Friday, May 22, 2009

May 24th- Broadway closes, from 47-42 streets and 35-33 streets

"The pilot program will discontinue vehicular traffic on Broadway from 47th Street to 42nd Street and from 35th Street to 33rd Street-connecting Seventh Avenue through Times Square, where it is currently bisected by Broadway, and improving traffic flow on Sixth Avenue through Herald Square. The result will be simplified traffic patterns, longer green lights and reduced travel times throughout Midtown Manhattan. East/West vehicular access through Times and Herald Squares will not be impacted and travel times are expected to improve on some of those streets" 
-The DOT press release for the Broadway closure
My opinion-
It may take some time for people to get used to this change, which will cause some initial buildups at the crosstown intersections. There are already preliminary confusions on Broadway as it had gotten repainted and gets real narrow at 45th street. Have a good weekend and check for parades and street fares.

Mid shift update- 5:24 @7:30am
Well the reports have been hit and miss about when specifically the shutting down of Broadway would happen, but the last time I checked they were merging Broadway with 7th Avenue at 46th Street. It didn't seem so bad, though I could see how a collision could occur. Today won't really provide a fair judgement of it in Times Square, as 7th Avenue is having a Street fair from 57th Street down to 47th. So effectively we have today one street going through Times square: The narrow (2 lanes) Broadway will spill to 46th where drivers will be forced to, well, to Broadway again, wait a minute this is exactly the opposite of the proposal?? Also Broadway is supposed to be closed from 33rd to 35th, didn't see this yet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Crosstown part 2-Houston, Prince, 3rd

Before I forget, I'm gonna try and dump all I know about the crosstown streets that run consecutive green lights. Just beware, that these will only most likely make a fast trip even faster. Smaller streets no matter how good the traffic light pattern is, may not be such a good idea during peak traffic as a general rule.
Houston Street-
is always the best street for a crosstown trip, if you're near by.
  • Going west-          (Ave's ABCD and FDR, to 1st Ave)
From Houston to 1st Avenue you can take the small offshoot 1st Street right after Avenue A, very good route when you're empty. When the light turns green at 1st Avenue and 1st Street make the right at 1st Avenue, All the lights on 1st Avenue stay green!!
  • Go east and west early-
Your customers will probably appreciate you taking Houston Street across town, it is better than almost every street from 1st through 64th. Houston Street is the primary choice for crosstown with all other magical crosstown streets from 1 to 64 at best only second.
  • Going east-           (Varick/7th Ave, east to Houston)
Gil has talked about this, From Bleeker street if you catch Macdougal while the light is still green, you can hang the right here, then hang the left on Houston, smooth sailing eastwards on Houston Street!!! If Bleeker appears to be really bad on your approach to it from 7th Ave/Varick Street, usually that's a Saturday or Sunday with tour buses and New Jersey people, you might want to go to Carmine and right on Bleeker, but still you're going to get jammed. Gil's big recommendation here is to go all the way to King Street, make the left there, than another left at 6th Avenue, and a right at Houston!!! It is always the best way, but I'm afraid to take my passengers that way for fear they may feel taken the long way. Ask them if it is acceptable before you try it, and sell the route, tell them it's wayy faster. Again, it's Varick to King to 6th Ave, to Houston. But if there is no traffic, take Bleeker to MacDougal, to Houston, best traffic light flow.

Prince Street-
In the absolute still of nighttime, take Prince from Laffayette to 6th Avenue. If there is no car in front of you and you drive fast you'll only be stopped at West Broadway or Sullivan Street. If you catch the intersection of Prince and 6th Avenue right when the light turns green, you might make it up 6th Ave on the remaining seconds of each green light. It's a tough balance, try to push it with the acceleration, but watch the sides of prince street, and at the corner of Prince and 6th I wouldn't be surprised if the cops are watching. My general rule is to slow down at intersections, but here I'd make a smooth slower turn, but not too slow, only to floor it when the car straightens out.

3rd Street-
I love 3rd Street, it only goes to 6th Avenue, don't take it during the bar rush, it's all kinds of messed up then. But do take it any other time.
  • From 1st ave-
making the left on 3rd street, you'd be stopped at 2nd Ave, but progress should be made well. The aim hopefully is to be stopped only once or twice from there. The light pattern is slow, so drive slower on 3rd, no rush.
Hopefully this is clear, I really need to put all the streets on a map, and code them with colors for their rates of green lights. Until then, hopefully this is alright.

Monday, May 18, 2009


If you were driving on the Upper West Side yesterday afternoon, you know how unbelievably nightmarish traffic got in every possible direction. Due to the AIDS WALK, an area nearly 40 blocks long and stretching from Central Park to the Hudson River became completely debilitated as all traffic was stopped to let participants walk uninhibited along the event route. So for 7 hours everyone caught inside of that circuit and everyone approaching it came to a near standstill.

There was no way eastbound out of it because the traverses through Central Park were closed for a parade on Fifth Avenue. And there was no way directly southbound out of it because a food festival had Ninth Avenue shut down. And for some odd reason the traffic headed down Broadway to Columbus Circle didn't move a foot for over a quarter hour, and no traffic could be seen coming uptown from there. So something was going down in that neck of the woods too.

My passenger had to get to Tenth and 43rd, so I wiggled my way to 66th and cut across to West End. The downtown flow was moving along until we approached 57th, where all the traffic from Ninth had been diverted. So I shot further west down 59th and instead of entering the slow traffic on the West Side Highway, I flew up the cruise terminal ramp and then cut right over to the empty turning lanes for 42nd Street. We did in 10 minutes what would have taken over half an hour to accomplish.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What's coming this sunday: road closures

Update 8:42, may 17th: Gridlock Sam's column has finally been updated. For more reliability, buy the Daily News. In addition to these closures There is a typical street fair closing of 3rd Avenue between 14th Street and 23rd Street. The Upper West Side, forget about it, they got the AIDS Walk. Central Park west is closed from 70th Street to 11oth Street. They proceed to Riverside Drive via 74th, so who knows how many streets will get tangled, I'm guessing the whole thing.

I can't in good conscience not show you this, Department of Transportation: weekend advisory page. I haven't even read it yet, but I will at some point before the halfway mark in my Sunday shift. 

I've heard that 9th Avenue will also be closed Sunday from 57th Street to 37th Street. It's a food festival, really?

The Port Authority will be doing a practice drill on the WTC Path Train Station from a little before 6am to a little after 11am. Click on the underlining Port Authority's webpage on traffic, to find that the Holland Tunnel gets closed on a regular basis on the weekend nights until 8am. Add to that sometimes the Lincoln Tunnel is closed too. Again click on the P.A. Traffic Page for details. So what are you going to do when somebody downtown who can't get the Path Train wants to go to Jersey City? Well give that one some thought. Hope this post helps more than it hurts, thanks

crosstown traffic-

Greetings readers, Gil has been cool enough to add me as a co-author, and as I have some time at the moment, I'll try my best to distribute some knowledge, most likely knowledge you already know, but it's my first post on Gil's blog here:

We all know that most of the north and south avenues of Manhattan in particular are engineered to have lights turn green in a cascading order, but what may help triple your time is finding the crosstown streets that also have green lights proceeding in an orderly fashion. 

56th Street through 59th Street go very well across Manhattan from west to east, 57th street in particular if there is no construction will send you to the Upper Roadway of the bridge in the cleanest smoothest style. I am not so sure about the even numbers 46 through 54, they may be pretty good too, but nothing is as good as 57th.

I just took 36th street to the Midtown Tunnel today, and it wasn't bad, but not so good either, 40th street goes really well. Traffic will be a problem as the day gets full of double-parkers and unloaders, and 38th I've known to run all green from 11th avenue all the way to 2nd avenue where you turn right and find the entrance at 36th street for the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Both 36th Street and 38th Street have double lanes so you can steer around people who look for parking.

Now a bus driver told me about this one, are you ready? From Madison Avenue, 34th street goes green in both directions, west from Madison, and east from Madison. Again use your best judgement, but quite surprisingly, 34th Street from Madison Avenue I rarely find to have traffic complications. 34th is only bad into Madison Ave, away from Madison is good I've found.

The other crosstown streets are dodgy, 23rd Street is a good east bound street. Much like 57th, both 22nd street and 26th street also go well eastwards, however the chances you will get stuck behind some slow poke from the suburbs, or a police car is highly likely on 22nd and 26th. Everybody in Greenwich Village on Hudson, or Chelsea on 8th Avenue, will want you to take 23rd street if their destination is above 23rd and on Madison Avenue or further east.

14th street goes sort of well in the west direction, 13th street goes even better, but forget about taking the small 13th street once traffic gets hefty, and watch the speed bumps. 11th street from University I once took with great green light success, but I don't remember the last time it went so well, so give us an update on how that one works. The elementary school is on 11th street between 6th ave, and 7th, so beware of complete blockage during school opening and closing. 

On that note 85th street in the Upper East Side, while it goes really well to the west, has a fire station, and everybody and their Volvo gets stuck when that truck goes out or comes in. Some people prefer you take 86th street across to 5th Avenue and cross the park at 85th there. 

Similarly 29th Street is an absolute gem of a street going west to 6th avenue to get to the 31st Street or 33rd/32nd Street entrances of Penn Station on 7th Avenue, BUT once everybody has woken up and started their day (after 7am) that street looses its mojo and you're better of getting to 6th avenue to head uptown as soon as possible, there really is no good way to Penn Station. If your passenger deems it okay, it will tend to be an easier ride to the 8th Avenue side. We all know how bad 6th Avenue can get. asking first, and bringing our customers up 8th Avenue saves us time, it saves them money, and is much less of a taxi ticket trap.

One of my better luck routes last week was going west on from the FDR Drive to 34th Street and 3rd Avenue. I proceeded west on 35th street, making a left on the midtown tunnel exit service road, then a right on 34th Street. It was surprisingly awesome, but again, if you can avoid all of that it'd be best to, most of the time the 30's and the 50's get real bad heading west. 35th street and 37th are extremely bad and tend to cause gridlock.

Delancey/Kenmare/Broome combo is an awesome combo of green lights going west all the way from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Holland Tunnel (make a left at Laffayette, and a right at Broome). Now when everybody has to go back home to New Jersey, it might be best to take Houston Street to Varick. From the Meatpacking district you can take Washington Street all the way to Spring and make the right on Varick, the two right lanes of Varick are for the Holland Tunnel.

Spring Street is a very good street for green lights all the way east, you can take a right at laffayette and a left at Kenmare to get to the Williamsburg Bridge. If you're feeling lucky you can take Spring to Mott to Kenmare, save one light. 

New Jersey direct to Brooklyn? just follow the signs out of the Tunnel, it'll dump you on Watts I believe, which merges to Walker, then to Canal, and no matter how much traffic it'll be the best way to The Manhattan Bridge from the west side. I'd tolerate the wait if I were you, the Manhattan Bridge is usually not as congested as the Brooklyn Bridge. But if it's really bad, you may want to deviate and head south on Laffayette for the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Chambers runs beautifully  west to east, but everyone knows about it and goes that way to take the Brooklyn Bridge. So check out how bad Chambers is, if it's got gridlock (spillover traffic blocking the intersection) than you should take Warren Street to City Hall Park, you are then forced to go south, stay in the left most lane and turn around the park heading back north on park row, now go straight in the two left most lanes to the Brooklyn Bridge.

I hope this isn't too scrambled, I got to get back to work before the meter runs out.

throw in all the comments you can so we can really get a feel for the best crosstown streets

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Coruscations of Cadmium Yellow Light

This past week I witnessed something heartbreaking at one of the most disconcertingly vertiginous intersections of Manhattan. A yellow cab had attempted to turn left from Houston unto Broadway at the designated turning lane. Due to the construction and the less-than-assertive vehicle(s) waiting to turn in front of him, he'd gotten stuck in the crosswalk when it turned red. Sure enough a meter maid walked over and proceeded to scan his windshield for the VIN code.

As I drove slowly past them, I noticed the cabdriver had tears coming down his cheeks as he pleaded in anguish. It's not easy on one's mental/emotional sanity when after toiling away for half a dozen hours, one only then begins to earn one's measly income, only to have $115 of it (well over 50%) commandeered by the city for an offense that occurred (in part) because of the city's own lack of public work expedite.

BEWARE: when entering the FDR at it's very beginning (out of the 9A underpass) you might be under the impression that you still have a few hundred yards to speed before you have to slow it down to under 40 mph for the cop on foot with a radar gun who stands on the shoulder by the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, don't be so sure. There is often a hiding patrol car as soon as you come out from underneath Battery Park. Get in the habit of driving like a granny before you even exit the tunnel. A friend of mine had to learn this the hard way.

CAUTION: When traversing west through the park at 66th, be careful with the left only turning lane as you approach Central Park West. If you choose to travel straight (towards Lincoln Center), beware of a police trap motioning people to pull over on the other side of the intersection. Many of us (cabdrivers) tend to get in that lane so as not to wait behind vehicles that tend to take forever to get going once it turns green. People (and cops) don't understand that sometimes mere seconds of delay separate us from a better income.

WARNING: I continue receiving similar reports from fellow cabdrivers that at 42nd and 7 Av there are officers on foot who pull over motorists who have an earpiece on or a cell phone in their hand. Don't wait until it happens to you. Remove those Bluetooths from your face in Times Square.

Some garages give you the cab with a full tank and expect you to return it that way. My garage is the opposite. The amount you put into the empty tank when you start is at your discretion and whatever leftover gas there is at the end of the shift is surrendered to the next driver. It makes no sense, I know. All of us are always trying to return our cabs with the needle as low as possible. Problem is that not every needle is accurate.

I ran out of gas for the first time a couple weeks ago. I was on York and 71st, off duty and headed home towards the Queensboro Bridge. I had to run 10 blocks to the Mobil and purchase a $17 gas can that included 2 gallons of fuel. I took a $4 cab ride back to my cab. I made it to the garage in the nick of time. It would have been wiser to be less stingy and just put in an extra $5 that morning.

ADVICE: Try to avoid 91st Street on weekday mornings. There's a long row of schools between Park and Fifth and you're bound to get stuck behind yellow buses and parents dropping off. I learned this when I picked up an agitated suit on Lexington and 92nd. He said, "you can cut over to 5th whenever you get a chance" (traffic was thick on both Lex and Park). So I took that first available right turn, which only remedied things for a single block. He huffed and puffed in the backseat incessantly and kept repeating, "this is such a buzzkill. OMG, this is such a buzzkill."

I recently stopped by the DMV to get an abstract of my driving record printed out. I was curious to calculate how many points I still had, considering they get erased 18 months after the conviction date. At one point, about a year into my taxi career, I had accumulated 9 points (only 3 away from suspension), with two tickets still pending. A scenario like this is not uncommon for new cabdrivers. Everyone learns through trial and error when what rules can and can't be broken.

Right now I'm back down to having only 2 points on my record, both of which should disappear 2 months from now. But I still have those 3 unresolved tickets that were written over a year ago, which my taxi lawyer keeps rescheduling every 3 months or so. What he does for all his cabbie clients is to keep asking the court for new hearings until the violation date is so antiquated that some nice judge comes along and throws it out altogether.

I want to share the details of my driving record with you, so you may learn from my mistakes.....

Since I first got my driver license at the age of 16 (Florida in 1997), I had only gotten pulled over once (for going about 10 mph over the limit on I-95). It was not until I switched over to NY state in the Spring of 2006 that my record took a nosedive. It started with a $150 "bicycle red light violation" when a cop on a bike pulled me over while I was working as a bike messenger in Midtown Manhattan.

Half a year later and only a handful of days after beginning my life as a yellow cabdriver, I was on Fifth Av. in Harlem when, while going around Mount Morris Park at 124th, an unmarked cruiser smacked me with a $90 "disobeying traffic device" for pressing the brake pedal only 90% of the way to the metal at a stop sign (at 4:45 am).

A couple of months later I was taking a Dutch tourist couple down Fifth Av. in the 60s. Traffic was at a standstill, but the bus lane remained empty. Naively I believed that, as a taxicab, I'd be considered another form of efficient public transportation, and be given the same special treatment as buses. I cruised down that lane self-admiringly for 5 blocks before multicolored lights suddenly flashed brightly in my mirrors. Slapped with a $90 "improper use of the bus lane".

Four months later I was taking a Wall Street investor to work down Broadway. Not only had it just turned 7am a split second ago, but there was a double parked delivery truck with its hazard lights on in the only lane not reserved for buses. My passenger was running behind schedule and asked if I could step on it. Therefore I shifted unto the bus lane, and before I could return to my designated lane I got hit with yet another bus lane violation. My passenger even wrote and signed a witness letter on my behalf, and this was the first ticket I took to court, instead of just pleading guilty. I appeared alone to defend myself, but between the lying cop and the snarly judge, I did not stand a chance.

Only 13 days later, in what seemed to be my August of bad luck Augusts, I was the last vehicle making a left at the green turn arrow from Bowery to Broome. It changed from yellow to red as I followed closely behind the tail end of a frustratingly slow caravan of cars that had all gotten a late start because there is always someone at the front of the line who fails to realize that there is a turning arrow (until everyone's horn's been exhausted). I should have stayed behind one more light cycle but it was a Death Valley kind of day and I just wanted to quickly find fares so I could leave Manhattan before someone would complain about the malfunctioning A/C.

Besides, it's a common maneuver among experienced motorists, except for when there's a patrol car standing right there. It was too late. And due to the fact that this was techniquely my 2nd red light violation (even though the 1st was on a bicycle), the fine went to $300. It was also then that I surpassed the 6 point threshold that would now require me to also pay what are known as Driver Responsibility Assesment fees, for this and every other conviction thereafter.

I managed to steer clear of the police until nine days into the new year (2008), when I was caught and convicted for making a left turn from Astoria Blvd. unto Crescent (in Queens) after 7 am. It was one of those little golf cart type 'interceptors' that was hiding on the sidewalk that morning. Since then I have not accrued anymore points, for two reasons.

#1: I've become evermore streetwise and keen on the enforcement patterns of the blue.
#2: I've taken the 3 latest tickets (all received a little under and over a year ago) to a lawyer who serves and specializes in taxicab drivers only. He's managed to delay these cases for long enough to allow my record to clean itself up almost entirely.

In case you're wondering, those last three violations are as follows:
1. Yet a third bus lane ticket for veering to the right at a temporary construction island on Broadway at Fulton Street. The signs were so abrupt and contradicting. I had to choose to go around this unprecedented barrier from one of two sides. It all happened so quick. I chose the side from which you must turn right, which I did not intend to do. It's all such baloney.

2. Turning right from 34 unto 7 Av about 5 minutes after 8 am on a ghost town of an early Sunday morning. They call it "disobeying a traffic device". Again. More baloney.

3. Going 50 mph in a 30 zone along Cross Bay Blvd.. Trick is that the posted speed limit
IS 50 mph until you enter the residential district of Broad Channel. An undercover squad car sits behind some bushes in the median and stings people just as they see the sign that says 30 mph.