Traffic returns to NYC streets as pandemic recovery continues

After months of staying home, New Yorkers are on the move and it’s showing up on city streets. Traffic is backing up across all 5 boroughs and as the weather improves, more cars and SUVs are filling the roads.

Numbers show the traffic trend creeping up over the past few weeks. Compared to a year ago, traffic is still not at pre-pandemic levels. The MTA says traffic is still about 10-12 percent less than before COVID hit. 

Metro-North and LIRR ridership, however, is still down at least 75 percent since last March. Experts say that could be the reason for the slow-go on highways and city streets.

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"While people are returning to work, many are still afraid of being exposed to the virus," said Robert Sinclair, Jr. of AAA. "You have to convince the people who are driving that it's safe for them and convenient for them to get out of their cars and get onto public transportation."


AAA says traffic will only get worse as we approach Memorial Day and the summer travel season.

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.

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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.