starbucks until it was time to move your car back.... Ah, city living.... how I miss it so.

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Quilla said...

Well said.


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