29 November 2015


Recently I found out belatedly that, back in September, there was a Car-Free Day.  Or something to that extent.  Maybe it was Use-The-Car-As-Little-As-Possible Day.  Might as well that I didn't know about it, because with my current job I wouldn't be able to participate anyway.

In all my years of holding a job, I was lucky to be able to do so with taking public transportation, mostly.  Sure, going to Jersey City tacked on at least an additional 25 minutes, or more when the PATH misbehaves, but still I didn't have to watch out for other drivers or look for parking once I got to work.  Nowadays I spent at least 2.5 hours on the road, that's just getting to work and back.  Some days I may have to visit three different client sites, no fun.  Driving itself is tiresome but parking is not much better.  I used to think that only busy areas like Midtown Manhattan, or maybe the entire Manhattan, and some commercial districts, have severe problems with parking.  But no, you can be out in the boondocks of western Long Island and there is still a shortage of parking space.  Over the few months that I've been a car-commuting worker, I came up with a few workarounds to soften the blow.  Mostly with driving, parking not so much.

  • Don't stick to just one route.  Easy said than done in some scenarios, but always worthwhile to explore.  I used to think the Cross Island Parkway is a great alternative to the Van Wyck Expressway, northbound anyway, because I took the CIP occasionally on weekends.  Now that I need it during rush hours, fuhgeddaboutit!  Even as early as 6 A.M. there would be cars heading to the Bronx via the CIP.  It took me many tries but eventually I found a great local route that mostly runs along the CIP and not have to deal with the lousy traffic.  It may not be faster but it sure is headache-free.
  • Let technology work for you.  It can be low-tech like the radio and its traffic report, or high-tech like Google Map and Waze.  I get a great kick out of knowing ahead where the traffic jam ends and re-enter the highway just beyond the jam.  It does not always work, but it's a wonderful feeling when it does.
  • Along the same note, use technology to find alternate routes.  The new route does not have to replace the old one completely, just to avoid some sucky section is good enough.  I used to hate the part of the Conduit Avenue North around 135th Avenue or 140th Street where the right lane forces a right turn.  One day I decided to see where the right turn would lead me and lo and behold while you'll be a bit off-target from your destination traffic is much better than going through the busy intersection of the Van Wyck and the Belt.  While some days I don't mind going slowly with traffic while my favorite podcast is on, most of the time I just want to quickly be done with the car trip.  Having the optimal route is the way to get that done soonest.
  • I don't know how I used to do it with paper maps but turn-by-turn driving direction is a wonderful thing.  Especially when you go to an unfamiliar destination.  Most of the time the street signs are tiny and useless.  By the time you read what it says, with the jerk behind you honking madly, you already missed the turn and have to somehow loop back.  Note that I didn't say make a U-turn.  I absolutely hate it when drivers make a U-turn on a narrow street.
  • Remember I said for parking I found no solace?  It's a matter of luck.  Or if you don't mind making crazy U-turns.  One thing I found out is, if you are like me and not mind walking long distances, sometimes there are residential area near your destination that you can park at.  Of course I've come across some towns that have local regulations forbidding street parking, like between 9 AM and 6 PM, but most of the time free parking can be had a few blocks away.  Again, you can use Google Maps or the like to scope out the area before you get there.  Usually an overhead view of the area is enough for me, but maybe you can go full-blown and use Street Maps and such.
I am no Traffic Sam, as I know just a tiny portion of the big NYC metro, but if any of these tips help someone saves a little time or a few drops of gasoline, then I am happy.