On Tuesday morning, the New York City Department of Transportation suddenly changed the direction of traffic on 11th Avenue for an eight-block stretch, removing all northbound lanes. The trouble is the DOT didn’t warn anyone about the changes, and the NYPD started writing tickets almost immediately.
The recent direction change turns Manhattan’s 11th Avenue into a one-way street headed southbound, expanding the stretch of one-way road on 11th from 44th down to the Lincoln Tunnel to now start all the way up at 52nd street. The one-way stretch will be expanded again to start at 57th street in two weeks.
The problem in the Department of Transportation didn’t make much of an effort to warn motorists and cyclists ahead of time, with many people turning onto 11th headed northbound, like they’ve been able to every day dating back to the dawn of time and/or the New York City street grid system before Tuesday.
As CBS New York reported from the scene on Tuesday, this created somewhat of a confused, chaotic situation, with NYPD traffic units having to wave down motorists, with some having to perform dangerous U-turns in the middle of 11th Avenue. Early on Tuesday, some confused motorists were issued summons for traffic violations, despite no warning of the sudden change:
CBS2’s Lisa Rozner then questioned the officers on why they were handing out pricey tickets for a policy that was literally minutes old and gave drivers no warning.
Hours later – and as more cars continued to make the customary turn – police instead pulled over drivers to give out fliers informing them about the “new traffic pattern.”
While the DOT did put up signs Tuesday morning warning drivers they are unable to make left turns, these appear to have been put on existing signage posts, and no other efforts, like temporary lit-up message boards, were made to inform drivers of the changes beyond a heavy presence of traffic police.
Jalopnik reached out the NYC Department of Transportation about the ticketing and received this statement:
The one way conversion up to 52nd Street is complete and is currently in effect and NYPD is aware of the recent changes. There [sic] five day grace period in regards to ticketing. Please note, the conversion from 52 Street to 57 Street will start in two weeks and will take about a week to complete. The bike lane on the west side from 57 Street to 42 Street and the bus boarding islands on west side will be finished by the end of summer.
The project will Improves [sic] traffic flow, quicken buses, and shorten ped[estrian] crossing distances. DOT has been in constant communication and worked closely with Community Board 4 on this plan. We are also posting the new directional information on variable message highway signs and near critical thoroughfares entering Manhattan.
While it’s good that those who are ticketed appear to be able to get out of the fine, and it’s also good that a protected bike lane and more bus infrastructure is being added in the now defunct northbound lanes, the situation could have been handled much better. It turns out that sometimes just informing a local Community Board isn’t exactly the best way of disseminating information to people who drive on through from all over the region down the major thoroughfare.
There’s also no information regarding the change on the DOT press release webpage, which includes announcements as mundane as a stop sign being added to an intersection in Queens. One would think altering the flow of traffic on a major Manhattan avenue would warrant a public announcement of some kind.