STATEN ISLAND, NY – Traffic on Staten Island is like the weather: everyone talks about it, but you can’t do anything about it.
It really feels like the borough comes to a standstill every day due to traffic. There is no easy escape.
I had to drive from my home in Stapleton to Oakwood Beach on Thursday to do my Facebook Live show, “The Wanderers,” with my partner, Mark Stein. We were going to Kissam Avenue to talk about the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy this weekend.
So I had a choice. I could take the Staten Island Expressway, Richmond Road or Hylan Boulevard.
None were a perfect option at three o’clock in the afternoon, the height of school closing time. The roads are jammed with yellow buses of all sizes, as well as landscaping vehicles, rental cars, delivery trucks of all stripes, and your regular motorists.
A classic case where you have to choose your poison: would you rather die by drowning or by suffocation?
I chose Richmond Road, which would then take me to Amboy Road, then Tysen’s Lane and Oakwood Beach.
I was born in Staten Island. I have been here most of my life. I have been driving here for decades. So I know traffic.
But I have rarely seen Richmond Road so crowded. It was just a bumper-to-bumper conga line. I was waiting two and three cycles at traffic lights, not to mention dead time stuck behind drivers waiting to turn left.
There was no cause to my knowledge. No accidents. No police or fire activity. No alien invasion. Just too many cars and not enough Richmond Road.
And my fellow motorists were no better, especially those who stubbornly blocked intersections and caused traffic jams all around.
But I couldn’t blame them. The urge to move forward at all costs is overwhelming when you’ve waited several rounds of traffic lights. I fought temptation myself, and not always successfully, I have to admit.
After crawling around for a while and seeing nothing but a long line of stopped cars stretching out on the horizon in front of me, I decided to take off and try my luck on Hylan Boulevard. This route is never a bargain either, but I figured I’d roll the dice.
I found snake eyes, as you can probably guess. Hylan Boulevard was just as jammed as Richmond Road.
And my fellow drivers were even worse here, including those driving in the bus lane and then cutting us off the rest when they had to get back into the normal traffic lane.
I was trying to be very zen about the whole thing, but I really wanted to roll up the window, bang my head on the steering wheel and have a good primal scream.
I decided to take off from Hylan in an attempt to get closer to my destination, but was thwarted by all those dead end streets on the water side of Hylan. I just couldn’t go any further south. I made it to Lincoln Avenue, which took me back to Richmond Road.
Fortunately, the road was progressing a little better at this point. He was still stuck, but he wasn’t stopped dead. I finally reached my destination.
It had taken me an hour and 15 minutes to cover what Google Maps told me was seven miles. That’s an average speed of about 10 miles per hour.
Here’s the punchline: When I drove back to Hylan Boulevard home around 5:15 p.m., the south side of the road was still bumper to bumper.
And when I looked up the route on Google Maps on Friday night as I wrote this, it told me the trip would take 29 minutes.
Anti-car fanatics are constantly calling for more traffic calming measures, ranging from speed cameras and speed bumps to more stop signs and bike lanes.
They shouldn’t worry. Staten Island’s deadly slow traffic does the work for them.