Feds to NYC: “Get on the Bus”

Looking closely at the conditions attached to the $354.5 million federal grant New York City received today, a few things jump out right away:

  1. The final Implementation Plan cooked up by the 17-member committee isn’t just going to be a "traffic migitation" plan. To qualify for this funding, New York City is going to have to "use pricing as the principal mechanism" to achieve traffic reductions, according to the Feds.
  2. Keep your eye on the 6.3%. The federal grant demands that whatever plan New York City settles upon, it must reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the congestion zone by 6.3%. Even in relatively simple cases (like, say, removing traffic from Central and Prospect Park) traffic modeling can be a subjective and complex business. Whomever is responsible for inputting data and analyzing the output of New York City’s traffic model, is going to be an important person these next few months. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure glad that Bruce Schaller is working for the Dept. of Transportation now.
  3. Today is a great day for New York City’s bus system. Forget the congestion pricing fight for a moment. The vast majority of this federal money — 92% of it! — is going straight into immediate upgrades for New York City’s bus system. That is huge. With $213.6 million, the MTA will roll out 367 new buses, upgrade pedestrian walkways around some stations and build a dedicated bus lane across the East River. The grant will also provide $112.7 million to fund New York City’s long-promised Bus Rapid Transit project. Ferries get $15.8 million too.

Still, it all depends on New York City and State legislators’ approval. But would you vote for a City Council Member or State Legislator who caused New York City to lose a federal grant that was going to provide for $342 million in nearly immediate bus and ferry improvements?

  • John Hunka

    I hope the MTA puts a bike rack on the front of each of those 367 new buses.

  • bus rider

    Are you sure an “East River bus lane” means across the river, and not along it?

  • I believe they are talking about a new dedicated bus lane across the Williamsburg Bridge but I’ll call and check. Stay tuned. See this:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/07/12/details-of-proposed-bus-service-expansion/

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The PlaNYC transportation report proposes a dedicated bus lane on the Queensboro Bridge, connecting with dedicated bus lanes on Queens Boulevard.

  • Each East River Bridge/Tunnel should have a bus-only lane.

  • Hilary Kitasei

    I would not be opposed to allowing non-polluting, quiet buses on the FDR, if it were part of a larger plan that enhanced the “park” in the parkways. They might look like the classic red jammer shuttles used by the National Park Service in Glacier Park, Montana.

  • Personally, I am glad it is going this route rather than Bloomie’s “my way or the highway” approach.

    And we still get the Federal money.

  • Gelston

    The city got only a fraction of the $ it asked to set up the congestion pricing infrastructure. This may force us to go to a much less extravagant plan. The biggest expense would seem to be installing cameras throughout the zone, rather than at entry points. The only purpose for these is to capture the $4 for driving within the zone. Aren’t there other, cheaper ways to realize that same revenue from those people? Say, through parking (garage and on-street) charges?

  • I think the way to simplify this greatly is to just do all the bridges coming into and out of Manhattan. No free routes through the city. No “cameras everywhere”. Water is a natural moat – let’s use it.

  • MrManhattan

    I agree with Gleston and Glenn…

    Toll the bridges and tunnels.

    The few (20% of households, which probably translates to 5% to 7% of the population) of Manhattanites who own cars could easily be charged an annual surcharge on vehicle registration, or through parking permits (carrot and stick. Live here, pay taxes and a free parking space is included.)

    If we just toll the bridges and tunnels we vastly simplify the whole process,

    EZ pass for 95% and actual cash toll lanes for those who want to pay for their “privacy” with cash. eliminate the straw man “privacy” issues (privacy is for humans, not machines).

  • ls

    Congestion pricing is not a Manhattan only thing. NYC needs an infrastructure that can be eventually be used to implement CP where and when it is needed, for instance in downtown Bklyn/AY, and many other places too. Tolling the bridges and tunnels can’t do that.

  • jmc

    I am so excited, it looks like there are express buses from the NE bronx to lower manhattan

  • Hilary

    Can we get Lucky Star and Fung Wa to get into the local bus business?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    There are local vans operated by Chinese companies; many of them pick up on the South side of Canal street between Mulberry and the Bowery. However, they’re entirely marketed to Chinese-Americans, and not knowing any Chinese, I have no idea where they go, what their schedule is or how much they cost.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I think the way to simplify this greatly is to just do all the bridges coming into and out of Manhattan)

    I agree and would go one step farther. The city would swap all its bridges into Manhattan, giving to the MTA, in exchange for the Verranzano, Throggs Neck, Whitestone, and Rockway Bridges. The tolls on the latter, no longer carrying the transit system, could then be reduced — a sop to drivers.

    I’d also put a second, higher cost area (with cameras) in the area from, say, 28th Street to 86th Street as well. Say a $6 toll in (none out) and $4 to drive in the most congested area during peak times on weekdays. This could be used to fund the extra improvements for those beyond the current subway/commuter rail system.

    Finally, something needs to offered to places like Downtown Brooklyn, in addition to the diversion of through traffic away from the area.

    No matter what, NO EXEMPTION FOR PERMIT HOLDERS! You KNOW that’s what Sheldon Silver wants.

  • popeye the sailor man

    1- new buses are already in the MTA capital plan. as we saw last week when it rained, new buses will get stuck in traffic like the old ones.

    2- go to silive.com for aug 14- bloomberg and Sadik- Kahn cant run the ferries they have. another crash on a clear day? an act of god?

    3- the ferry dough is nothing more than a ploy to keep Weiner quiet. it will lose a fortune. you can run express buses a lot cheaper.

    4 -where are the express bus lanes and HOV lanes trouigh the MTA tunnels and bridges, like the Port Authority has been doing for years?

    5 -Bloomberg said there were 100,000 government parking permits in 2001- there is your TOTAL REDUCTION IN TRAFFIC~ but it would piss off top cops, suburban cops, firemen, the reporters with press plates and publishers with special permits and every other pol in town.

    6- the cops refuse to enforce the exisitng traffic laws. they would rather hand out 9 million tickets so they can get a raise- which they aint getting anyway.

    7- there is no plan here to increase express bus service- USING EXISTING EQUIPMENT- FROM THE other four boroughs. an easy lift that the mayor and Spitzer wont do. -another big fat joke.

    8- trucks get a huge discount if they buy new equipment to reduce emissions- so they might travel FREE.

    9- Corzine made a billionaire deal with Bloomberg- its only $2 to travel from Jersey! they will get back the $6 toll on the jersey bridges and tunnels- how will that reduce traffic? but it will cost you $8 from 100th street to 85th street!

  • SPer

    If you want residents of the so-called “outer boroughs” to support congestion pricing, you should forget about simply tolling the free East River & Harlem River crossings. All this does is reinforce the sense that congestion pricing is simply for the benefit for rich people in Manhattan (and that’s already a strong sentiment in the boroughs). I live in Brooklyn — why should I be charged to drive to Midtown but some rich guy on the Upper East Side can do it for free? Aren’t we all part of the same city?

    What makes congestion pricing more or less as proposed by Bloomberg good and fair public policy is that it does not discriminate by residential location — you drive, you pay.

  • Drew

    Popeye,

    Almost everything you wrote is based on misinformation or deep cynicism:

    The BRT plan is to give buses their own dedicated lanes exactly so that they don’t get stuck in traffic.

    Are you suggesting that b/c we’ve had ferry crashes we shouldn’t have more ferries? Why do you think ferries and express buses are mutually exclusive? Why shouldn’t NYC have both?

    The express bus lanes for MTA bridges and tunnels are clearly laid out in PlaNYC and documents posted here on Streetsblog.

    Even if Bberg cracks down on government parking permits full-scale, that’s not going to take 100K car trips off the street. Where are you getting that? Schaller estimated daily 19,000 car trips, at most, I believe. But, yes, Bberg should DO THAT too.

    NYPD enforcement isn’t the answer for smoother traffic flow. Automated traffic camera enforcement is the answer. We need state permission for that too. PlaNYC is asking for it.

    There is a plan for a massive increase in express bus service and the fed funding is going to help make that happen. What are you talking about?

    No plan currently on the table does anything to allow trucks to travel for free.

    NJ commuters? Yeah, they already pay $5 and will have less incentive not to move to transit. Get the system set up and if we need to jack up rates on those commuters at a later date, we can. That’s the point of congestion pricing.

  • Dave

    SPer:

    – The “rich guy” on the Upper East Side would pay $4 if he lives below 86th or $8 if he lives above it. How is that free?

    – Mass transit in the city is set up primarily to bring people from the outer boroughs into Manhattan. If you live far from mass transit you probably pay less for your place; deal with the congestion charge as a rent/purchase differential penalty.

    – We Manhattanites already subsidize mass transit as the fare to go one stop is the same as to go from the Bronx to Brooklyn. (Compare this with Wash DC, London, Paris which all charge more for further distances)

    Furthermore stop making this out as an elitist argument; not everyone in Manhattan is rich and not everyone in Brooklyn is poor. A user fee to use the most congested streets in Manhattan is only fair.

  • lee

    are the 367 new buses, additional buses? Do they simply replace old buses or is 367 a net increase in the number of buses running?

  • jmc

    The 367 are new express and BRT buses, which are different than the regular Orion city buses.

  • SPer

    Dave,

    Please read posts before responding to them!

    I am a supporting of congestion pricing much as proposed by Bloomberg. I was RESPONDING to posts above that advocated for East River tolls as a simpler and maybe better plan than congestion pricing. Under bridge/tunnel tolls, no one living on the island of Manhattan would pay anything extra. Believe me, I understand that congestion pricing would involve a charge to those within the congestion zone. I believe this is one of the reasons why congestion pricing is better than putting tolls on what are currently free crossings to/from Bronx/Queens/Brooklyn.

    I am NOT making an elitist argument. I AM saying that bridge tolls are VULNERABLE to the elitist argument.

    Geez.

  • RC

    I do think that just tolling the bridges would be much simpler. The elitist argument could be dealt with by raising the cost of car ownership in Manhattan through vastly increased parking charges. Free on-street parking should be eliminated borough-wide and unbundling parking costs should be mandatory (for example, no more luxury condos with “free” off-street parking spots for residents, or employers offering “free” parking for employees).

    The charges should be high enough to make it much, MUCH more expensive to own a car in Manhattan than in the boroughs, and the funds should go to mass transit improvements for the boroughs. That would quiet the elitist argument.

  • Hilary

    Psychologically, it would be better to toll cars LEAVING Manhattan, instead of entering. It would make the boroughs feel better.

  • Can you point to where it says VMT in the agreement?

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