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The Hellish Commute to New York City

When it comes to traffic congestion, New York City is one of the worst cities to commute to and from in the United States. While tourists admire the Fourth of July fireworks or explore Times Square, it is definitely not the best city for commuters. In fact, the city is not the best for commuters who live in the city. The biggest question: why? Historically, New York City began as a port for importing and exporting goods from the Americas to other countries. Presently, New York City is known as the “financial capital of the world”. Jobs and opportunities can be found in New York City, which attracts middle-class and lower-class Americans. Many live in the suburbs of New Jersey or Connecticut, while some live in the city. Regardless of what brought them to NYC, all these people have one thing in common: a long and life-draining commute five times a week.

There are many methods of transportation that a person may choose from to get to their job in New York. Train/subway, bus, ferry, and cab covers most of the common methods. However, there are trade-offs for each method of transportation; while using the train may be effective, Penn Station may not take you as close to your work as a bus would. On the flipside, paying for a subway to get to the desired destination may not be cost efficient; it would be better just to walk another fifteen minutes. Taking the bus may seem like a decent option, but rush hour could make the train seem like the faster alternative. All of these methods create a huge intricate yet entangled network that is tough to decipher. Commuters play a role in this network, making some paths faster for some while slower for others in relations to the number of travelers. While creating an equilibrium may be possible in respect to this intricate network, it does not mean that the time to commute will be extremely efficient; commute times may be slow and ineffective, leading to congestion within these networks.

There are many options for “buyers” in this market, but they just need to find the price that best suits them. Some of the core variables include time, monetary price, the stress of the commute, and distance to the station for departure. Every person factors their own wants and needs to find the most efficient commute to their work. Each commuter having a preference over a transportation method does not mean that the market has reached equilibrium. Over the course of several years, the NJ Transit has become worse for commuters, signaling a surge in the population who commute to New York City on a daily basis. Delays and construction projects are a part of the reason, but the increase in Jersey-NYC commuters have increased, creating a huge imbalance to the already unbalanced market. One often proposed solution is to increase fare rates for some transportation methods to achieve balance for the market. This solution is often criticized since transportation to and from NYC is extremely expensive. A hike in the rate could be brutal on lower-income commuters, since a lot of their time and money is spent commuting. This would yield less buyers, but a more balanced market. While a rate hike may very well help achieve a market clearing price, it may be detrimental for lower-income Americans who may lose jobs in the price increase.

With no obvious achievable market clearing price or effective network to achieve equilibrium, the hassle for the New York commuters will continue.


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October 2018