Traffic patterns change in New York City during pandemic

Traffic congestion is going to get worse before it gets better even in a post-pandemic city, according to "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz, a New York City traffic expert.

"The real concern is traffic is getting close to 100%," Schwartz said.

He said two things are contributing to more cars and trucks being on New York City roads and neighboring expressways: 

Delivery trucks are filling up the streets because many residents avoid shopping in stores and order online instead.

Many New Yorkers are still hesitant about taking public transit so they're driving instead, which makes things a tight squeeze.

"I think the big thing that's holding us back is fear," Schwartz said.

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Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance said traffic congestion is costly.

"Congestion costs $20 billion a year in lost earnings, in wasted time and resources to businesses and to families," he said.

New York can move ahead with plan for congestion tolls

The Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization that lobbies for the rights of riders of public transit, wants to see the governor implement congestion pricing in Manhattan immediately. That would reduce traffic going forward, the alliance said, because without it gridlock could be worse than it was before the pandemic.

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"We need that support to reduce congestion pricing and to fix our transit system," Pearlstein said.

These transit experts told FOX 5 NY that they think public transit will take years to return to 100% pre-pandemic capacity. How many people use public transit has a direct impact on how much vehicular traffic we have on city streets. It means traffic jams at least for the near future may be here to stay.