Responses to $354 Million Federal Congestion Pricing Grant

mccaffrey.jpgHere are two initial responses to this morning’s news that the US DOT will grant New York City $354 million to implement Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan:

Walter McCaffrey, right, a former city councilman from Queens who has been coordinating opposition to the mayor’s plan on behalf of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, The Automobile Club of New York and parking industry interests, said in a statement:

If the goal truly is to reduce traffic, the city has a moral and legal obligation to seek any and all alternatives before adding a new tax scheme to overburdened New Yorkers. Further, the plan foresees less than an 8 percent improvement in traffic density, with the bulk of the federal funding earmarked for the city to spend on other priorities. The fact remains that the overall congestion tax and vehicle surveillance plan still can – and should – be derailed by the various legislatures if its proponents fail to prove the plan will not cause our citizens, especially those so vigorously opposed in the outer boroughs, an onerous expense and disruption. At all times, the public’s best interest should be in the driver’s seat, and we will keep our hazard lights on to continue warning all New Yorkers to the problems ahead.

Kathryn S. Wylde is the president of the Partnership for New York City, a leading member of the The Campaign for New York’s Future, a coalition of more than 150 civic, business,
environmental, labor, community and public health organizations who support congestion pricing. Wylde said in a statement:

In selecting New York City for the Urban Partners Program, the federal Department of Transportation has allowed us to meet the threshold criteria established by recent state legislation for implementation of a comprehensive program to reduce traffic congestion and improve mass transit in the region. The Partnership has documented the high cost of excess traffic, which results in losses of more than $13 billion and 50,000 jobs each year from our regional economy. Federal funding provides the carrot that will help pay for new buses, faster subways and the other measures required to incentivize people to get out of their cars and on to public transportation. This is a tremendous breakthrough in the struggle to achieve a more efficient, mobile city.

  • ddartley

    What I want to hear supporters of pricing say to opponents:

    “Look, you bring misery and illness into our streets. It’s high time you get saddled with your own fair share of that misery.”

    That should be one of the first responses to McCaffrey’s worry that pricing might “cause our citizens, especially those so vigorously opposed in the outer boroughs, an onerous expense and disruption” AND to “Senator Craig Johnson’s “Many of our train stations simply do not have the parking facilities to accommodate these new riders….In other words, congestion pricing would bring the congestion from the city, to our suburban communities.”

  • “the city has a moral and legal obligation to seek any and all alternatives before adding a new tax scheme to overburdened New Yorkers.”

    He is very concerned about the city’s moral obligation to drivers, but he doesn’t seem to care at all about the drivers’ moral obligation to leave a livable world to our children and grandchildren.

  • Drew

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a more parochial and small-minded lobby than the people who are backing Walter McCaffrey and friends.

  • joe

    don’t you think it’s odd that it costs 354 million dollars to create a way to take $20 from each driver that enters the city? ARE YOU ALL ON CRACK?
    1) The streets are already yours! you paid for them THEY ARE PUBLIC PROPERTY
    2) Any city transportation problem is the fault of City designers, not the citizens nor the users
    3) NEW YORK IS A BIG PRISON get out while you still can

  • psycholist

    I like how Walt consistently uses the car metaphors – way to stay on point! But I would disagree “At all times, the public’s best interest should be in the driver’s seat” – the public’s best interest is feet on the street and butt’s in the seat of mass transit!

  • Steve

    Right, psycho. If you examine McCaffrey’s car metaphors, he seems to be saying “we are not going to get out of our cars, no matter what you do.” That’s the real message, not the verbiage about options McCaffrey and his sponsors don’t give a damn about and have never said or done anything about until they needed to posture on congestion pricing.

  • timbnyc

    And he would then have a moral obligation to actually consider the alternatives – how about HOV requirements instead, Walter? That’s my preference.

  • Mike

    Joe, I couldn’t agree more with all your statements. Public Servants are not the owners of peoples’ property. We appoint them, we elect them and they have the mandate to achieve and perform, we pay their salaries.
    This is starting to look as ludicrous as any banana country. I bet Bloomberg’s financial enterprise doesn’t collect toll to customers that walk in.

  • Drew

    That’s right, Joe, Mike,

    The streets our ours, and we want people to stop storing and driving their private motor vehicles on them for free.

    We want to take back our public streets from the small minority of New York City residents who own motor vehicles. We want to make our public streets safe, healthy and functional for the vast majority of New Yorkers who never even use a car.

    Thank goodness the federal govt is pitching in to help us do that.

  • Hilary Kitasei

    Mike says: “I bet Bloomberg’s financial enterprise doesn’t collect toll to customers that walk in.”

    Actually, the new Bloomberg building up near Bloomingdale’s provides free coffee, juice, snacks and newspapers in an open atrium space to all employees and visitors! Let’s think how the concept might be used to wean drivers out of their cars, which offer mobile offices/napping/eating. What amenities could we offer on subways, trains, buses that would make using those modes more useful and pleasant? Wi-fi, cell phone reception, coffee, newspapers, social networking, work space? How about the stations? We need to be creative about making time spent in transit as productive as that now possible in a car. It’s not impossible.

  • Steve

    Hilary, can you sample the goodies in the atrium even if you don’t have business in the building? During the “construction phase” (which dragged on well after occupants had moved in) the building posted guards who would not let pedestrians even enter the courtyard to use it as a mid-block route between 59th and 60th Streets. Now pedestrians can slip through without getting hassled, but if you are going to bicycle I suggest you proceed quickly!

  • Hilary Kitasei

    Hmm. I don’t think so. As I recall you first have to be cleared with an ID in the lobby. But don’t you think it’s fair to restrict the transit-oriented amenities to those who use their metrocards? The buses should have large,clear windows so that motorists can see the passengers inside getting back massages, sipping coffee, etc.

  • Steve

    The key amenity that many subway users are looking for is wireless receptivity in stations and on trains. I have certainly taken a cab in some cases where I knew it was slower and more expensive in order to communicate en route to my destination. Of course this creates the prospect of people talking on cell phones in subways. The other important reason to enable underground receptivity is to allow law enforcement personnel to communicate with each other during emergencies.

    NYC Transit has been talking about underground receptivity for ages and has accomplished nothing.

    Of course the other obvious “amenity” would be video screens. You have these in PATH stations (with a mind-deadening lack of information) and apparently we are going to get them in taxis. MTA could make big money from video displays in subways if they let some outfit like Captivate run commercials on them, but I would oppose that kind of privatization. Maybe the subway video displays could run Streetsblog.

  • Hilary Kitasei

    I would focus first on stations in areas with the greatest potential converts and convert them into palaces. Really beautiful, functional places where you could get a few things done while waiting for the next train (whose arrival time would be posted). Aesthetics are underrated as incentives. What made Stuyvesant HS become the most first choice among the specialized high schools? It is a Taj Mahal on the Hudson. Even the pedestrian bridge entrance is a non-standard, fun crossing.

  • kevin

    I am not sure how many people reading this have actually driven in NYC lately (Manhattan) but I can tell you, its a real mess. Too many people and way too may cars. I know, I drive in the city at least a few times a week (limo driver) The people I drive will pay whatever it takes to get in NYC. I doubt congestion pricing will make a real difference in deterring people from driving and using mass transit.

  • jmc

    I think that by installing wifi on express buses they can make up for the fact that buses are less easy to work on than trains…..

  • flp

    re. #14

    actually, stuy was a top notch choice school well before it moved out of its ancient cramped quarters

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I’ve got more to say about the luxe marketing, but for now I just want to say that when I lived in the Bronx I took the express buses specifically so that I could read and take notes during the trip. They might not be as easy to work on as a commuter train, but they’re a lot easier than a subway. I could almost always get a seat, and often I had an empty seat next to me.

  • Gomer

    GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF OUR POCKETS BLOOMBERG!

    Federal money to set up your toll (back-door tax) scheme?

    You want this do nothing nonsence, pay for it yourself. This is a money grab, pure and simple. If Bloomberg wants to get in the pockets of New Yorkers, fine. Just keep his hands out of everyone else’s pockets. $354 million my butt!

  • BB

    Congestion pricing will be worth it to get rid of the environmental insanity of toll plazas.

  • Dave

    I wish the opponents to congestion pricing would stop the dis-information campaign of calling this a tax. It is a usage fee for using the streets in Manhattan, not a tax.

    I live in Manhattan and suffer from the congestion in many ways:
    – Pollution. A smog check on trucks and cars entering would help here.
    – Safety. Unlike the other boroughs where the majority of traffic is on the highways, in Manhattan the backups are on the side streets and avenues where we Manhattanites live. Crossing the street can be a live-threatening move here.
    – Emergency response. Where are the studies that show the impact of congestion on Manhattan fire, ambulance and police response times?
    – Quality of life. You outer-boroughers who don’t like this charge do not have to deal with the constant horn-blowing of everyone stuck in traffic.

    I believe the mayor should also implement city-wide permit parking and use the revenues to construct parking garages in the outer boroughs at subway stops. Walking down my block the number of cars parked which are registered in NJ, CT or PA is close to 50%. Every other major city in the world has permit parking…why not NY?

    There are serious flaws with the congestion pricing scheme as laid out, namely the one that reduces the charge if you already paid a toll to get into the city, not charging a toll to use the FDR or West St, and getting rid of the Henry Hudson bridge toll.

    Frankly tolling the East and Harlem River bridges and introducing permit parking would probably have enough of an impact to meet the 6.3% reduction and would be a whole lot easier than cameras and an arbitrary line across 86th St. And for the cry-babies in the Bronx and Harlem I’m sure a plan could be put in place like we do for the Staten Islanders and the Verrazano bridge.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Dave, I’m with you except for the parking garages in the outer boroughs. More parking just encourages people to drive, and if anything will bring about the horror scenario of “people driving into our neighborhoods to park!” it’s places for them to park.

  • Fannypack

    CONGESTION PRICING IS AN ASSAULT ON THE WORKING CLASS, WHATS NEXT THEY ARE GOING TO TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS? THE RIGHT TO FREE MOVEMENT IS OUR RIGHT IN THE CONSTITUTION, THE OUTER BOROUGH RESIDENTS WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS INSANITY, SAY NO TO THE NEW TAX!!! NO MORE HIGH JACKING OF OUR RIGHTS BY FEDS AND MAYOR BILLIONAIRE, THEY WILL SQUEEZE THE WORKING CLASS PEOPLE INTO DIRTY OVERCROWDED TRAINS WHILE THE RICH TAKE THE CARS INTO THE CITY. MAKE THIS STOP, THIS IS INSANITY – STOP THE TAX NOW! HANDS OFF OUR RIGHTS!!!

  • “Frankly tolling the East and Harlem River bridges and introducing permit parking…”

    An entry toll is too divisive, pitting Manhattanites against everyone else. Because pricing will toll in-zone trips it’s more politically palatable to the city as a whole, and it really is more fair. There’s no reason that car owners in the zone should be coddled or excused for their pollution and hogging of public space. If we tolled the East River bridges and added permit parking, there would be reliable free spots and less traffic for residents; many would yield to the temptation. Then we’d be back where we started, except with different people running us down.

    c.p. is the way to go.

  • [ALL CAPS COMMENT]

    See what I mean? We have to form a coalation the non-driving majority in NYC; if it’s a borough fight we’ll lose it. Their capital letters are too strong.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The right to free movement is in the constitution; the right to bring two tons of deadly steel around with you is not.

  • Dave

    Doc:

    So let’s have all the above: permit parking, East/Harlem River tolls and congestion pricing. For the free curb space permit parking might create, turn it into delivery zones to eliminate double parking of trucks.

    I doubt you’d see a bunch of new cars on the street; you’d see fewer owned by commuters from NJ and CT, but I don’t think anyone would go out and buy a car simply becuse congestion is better.

    Fannypack who says there has to be free passage between the boroughs? That wasn’t the case until the tolls on the East River bridges were removed (do we all conveniently forget they used to be tolled?)

    There will nevr be true equality beteen the boroughs in transit; let me remind those of you in the outer boroughs that my cost to ride the subway four stops to work is the same as for your 45 minute commute. And most of us supposedly rich Manhattanites take public transit, equalling more subsidy for the outer boroughs.

  • Dave, I agree. Having people drive (often wildly huge) cars in while trash talking the subways that we are not, actually, too good to use is maddening. If we did all of the above, as you say, I hope a $4 charge for in-zone trips would be enough to keep residents from taking advantage of easy parking and driving. If it weren’t, we could always raise the in-zone charge. But even better, why not just charge what parking spaces are worth? I don’t care who’s exclusively using the spaces as long as they’re paying a fair price. Or, do permit parking–I’ll take any improvement I can get. But it can only happen if the will of the majority across the city is harnessed.

  • ezezez

    How about questioning first the MTA finances and their justification on the horrendous condition the subway system is – safety first, clean…? good image should be a matter of GENUINE pride in the myth of the ** I Love NY – the greatest City on Earth and such **
    all the tourism traffic has brains and comments, and, unfortunately, will jot down notes

    Any project with next to nothing REAL VISIBLE and VERIFIABLE accountability should be rejected – too easy to throw money on just PR and sound bytes – too easy – no good plans heard from the Official Rulers yet on what specific steps will be taken for all the infrastructure’s major, major issues…

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