Elmhurst – Queens, NYC

There’s no place like a mall during the holidays!

Recently, the New York Post reports that Queens Center Mall in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens was named “the most popular uber destination in New York”, according to Uber’s own data. Intrigued by this finding, and aware that our company does work out there to help manage the traffic, I decided to take a trip out there myself to see what the fuss was all about. My hope was to gain a better understanding of the traffic changes around a popular destination like a mall and to see how our staff was using their expertise and training to better manage the high volume of vehicles and pedestrians.

I decided to take an Uber from the Northern Boulevard stop in Queens, to see first-hand what it was like to pull up to the Queens Center Mall and to see if our trained Traffic Managers were assisting at the drop-off spot to help alleviate the high volume. I spoke with my driver, Fnu, who confirmed that the mall was one of his more frequent stops during his shifts. “Traffic is a little crazy, yea.” He said as we pulled up towards the mall and hit an intersection where the traffic was a bit heavy. “Here is always the worst… and it gets really bad in the evening,” continued Fnu. He wasn’t wrong, as there were several cars drifting into the crosswalk causing pedestrians to weave, something many New Yorkers are unfortunately accustomed to doing. Despite the heavy traffic in this intersection, our Traffic Managers were placed in a different location, so Fnu dropped me off at the main entrance and we parted ways.

I walked over to the location of where our Traffic Managers were posted and made a mental note that it was separate from where I was dropped off in my Uber. I realized then that our Traffic Managers were not placed at this mall to assist directly with Uber traffic, but were most likely assisting in another area near the mall with heavy foot and vehicle traffic. Regardless, it would still be difficult to say that Ubers, or other similar rideshare companies, were not in some way contributing to the already high-volume of holiday traffic.

Turning to corner towards a stretch of road that included the main entrance for the parking garage of the mall, it finally came into focus exactly how our experienced staff were being utilized at this facility. Here, I saw a long line of carefully placed traffic cones leading to two of our Traffic Managers hard at work, wearing brightly fluorescent winter jackets and holding light batons (this is regulation safety attire worn by all SSPTMS Inc. Traffic Managers as deemed by DOT regulations). These two of our personnel were specifically tasked with directing drivers in and out of the parking garage or directing them to stop if a pedestrian was attempting to cross. This is the crucial moment that proves our company and staff’s purpose. Often times, regardless of how well an area or facility is designed or built, blind spots may still be present, and carelessness can still occur. But when these two things are combined it could result in dangerous conditions, and why having a traffic manager at these specific locations could mean all the difference in allowing someone’s journey to remain as safe as possible. I was happy to see our team out here providing that safety.

I continued walking along, taking some pictures on the way. I finally stopped and chatted with one of our Traffic Managers at a third and slightly less busy post on the far corner from the main entrance. Ernesto Fuchs, a veteran SSPTMS Inc. Traffic Manager of 8 years, talked with me for small intervals of a few minutes when the car traffic had the green light and no pedestrians were present. Once the walk signal came on, however, he was all duty. Fuchs was the first one into the intersection with a confident and commanding stride making clear eye contact with both drivers and crossing pedestrians, clearly utilizing all the training he had been given in his 8 years with SSPTMS Inc. Happy pedestrians crossed the intersection with ease safely behind him. “Yea holiday traffic is a bit crazy,” he said when he returned back to the corner of the sidewalk, “especially at this spot because of the parking garage.” Fuchs continued to say he didn’t notice significant change in traffic from carshares like Uber and was surprised to hear about the recent findings of the “most popular Uber destination”. While I thought this to be interesting, I also realized that perhaps he just saw the cars and wasn’t exactly looking for the uber sticker on the windshield.

From my journey and discussions with those who visit the area and manage the traffic, I discovered that although our team was not directly assisting with the Uber drop-off area at the Queens Center Mall, it was clear that traffic was heavy and intense in many places surrounding the mall and that Uber was a contributing factor to that. It was comforting to know that our trained and experienced Traffic Managers were placed with a clear purpose from a plan composed by one of our Field Operations Managers, in conjunction with management at Queens Center Mall, to assist those entering and exiting the parking garage. In an indirect way, I believe our staff is still creating a positive impact on the increased traffic from Ubers and other carshares.

I learned a lot from my field visit and I did in fact gain a better understanding of how we provide traffic management and pedestrian safety to yet another busy area during the holiday season. I hope anyone reading this, who happens to visit the Queens Center Mall for some last-minute shopping, takes their time to observe the traffic conditions, please walk or drive safely and pay attention to our staff in the brightly colored safety vests – they are there to help everyone enjoy a safe and care-free holiday season!
If you, or someone you know, owns, manages, or even frequents a facility, area, or event which you believe pedestrian and vehicle traffic safety is a concern, please reach out to us! We provide knowledgeable traffic planning services and experienced individuals to create an extra level of safety and traffic management for a wide range of scenarios. The use of our services has drastically increased the safety and efficiency of high-volume areas all over NYC and several states across the U.S.
Walk with us and make your journey better.

Nick Hlat is a Senior Project Manager for Sam Schwartz – Pedestrian Traffic Management Services Inc. (SSPTMS Inc.), located in New York, NY.