Put fight over Uber behind to hit real causes of NYC traffic

Thankfully, the findings in NYC’s latest traffic study were broad-based and seemingly apolitical, and they did not refuel the city’s all-out attack against Uber and other e-hail services from last summer.

Instead, the report released last week noted that app-based car services did not cause a spike in congestion — and it did not recommend a cap on their services, as proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and members of the City Council during their fight with Uber in July.

That’s good. The problem, however, is that the real causes of traffic, especially the construction zones and trucks that block roadways, are still there, mostly unaddressed. The squabble between the city and Uber drew the spotlight away from those bigger and tougher issues. The mayor took a position against Uber — and stuck with it. And when he finally backed down, the pressing congestion-related concerns disappeared into the background of a noisy, busy city. Uber went back to business as usual — and the traffic study the mayor had initiated in September was nearly forgotten.

For car services that utilize app platforms, Albany must develop statewide safety and insurance regulations that protect passengers and the rest of us without hand-tying the industry’s innovations. The city and state also must ensure that the car services improve accessibility for the disabled. Uber, too, must make sure its disabled customers are accommodated fully. (Now, Uber connects them with green and yellow cabs.) Uber might, for instance, consider providing its platform or other tools to help Access-A-Ride make the journey easier for disabled New Yorkers.

But the focus on Uber is blocking consideration of more significant changes, including encouraging midtown businesses to shift deliveries to off hours to reduce the number of trucks. It means embracing proposals from the Move NY coalition to toll the East River bridges, lower tolls on the Throgs Neck, Whitestone and Verrazano bridges, and potentially toll those who must drive through midtown.

If the mayor and City Council turn their energies to those issues, perhaps they’ll start a fight that’s truly important — and they won’t have to back down.