Worst Cities for Drivers: New York City

Hell is driving in Manhattan: why New York is the worst city for driving (and why I do it anyway).

Worst cities for drivers: New York

I don’t care where you’re from — L.A., San Francisco, DC, Wichita — the fact is, New York tops the list of worst cities for drivers.

There is no reason to drive in New York — especially if you live, like I do, in Manhattan. The traffic is horrible. The drivers are aggressive. It costs tons of money in tolls to get anywhere. But people still do it. I still do it. Why?

Because New Yorkers need something to complain about. Duh.

And here are my complaints. New Yorkers, back me up!

I can’t go anywhere — I’ve got a spot!

In the suburbs, people stay together for the kids. In most cities, they stay together for the apartment. But in New York City, they stay together for the parking spot. If you’ve got a primo parking place (hey, no street-sweeping ‘til Wednesday!) there’s little that anyone or anything can do to get you to move. That trip upstate you were planning? Fuggedaboutit. You’ve got a spot. Where would you park when you got back?

A bridge over tunneled waters

Living in Manhattan is impossible. Manhattan doesn’t want you to live in Manhattan. The only way in and out is through 1 of the 10,000 bridges or tunnels dotting the Hudson, Harlem, and East Rivers.

If you want to cross the East River without paying a toll, you have only one option: the Queensboro Bridge. And nobody wants to take that. Driving on the Queensboro Bridge is like going to the Museum of Modern Art on “free day.” Sure, you’re going to see the art, but what you’re mostly going to see is some guy’s bald spot.

Goodbye, grid

The only positive thing about driving in Manhattan is the grid system. But after driving around the city for a while (looking for parking, mostly), driving to Queens or Brooklyn is a confusing nightmare … especially once those street names you’ve familiarized yourself with in Manhattan start popping up in the outer boroughs.

And the Brooklyn IKEA? Just order online, dude.

There sure are a lot of Connecticuters parked on my block … and New Jerseyans

Another reason no one drives in New York: they can’t afford it! It costs so much to keep a car insured on the island of Manhattan that some people — tons, actually — register their cars where they have out-of-state family in order to save money on the insurance.

That plan works beautifully and saves tons of money … except for the fact that it constitutes insurance fraud. If the cost of proper insurance is that much of a burden, you should probably consider buying a MetroCard.

L.A. needs to stop complaining

Everybody knows Southern Californians have thin skin (believe me, I used to be one of them). While L.A. may be insanely congested during rush hour, getting to and from work is miserable anywhere you go. But at least the freeways (I repeat, freeways … no tolls to speak of) are plentiful and have tons of lanes.

L.A.’s infrastructure was designed with driving — or at least long-distance transportation — in mind. The city (or urban sprawl) has been spread out since the early days. While New York was building upwards, Los Angeles was building outwards. New York, however, is totally stuck in the horse-and-buggy days (proof positive if you get anywhere near Central Park South).

New York also has another thing Los Angeles doesn’t: a little thing called winter — nothing to shake a (frozen) stick at.

The winner of the worst cities to drive award: New York

What, am I wrong?

I keep my car because I love options. I need options. (Also, I’m aspiring to a Seinfeldian lifestyle, and you can’t do that without complaining incessantly about how having a car in the city is truly a double-edged sword.)

But if you’ve got a bone to pick, or think your city is worse, throw your gauntlet in the comments section below.

Related links

Worst Cities for Drivers: San Francisco
Worst Cities for Drivers: Los Angeles
Worst Cities for Drivers: Washington, DC

2 Responses to “Worst Cities for Drivers: New York City”

  1. Avatar for Devin Asaro
    Probity Foonman
    August 28, 2013 #

    On the bright side, having been to 49 states, the BEST state to drive in is….North Dakota. So little traffic that you'd have to aim to hit something. Drove across the state on I-94 on the Fourth of July 2011. 80 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, the highway has glassy-smooth blacktop. Turned on satellite radio in my red sports car, it was free therapy. Perfection. By the way, I'm a native NYer, having escaped the city years ago and I have to agree with those who say, it's the worst in the country. The ubiquitous yellow cabs (that apparently are not equipped with turn signals), and streets so old that the traffic signals are not coordinated. I avoid NYC like the plague.

  2. Avatar for Devin Asaro
    June 12, 2015 #

    Ive driven many times in SF, LA, DC, and NY. I agree with most of what you said. Overall I think its a toss up between SF and NYC.

    Paying for a day spot is insanely expensive in Manhattan, Expensive in SF, not cheap in DC, and cheap in LA. But you only do that if theres no street parking so…

    The thing about street parking in Manhattan is that its only hard to find during business hours. Afterwards, its not that difficult to find a spot. But in SF, theres no parking 24/7 (except in the few less populated districts like Twin Peaks or by Lake Merced).

    Driving itself, Manhattans hard cause of cabs drivers, SF is hard cause of hills. Also, driving styles change a lot across SF's districts, Mission and Soma being the wildest. Manhattan gets crazier the farther south you go. But both just take a little getting used to.

    Overall, both difficult yet fun places to drive.

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