There are bad traffic days in New York City, and then there are “gridlock alert” days. These are the worst-of-the-worst days, when pedestrians outpace cars, streets morph into parking lots and road rage flares at every turn.

In another sign that the city is getting more crowded, the annual congestion warning will now expand to 16 days, up from 10 days last year, and started earlier than ever before, on Sept. 24, to cover the United Nations General Assembly session, when thousands of world leaders and diplomats descended for a whirlwind of meetings, parties and shopping that is always an economic windfall for the city. The traffic jams and security-related street closures turned Manhattan into a labyrinth, even for seasoned drivers.

The United Nations gridlock is now considered worse than holiday gridlock for the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the tree-lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center or the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square.

Beginning in September, the city will initiate a new $500,000 campaign to warn of gridlock days on the radio and in internet ads to try to get more drivers off the road during gridlock days.

In the past, when gridlock days started in November on the Friday before Thanksgiving and ran to Christmas, the city publicized them with news releases, social media and articles that often appeared on the gridlock day itself. City transportation officials said that after surveying drivers online, they learned that some drivers did not have enough time to change their plans. So, this year, paid ads began to run a week in advance of gridlock days.

New York City’s gridlock alert days are the most extensive congestion warning system in the country. A gridlock alert day is essentially an advisory for drivers – who can choose to heed it, or not – but it often coincides with other city measures to keep traffic moving, including adding traffic agents and suspending most construction affecting streets during the United Nations session and holidays.

Source: New York Times

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