Whether you travel by bike, bus, cab or car, New York City (NYC) can be a treat to navigate — so long as its roads don't muck up your ride. But by now, New Yorkers have grown accustomed to dealing with all sorts of travel obstacles, including street defects such as cave-ins and potholes.
NYC's Department of Transportation (DOT) reported that it had repaired 465,152 potholes on streets, highways and bridges in 2015 alone.
NYC311, the city's call center for nonemergency services, receives more than 60,000 service requests annually from concerned residents regarding roadway potholes they want fixed. But where are potholes racking up the most complaints? We analyzed NYC311's service requests for pothole repair handled by the DOT since 2010 to find out.
- Staten Islanders take a pummeling from potholes compared to the other boroughs, leading in monthly complaints per 100,000 residents by 121 percentage points over Queens.
- Many roadway locations have seen repeated service requests over the last eight years, attributed to reopened potholes. Approximately 29% of all repaired NYC potholes became damaged enough to warrant additional service at least a year later.
- Nearly half of all service requests are for stubborn potholes that had reopened a year after an initial fix.
Where do most pothole service requests come from?
Although a hefty number of service requests come in for potholes on some of NYC's busiest streets such as Broadway, Ocean Parkway and Third Avenue, these complaints are proportional to their heavy vehicle and foot traffic volumes. We decided to highlight pothole-plagued regions by taking local populace into account, starting with the five boroughs.
Residents of NYC's southernmost borough, Staten Island, are complaining the loudest about potholes. This borough leads the rest of the city in monthly service requests, or complaints, per 100,000 residents by 121 percentage points over the runner-up, Queens.
Pothole complaints by NYC borough
We also performed a more granular mapping of service requests where we calculated monthly complaints per 100,000 residents by NYC ZIP code and ranked them.
Pothole complaints by NYC ZIP
Boundaries with increasingly larger monthly complaints per capita are shaded from light to dark. The financial district near Battery Park (10004) in downtown Manhattan ranks worst for monthly pothole complaints per capita. Little Neck in Queens (11363) and Midtown West (10018) in Manhattan place second and third. All rankings can be viewed by hovering over ZIP code boundaries in the embedded map.
How many potholes have seen repeated complaints over the years?
There are many problem sites across the city as the result of "stubborn" potholes. We took interest in estimating how many of these sites had received repeat complaints over the last eight years, signifying potential repeat repairs. To do so, we measured time spans between the first and final complaints for a given location and binned them into year-count categories.
A surprising 29% of all pothole locations have received repeat complaints spanning more than one year, with 1.4% of these locations having been a nuisance to NYC residents for more than eight years. Since pothole patchwork doesn't hold up forever, it's understandable that the DOT must service some sites over and over again.
Complaints by pothole age
The above graph shows the average number of complaints per pothole location according to the number of years passed between its initial and final service requests. Using the total number of potholes within each category, we were able to estimate that around 50% of all complaints are for potholes that have reopened after an initial fix.
The price of a pothole
Potholes occur when groundwater freezes and thaws beneath the pavement, making winter the ideal season for pothole formation. The American Automobile Association (AAA) reports that potholes cost drivers $3 billion each year in damage expenses nationwide, which comes out to roughly $300 per unlucky driver repair. Fortunately, in NYC, drivers who have damaged their vehicles on potholes have an option. They can file a claim within 90 days of the incident with the New York City Comptroller Office. Drivers are responsible for providing proper details about the incident such as the date, time, location, contributing factors, and a list of damaged parts and estimated costs.
Pothole collisions are nothing to sneeze at and can damage your steering, suspension and alignment systems. If your vehicle has sustained damage from a pothole or similar street defect, you should check with your auto insurance provider to see whether the damage is covered.
We analyzed publicly available data on 311 service requests from 2010 to present day regarding pothole repairs handled by NYC's DOT. You can find the data here.