T.A. Responds to ‘Keep NYC Congestion’ Plan

Media release from Transportation Alternatives: 

Transportation Alternatives ("T.A."), New York City’s advocate for cycling, walking and environmentally sensible transportation, has raised serious questions about the motives and efficacy of a
proposed alternative to congestion pricing that has been presented to the New York City Traffic Mitigation Commission.

"It’s ironic that Transportation Alternatives should have to come out against a plan primarily comprised of traffic claiming
measures we support or even initially proposed," said T.A. Executive Director Paul Steely White. "However, while each
of the traffic calming measured offered in the proposal are valuable, presenting them as an alternative to congestion
pricing rather than a supplement to it belies logic." White questioned the motives behind the proposal, stating, "if the
‘Keep NYC Congestion’ group was genuinely dedicated to reducing traffic and its negative consequences on our city, it
would be joining Transportation Alternatives in supporting [the proposal’s] measures as supplements to congestion
pricing. But finding the best way to reduce traffic has never been the ‘Keep NYC Congestion’ group’s mission, nor is it
the true motive behind their proposal. Their actual motive, and the very purpose for which they were established, is to
advance their rich funders’ economic interests by defeating congestion pricing. I have no doubt the Commission will see
through this smoke screen."

T.A.’s analysis of the proposal concludes that while its individual traffic calming measures
are valuable, even collectively, they would be nowhere near as effective at reducing traffic as congestion pricing.
Consequently, T.A. predicts the Commission will find they do not constitute a viable, alternative plan unto themselves.

T.A.’s Lobbyist Chad Marlow, President of The Public Advocacy Group LLC, was more direct in his criticism of the "ticky-tack proposal," calling it "nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to save wealthy Deadbeat Drivers from paying
an $8 congestion pricing fee while, at the same time, increasing demand for the Manhattan parking garage space owned
by the primary funders of the proposal and the group who submitted it."

According to T.A., the proposal’s many shortcomings include:

  • Failing to use pricing as the "principal mechanism" to achieve traffic reduction, thereby forfeiting the $350 million grant awarded to New York City by the United States Department of Transportation and the substantial
    transportation improvements the grant would have paid for;
  • Employing Manhattan-centric traffic mitigation that does nothing to reduce the volume of single-occupancy cars
    commuting through the Bronx, Harlem, Greenpoint-Williamsburg, Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn;
  • Securing no traffic reductions on major arteries and no improvements in the speed or reliability of bus service;
  • Containing no provisions to manage traffic on the free East River crossings, thereby providing further incentive to
    drivers to avoid underutilized tolled crossings like the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel; and
  • Relying on enforcement-intensive measures that have never been successfully conducted on a sustainable, long-term basis by the City of New York.

One falsehood contained in the proposal drew particularly strong objections from T.A.: The claim that congestion pricing
"disproportionately hits the pockets of middle class and working New Yorkers." Marlow called the statement "part of a specific, continuing strategy by wealthy individuals and their hired guns to confuse middle class New Yorkers about the
overwhelming, virtually cost-free benefits they will receive from congestion pricing." White concurred, noting that "the
‘Keep NYC Congestion’ group has no credibility on this point. After all, the group was specifically created to represent
the interests of rich Deadbeat Drivers and even richer parking garage owners – none of whom are middle class or
particularly care about middle class interests. On the other hand, "White pointed out, "highly credible organizations with
long histories of representing and protecting middle class interests, like the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, have
unequivocally concluded that congestion pricing is in the best interest of current and aspiring middle class New Yorkers."

  • Spud Spudly

    Bad P.R. messaging guys. Yes, it is ironic that TA would now be opposing the same measures it has supported in the past. And you lose credibility be doing it. Talk about playing into the opposition’s hands.

    Why not just say: “These are all very good proposals that TA has supported in the past and continues to support. However, a fair and effective traffic mitigation program would have to include congestion pricing as well.”

    That way you don’t look like you’ve been twisted into knots.

  • Swobo

    Proofreading for typos would also help.

  • When I join scores of other civic leaders Monday night at the installation of the Queens Civic Congress, they will be interested to know that Transportation Alternatives considered our members organizations who represent ALL communities in Queens “wealthy deadbeats.” And frankly, when it comes to protecting the interest of the middle class, Queens Civic Congress rules and anyone else is a Johnny-come-lately. Folks should check out its progressive CIVIC 2030 platform. Look at http://www.queensciviccongress.org.
    -Corey Bearak
    p.s. And if those folks who criticize the report really read it, they would know value-pricing (yes that is the term the feds use) throughout the proposals; I guess if it is not a congestion tax, they cannot like it.

  • They didn’t come out against these measures. They came out against a plan that includes these measures without congestion pricing. Note the word “plan” in:

    “It’s ironic that Transportation Alternatives should have to come out against a plan primarily comprised of traffic claiming measures we support or even initially proposed,”

    They could use a good editor/proofreader to catch errors such as “each … are valuable.”

  • JF

    I don’t think T.A. looks like it’s opposing the same measures it’s supported in the past. But otherwise I agree with Spud – when’s the last time that happened? Why attack their credibility and call names, when all you have to do is point out the inconsistency in calling for increased tolls on the MTA bridges while avoiding mentioning the “free” bridges?

    Also, the Appleseed report asserts that variable parking pricing would qualify the city for the Urban Partnership grant. I don’t understand on what grounds T.A. disagrees with them.

  • JF

    Corey, if your organization is so progressive, why do you ignore the fact that the Mayor’s plan has significant support in Western Queens? We’re tired of motorists from Eastern Queens clogging our roads and fouling our air, but you fail to give us any kind of voice or representation. The transportation section of your platform does nothing to address this, and I’d hardly call it “progressive” – at best, it pays lip service to progressive goals without advocating them in any meaningful way.

  • JF
    Read CIVIC 2030, including the planks on clean air that address emissions. NRDC and INFORM endorsed that initiative when it was first developed.
    As to advocacy, the platform was shared with every elected official and those who support it will be listed as such.
    I have not seen evidence of support for the city plan in Western Queens; this includes visits to several major meetings in Western Queens over the last several days. I have seen some civics fearing it may be fait accompli and trying to play for residential parking permits (RPP); and they’d not be so happy when they realize RPP includes an annual fee in the city’s plan. And the major GREEN group in Queens also opposes the City plan. It is all plain for folks to see on the web.
    And how many environmental initiatives have these people crafted and they want to tout a plan devised by the team who gutted NYC’s landmark recycling law – a law that if followed would have put NYC ahead of Seattle.
    It is all about development and making room for the wealthy people who will buy the luxury units envisioned on the Far West Side of Manhattan. That’s what city hall wants to create some space for.
    To paraphrase a former Governor and a more recent Governor who took to that phrase, “Just look at the record!”
    -Corey Bearak

  • Budrick

    Mr. Bearak,

    Your organization’s plans aren’t progressive so much as they are populist crowd-pleasers that are short-sighted, unsound, and incoherent in the long run.

    You object to Queens drivers being called deadbeats, but your organization wants to remove the auto registration fee and keep TBTA bridges toll-free? How come for fairness your group didn’t propose eliminating subway fares while you’re at it?

    You tell the NY Water Board to “live within its means”–shouldn’t the same apply to Queens drivers who currently cheat by using the free bridges?

  • Budrick

    How is the the “value” of getting your car registered unfairly priced at $15? How is the “value” of the East River bridges fairly priced at $0? Demand for both services, as well as the cost of providing them, would tell us otherwise.

  • AM

    I agree with Spud. This would have been a good chance to make the most of common ground with CP opponents (an opportunity that doesn’t come along all that often) and then to simply reiterate the additional benefits that congestion pricing would entail.

    Instead Transportation Alternatives just made some fairly weak points and undermined its own objectives:

    – The city’s congestion pricing plan is Manhattan-centric, too! Yes, I realize the city’s plan includes transit improvements in the outer boroughs and that auto commuters to Manhattan congest the outer boroughs on their way to the Manhattan CBD. But some of these alternatives will effectively reduce the number of drivers coming into the Manhattan CBD in the same way (though perhaps to a lesser degree). Why not acknowledge that and cite congestion pricing’s potentially greater impacts?

    – The mayor’s congestion pricing plan will also be incredibly “enforcement-intensive” (though it didn’t have to be). Come on, TA, this is a silly argument. You, of all organizations, should not take — and usually have not taken — a fatalistic stance with regard to the city enforcing its own traffic rules. What about placard reform? Cops double-parking in bike lanes? Trucks using the new 9th Avenue separated bike lane? TA should be pushing the city on enforcement rather than rolling over and accepting that decent enforcement will never happen.

    I’m honestly disappointed in Transportation Alternatives for this short-sighted response. Congestion pricing may be a great policy for the city, but it’s not the only policy that could help to reduce congestion. Your opponents have just ceded a lot of ground on this — and they paid consultants to do work you can leverage in the future! TA should be celebrating this as a victory rather than “[coming] out against a plan primarily comprised of traffic claiming measures we support or even initially proposed.”

  • JK

    The language in the MOU between NYC and the Feds is clear that there will be no federal money unless “congestion pricing” is used. Congestion pricing is a term of art applied to roadway pricing — not parking. T.A. is absolutely right to say that it is simply wrong of pricing foes to say that the feds would consider a value parking scheme as equivalent to the congestion pricing scheme proposed by the mayor.

    Maybe Streetsblog can do a public service and paste the link to the Urban Partnership MOU into some of the big articles it has done in the past on this topic. This keeps coming up. It really shouldn’t.

    Language and link below:
    “unless such plan is, in the opinion of the Department, reasonably projected to
    achieve material reductions in traffic congestion within New York City by means of congestion pricing.”

    http://www.upa.dot.gov/agreements/docs/termsheetnewyork.pdf

  • KFV

    Thud.

    The sound of city council undecideds falling off the fence into McCaffrey’s yard.

  • JF

    Thanks for that clarification, JK. The term sheet you linked to clearly states “This system will charge vehicles a toll rate for entering or exiting the pricing zone and a toll rate for driving within the zone.”

    Frankly, I’m disappointed that the memo is so narrowly worded. If it doesn’t pass, then what good is the $354 million?

  • mork

    The $354 million is good for getting a congestion pricing pilot, which is what the feds are interested in.

    MARY PETERS: What we approved was the project that they would pursue, congestion relief, pricing techniques to pursue congestion relief in New York City and that they would achieve the results that they had proposed in their initial proposal to us.

    You may be aware that the state legislature created a committee that is tasked with looking at various ways to relieve congestion in the city. What we have said is, you have to meet the result. You have to use congestion pricing. You have to meet the result, in terms of a substantial decrease in the congestion in your city, but we’re not specific in terms of how they do that.

    GWEN IFILL: Do you think that’s a good idea, or is it a tax on commuters?

    MARY PETERS: I think it’s a great idea, Gwen. Commuters today are paying. They’re paying with their time. They’re paying with their productivity. They’re sitting stuck in traffic in New York City and other cities in the United States today. So they’re paying.

    And if this commuter process, this congestion process gives them the ability to get out of being stuck in traffic, to make the air cleaner, to use less fuel, to create a better environment in their city, I think it’s a great idea.

    GWEN IFILL: Is the distinction between this and a gas tax, say, a distinction between a mandatory tax and an optional tax?

    MARY PETERS: Well, somewhat that is the case, certainly, because people can choose to go into an area where there’s congestion pricing or not. But I think the real user fee benefit of this is people are paying where they’re using the system and they’re seeing direct benefits from where they’re using the system.

    And that’s where I think the real win for the American public is. When you or I pay our gas taxes today, we don’t really know where that money is going to go or whether or not it’s going to benefit us right directly in our community or not.

    GWEN IFILL: Mary Peters, secretary of transportation, thank you very much for joining us.

    from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/transportation/july-dec07/infrastructure_08-15.html

  • Dave H.

    Umm, surely if there is uncertainty about whether the Feds will pay for congestion reduction without congestion pricing, someone (say, the City Council or this Committee) could just ask them.

  • Budrick,
    #1 Progressive and populist are labels I am not uncomfy with.
    #2 My personal position is FREE mass transit. In another debate, I’ve argued the lack of adequate state and federal funding for mass transit. The whole revenue side of the debate on congestion pricing has all sorts of advocates who share my funding position tripping over each backing the city revenue plan and the administration has been rather silent on pressing D.C. on transit aid. In my last testimony to the NYC Water Board, I made the point about the failure to take advantage of the ascendancy on many NY Democrats in the House and US Senate.
    And QCC has the best revenue measures out there. Look at them on the website.
    #3 Statements about “cheating” suggest a clear lack of knowledge about the city. A lot of folks – to steal a fave phrase of one of the city foremost West Side activists who was in the forefront of the fight against the Far West Side stadium and who opposes the city congestion plan – continue to drink the mayor’s kool-aid with any knowledge of the underlying issues. I can be simplistic with the one liners and probably out-one-line any proponent but this is not a game; it is about the long-term future of a five-borough city; a diverse city — not just of a wealthy few who care not about the people who barely make ends meet; about parents to struggle to pay the college tuition(s) of their child(ren); about seniors being able to remain in the home and neighborhood where they raised a few kids, and just about every other appropriate analogy. A lot of people out there are doing the bidding of people who care not how they live or get by. Some of the proponent groups — I know for a fact – I will not shame them by identifying them — could not pay a $10,000 printing bill for two years and all of a sudden this past Spring and summer, there are mailing galore.
    #4 And I really resent some picayune points about some small items in CIVIC 2030 – yes there can be some give and take but look at the positions in the platform on Justice; I can trade auto use tax plank for a CCRB empowered to perform real oversight on the NYPD. It was an earlier platform that provided the impetus for the City’s racial profiling law (and guess who wrote the original introduction in the summer of 2001). Look at the specifics of the transit platform. And find me a better clean air plan for vehicles than in CIVIC 2030 — I attended several forums on the pre-PlaNYC and submitted the plan verbatim and ditto on line and the failure to include it on the Earth Day announcement made clear for me the true colors of those behind that scheme — essentially a use of some good green ideas to mask a massive plan to redevelop the city. Look at the plan city hall pushed through for Jamaica/ Hillside Avenue in Queens. No new infrastructure; no subway capacity — in fact the EIS lied in claim the max-out development would only mean 250 more rush hour passengers.
    People need to follow more than one or two issue and look at the entire picture. Just because the devil is polite to you, does that mean you would start socializing with him?
    Good night. I look forward to further posts.
    Corey Bearak

  • ddartley

    I also agree with Spud’s criticism.

    I also think TA’s (and now, apparently, Streetsblog’s) uber-clever omission of the words “tax free” from the name of the anti-pricing group is a little childish and embarrassing. That’s something out of the Rush Limbaugh playbook. Hold the petty stuff, TA; you have too respectable a body of past work for that.

  • Larry Littlefield

    While I also doubt the motives, there is enough good stuff in the proposal that it deserves a serious response. Essentially, the proposal is to extend the current policy of restricting crowding in the CBD by restricting (or in this case charging more for) parking, rather than restricting access (or charging for) use of the streets themselves.

    This would benefit two powerful organized interests — parking garages, and taxis/black cars who do not have to park. Perhaps the opponents would be satisfied with a plan that meets the financial needs of its backers and seems like a “win” while accomplishing the same objective. Or maybe it’s a red herring designed to produce gridlock, but risking a backlash.

    The problem is it would not discourage through traffic, which the report concedes is an issue. I’ll try to write something up over on Room 8.

  • JF

    I have not seen evidence of support for the city plan in Western Queens; this includes visits to several major meetings in Western Queens over the last several days. I have seen some civics fearing it may be fait accompli […] And the major GREEN group in Queens also opposes the City plan. It is all plain for folks to see on the web.

    Okay, Corey, I’ll bite. Who’s this “major GREEN group”? I can’t find anything on the web about this.

    I’ll also point out that there are lots of people in Queens who don’t join organizations or go to meetings, and plenty of people in Queens don’t bother to speak up in favor of congestion pricing because their “leaders” have declared themselves against it without consulting them. Otherwise, how do you explain that 30% of Queens respondents to the Quinnipiac poll said they supported congestion pricing? Why would Joe Crowley and George Onorato support congestion pricing if it didn’t have significant support among their constituents?

    The fact that you don’t seem to have talked to any of these congestion pricing supporters suggests that the meetings you attend are nothing but echo chambers for motorists who only care about the 10% of Queens residents who drive to Manhattan.

  • JF
    The major Green Group in my home borough: Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces with over 400 member groups in Queens. All you needed to do was check out the KeepNYCFree.Com website and you would not miss this borough-wide coalition.
    The group heard from both proponents of the city plan and representatives of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and later yours truly in opposition to the plan before it advised of its enlightened stand.
    To all, enjoy your weekend.
    Corey Bearak

  • This isn’t as bad as some on this thread have made it out to be. While there is common ground between the two groups, TA simply doesn’t support the proposal because it doesn’t go far enough.

    Here’s the essence between the pro- and anti-congestion pricing proposals. Both claim to seek a traffic reduction. Under congestion pricing, revenue from traffic reduction techniques flows toward mass transit. Under the anti-congestion pricing proposal, money will flow instead into parking garage owners. This will make building parking garages relatively more attractive than it is now, encouraging their construction, at the expense of housing, offices and other places for people.

    Over the long run, more parking garages would mean it’s easier to park, hence more traffic. That is why the anti-pricing plan would fail to reduce traffic over the long term.

  • SPer

    The problem with any anti-congestion approach that does not include pricing is that fails to make the crucial shift to charging for externalities. Car traffic imposes costs to society that simply aren’t accounted for under our present system. Charging for these costs is a radical and important shift in public policy.

  • Steve

    Here’s my rational response to Corey Bearak. Parking reform alone isn’t sufficient because a large amount of traffic is simply passing through Manhattan. And as SPer points out, parking reform isn’t really a step toward public health objectives of reducing all the killing, maiming, the ambient and noise pollution attendant to private automobile traffic. Not to mention the health, civic and economic benefits of encouraging exercise, face-to-face interaction, closer connections between people and places that go along with mass transit and human-powered transportation.

    Many, perhaps most proponents of congestion pricing (CP) do not share my broad public health agenda or fundamental critique of car culture. Some may be motivated exclusively by the economic drag of traffic congestion on business, or even by the self-interested pro-development motives Bearak attributes to them. But a coalition between such transportation conservatives and those with a more fundamental approach has formed in support of CP, because in a single stroke it directly discourages travel by private auto and facilitates and encourages alternative modes, laying the ground work for dramatic progress in that direction. No matter how imperfect the proposed trial version of CP turns out to be, this is an historic opportunity to reorient public policy away from organizing our culture in service to car travel. Parking reform is in a whole different league, has nowhere near the potential to do so. (I speak as someone who has spent many, many volunteer hours working on parking reform, some of which is recorded here: http://nyc.uncivilservants.org/profile/index/109.)

    My gut-level response to Corey Bearak is that he’s full of shit. Now that CP has become possible, Corey Bearak and his purported constituency suddenly surfaces to champion parking reform. According to his online resume, he’s been in city or state government since the 1980s. What has he done all these years to reform parking? None of his many articles in the local Queens papers about the “Public Ought to Know” (many of which I agree with, as far as they go) deals with parking reform. If any one is a “Johnny-come-lately,” it CoryBearak.com and his new parking agenda. And I wonder, did he use a parking placard when he had an office gig as a city council staffer, or in the Bronx Beep’s office? What payments or other things of value he is getting from anti-CP interests?

    Bearak has zero credibility as a parking reform advocate. Yet here he is class-baiting and otherwise attacking CP proponents ostensibly from a parking reform platform, calling us stooges of wealthy developers, drinkers of Bloomberg “kool-aid,” deriding us as politically unsophisticated for only “following one or two issues.” I hardly need Bearak to tell me whom I’m in bed with on CP. Bearak surely knows that nothing important or difficult gets done in NYC except through coalitions, often comprising strange bedfellows. So I hold my nose, put on my green T-shirt, and turn out for the CP rally. I do it because CP is crucial step in reforming transportation, environmental, public lands, and numerous other policy areas in which catering to private auto use has been the dominant consideration for far too long. If that’s a millionaire developer in a green T-shirt next to me, so be it. I won’t be rallying mindlessly along with him in support of the West 30’s development, I assure you. And I don’t see how congestion pricing would do anything to further that or any other development, either.

    T.A. (or its consultant) may have gone a bit over top with the rhetoric about “wealthy Deadbeat Drivers.” We won’t win the war of public opinion by attacking the people who benefit from the current system, who may oppose congestion pricing because they don’t know or don’t care about the unfairness. But I wholeheartedly agree with T.A.’s candid discussion of Bearak’s motives and agenda. You can’t pussy-foot around when your adversaries stoop so low as to hire a shill to steal your own agenda and start attacking you from the left with it in order to split your constituency. T.A., S’bloggers, and most New Yorkers will know better than to fall for that.

  • JF

    Corey, I did look for such a group on your website and it didn’t jump out at me. The Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces may be a major green group, but they’re definitely not the major green group. I’ve lived here for years and never heard of them. ARROW and the West Queens Greens are the groups that make the news around here.

    There’s no reason to think that a parks coalition would be any more qualified to judge a transportation plan than any other group. Just because they like green things doesn’t mean that they understand how much good taking hundreds of cars off our streets would do for the environment.

    Also, what Steve said about strange bedfellows. We are not doing anyone’s bidding in this matter. We want motorists to pay their fair share of the maintenance of the streets and bridges, and we want to discourage them from driving through our neighborhoods.

    You’re right that this is a fight for the future of our city: how long will we continue to let a small, well-off, car-driving elite dominate our politics, hog our transportation dollars and barrel down our streets belching carbon monoxide, all the while claiming to represent the poor and the working class?

    The McMansion-living, SUV-driving community leaders of Eastern Queens are at least as selfish, racist, classist and out of touch as the real estate bogeymen you invoke. They’ve been busily trying to turn this borough into Levittown for the past fifty years. I’ll ally with them when they propose something good, and I’ll ally with Bloomberg and his cronies when they propose something good. But I sure as hell don’t want either of them to have free reign to remake the borough.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (This will make building parking garages relatively more attractive than it is now)

    But not more feasible. All parking garage in the CBD and Long Island City (not sure in if the Downtown Brooklyn special district extended the policy there) require a special permit, which means an EIS and extensive reviews. This is the city’s sole current means of discouraging overuse of the streets in the CBD.

    But it does nothing to reduce double parking and through traffic, and traffic has been increasing even as the number of off street spaces decreases (due to development).

    Moreover, the approaches used to be the cheif bottleneck to driving into the city, but EZ Pass allowed more people to get through, shifting the over-crowding to the city’s streets. That’s from NJ. In NY, of course, the bottleneck is everyone trying to squeeze through Downtown Brooklyn and LIC to avoid the tolls.

  • Larry Littlefield

    By the way, while the opponents may believe they speak for Queens in objecting for any charge for congesting the streets of Manhattan, there are plenty of specific examples of Queens politicians successfully pushing through policies to restrict those from elsewhere traveling through Queens at all.

    Some specifics–the LIE has more lanes in Western Queens and Nassau/Suffolk than in Eastern Queens. Given that the main truck route to Nassau/Suffolk requires the use of this road, those counties would definately like more lanes in Eastern Queens. An extension of the HOV lanes in both directions would also be helpful to those traversing the borough.

    An extra LIE lane in each direction could also be used as a busway, as I have suggested elsewhere. If buses could pick up passengers, get on the busway and travel quickly to Long Island City, quickly drop passengers off at the subway there (rather than going into Manhattan), and rapidly get back out for another run, that could be affordable local service — the same bus and driver could make more than one run per rush hour. Without the 10 minute trip each way on the highway or going all the way to Manhattan, an express bus charge would be required even with deep subsidy.

    Specific state laws limit the use of trackage in Queens to transport gargage off the island.

    And then there is the successful local objection to reusing the former LIRR tracks between Howard Beach and Whitepot Junction.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Larry, I like the idea of HOV lanes on the LIE, and I like the idea of a dedicated busway even better. I don’t see why the buses (or the busway) should stop in LIC instead of going all the way through the tunnel to Manhattan.

    But I don’t like the idea of constructing additional lane capacity. I think the Queens Civic Congress is right to oppose it. They should just convert one lane of the LIE to a bus lane, like the Union City/Lincoln Tunnel XBL. That would be the progressive, green solution.

  • Tolboy

    I’m a little perplexed by much of the above. First why so much questioning of motives? Just refute arguments if you disagree. Let me list a few points:

    Every place else I’ve heard of, the argument against congestion pricing was that it discriminated against the poor- that the rich could easily afford the tolls.

    Why would CP discourage car culture? If traffic will be decreased by about 6% (or anything like that) only a percent or two of current commuters would be priced out of their cars. Driving would be better for those who could afford it.

    For the same reason there would be not much need to improve transit to handle such a small increase in customers. (There may be other reasons to go for bus rapid transit. The largest component of the federal subsidy offered for Bloomberg’s plan is for BRT.)

    The alternative plan that would rely on higher bridge and tunnel tolls while eliminating some of the free street parking seems like the better idea to me. -Better yet, congestion price *all* the free street parking and congestion toll all the bridges including the East River ones and you’d have the best plan.

    I believe this would deal with all the problems mentioned in previous messages. E.g., if a vehicle crosses the island without stopping it would have to cover two tolls- one at each bridge or tunnel. If someone drives from one spot in Manhattan to another they’d get hit with congestion-priced parking. There wouldn’t be an incentive to skip a tolled bridge to get to any of the currently untolled ones.

    This plan would too improve transit! Decreased congestion would allow buses to go quicker and more reliably.

    The study for the alternative plan says it would save taxpayers an amount in 9 digits (by comparison with the Bloomberg plan). I resent that federal tax money goes to subsidies for a huge transit system that ought to be self supporting,

    Any time you consider HOV lanes think of HOT lanes instead. Any excess capacity on the bus/carpool lane could be taken up by anyone willing to pay a toll.

  • steve

    Tolling the East River crossings is a non-starter that will be assailed as more elitist than CP because Manhattanites don’t pay.

    CP starts at $8, charge can be adjusted once technology is in place to achieve desired traffic reductions, livable streets advocates will make sure significant reductions are achieved.

    CP is a fundamnetal blow v. car culture b/c it defines auto travel as a disfavored transpo mode. You pay to ride in your car while I travel for less on mass transit or for free by foot or bike.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I don’t see why the buses (or the busway) should stop in LIC instead of going all the way through the tunnel to Manhattan.)

    Operating costs, and required subsidy. I see an express busway as part of a reorganization of local Queens bus routes with a local fare, not as a premium priced express bus service. For that to be affordable, buses would have to get in and out very quickly so they could make multiple trips in one peak period, something multiple drop off points in slow-moving Manhattan traffic would frustrate.

    To make it work, the buses would have to have a separate, grade-separated ROW right up to Queens Plaza, where riders would transfer to for a quick ride into Manhattan. Eight miles in ten minutes in, a brief drop off/pick up, eight miles in ten minutes out, and back to pick up/drop off more passengers.

    CBTC, when implemented, would allow a significant increase in the number of trains passing through there over and above that already attained thanks to the V. With the 63rd Street tunnel but no new subway lines connecting with it, Queens has more tunnel capacity than route capacity. The busway would take the place of new subway lines in the borough.

    .

  • Hilary Kitasei

    Steve, Of course Manhattanites will pay East and Harlem River tolls – at least those who drive. Any increase in intra-Manhattan driving as a result can be countered by parking pricing.

    If you want to address the unfair burden of either one of these tools, you can program the tolling and parking to do so (e.g., residential parking permits, preferential tolling rates as is done for Staten Islanders now, etc.)

    The rational way to arrive at the best policy option is to answer these questions in this order:
    1. What is the number of vehicles that we want to accommodate, in the CBD, and elsewhere in the city (in terms of congestion, emissions, real estate occupied)? This will presumably be a declining number over time.
    2. Assign a public “value” to each kind of traffic (e.g., getting an emergency vehicle to a destination, a school bus, a student, a public employee, a small delivery vehicle, a tractor trailer en route to Long Island, etc. etc.)
    3. Figure out the optimum combination.
    4. Assign the costs to each that will achieve this.
    5. Then figure out the combination of mechanisms (both subsidies and fees) and infrastructure that achieves this most efficiently.

    The problem with this debate is that it avoids squarely addressing the first 4 steps. This makes it like guess and check.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Operating costs, and required subsidy. I see an express busway as part of a reorganization of local Queens bus routes with a local fare, not as a premium priced express bus service. For that to be affordable, buses would have to get in and out very quickly so they could make multiple trips in one peak period, something multiple drop off points in slow-moving Manhattan traffic would frustrate.

    I see what you’re saying, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The multiple express-bus dropoffs are an interesting feature, but they are inefficient – unless the DOT creates separated bus lanes for them. The Lincoln Tunnel “XBL” doesn’t do this – it feeds right into the Port Authority, where people change for the subway. You could create an East Side bus station (I know, property values!) where bus riders from the Midtown Tunnel can get on the Second Avenue Subway.

    With the 63rd Street tunnel but no new subway lines connecting with it, Queens has more tunnel capacity than route capacity. The busway would take the place of new subway lines in the borough.

    Not quite. The only way you could take advantage of the surplus tunnel capacity would be to dig a tunnel to a new transfer point, say in the Sunnyside Yards, with a bus terminal over it.

    CBTC would allow more subways to pass through, which would also increase route capacity. There is also excess track capacity in the form of the express tracks east of Forest Hills. If the V were extended to 179th Street it would take some pressure off the F, making the buses that terminate at the 165th Street Terminal more attractive. (Of course, if you spruced up the terminal it would also improve things.)

  • Larry Littlefield

    (The only way you could take advantage of the surplus tunnel capacity would be to dig a tunnel to a new transfer point, say in the Sunnyside Yards, with a bus terminal over it.)

    I thought of that also. It could be a step if the additional CBTC capacity is used up someday. Still cheaper than extending multiple subway lines across the borough, which Queens NIMBYs killed in the 1970s in any event. Due to costs and suburban priorities, we’ll be luckly to get the SAS from 125th to 63rd.

  • G-M

    People face it everything has a cost whether monitary or not, the real question is will the benefits out way the cost. Congestion pricing promises many benefits the alternative hmmm has some too. However there will always be special interest groups to have an opinion. Everybody wants to save the city as long as they get to take credit for the plan. If he waiting till all the arguing stops kills us so be it, the winner will be the last one standing. Progress cost money we rely on our transportaion system remember you get what you pay for. I support Congestion Pricing it will provide more long term benefits all around, not only in reducing traffic. Just a few random thoughts… enjoy

  • Jones

    One of the main reasons that value pricing for parking doesn’t reduce congestion on a grand scale is that only 5% of Manhattan CBD drivers actually pay for on-street parking – the rest get free parking as a perk, park illegally with a permit, or park in a garage (and are reimbursed by their employer, much of the time). There are some commercial streets, predominantly in Manhattan, where value-pricing will help reduce local traffic, but it’s not a citywide solution. Certainly, it should be a piece of the puzzle, but it’s no substitute for congestion pricing. Fact of the matter is, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free tried to enlist the country’s foremost expert on parking reform, Don Shoup, to help them craft their proposal; he turned them down because he supports congestion pricing and recognizes that parking reform doesn’t solve a citywide (and regional) traffic problem.
    In all honesty, I don’t think Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free has any interest value-priced parking; their stated agenda is to drive for free. Meanwhile, the groups with a traffic-reducing agenda all support congestion pricing, with parking reform constituting an important, but neighborhood-specific addition.

  • It’s fair to abbreviate to “Keep NYC Congestion” when the excised portion, “-Tax Free”, is itself loaded language. Whether you can fairly call CP a tax is contested; it being a kind of “pricing”, like the money you pay to use some state parks, is not. In addition to it being an unarguably correct term, “pricing” is neutral. We don’t have particularly good feelings around the word, though we certainly have bad ones for “tax”. So if an organization wants to play these word games with its very name, it can hardly complain if the offensive words are cheekily left out of the name. And the result has a grain of truth in it; the defenders of free city driving are and always will be defending congestion, whether or not they admit or even realize it.

    Transportation Alternatives, by the way, is a fabulously neutral name. And I thought they did a pretty bang up job in this rapid fire response, typos and all. (Do the nit pickers think they could do better, in a one-hour turnaround?) I’m not sure how anyone could read into their words, genuinely, that they are against parking reform, etc. They’re just calling bullshit on CTKNYCCTF’s (OMGWTFBBQ) sudden advocacy of them. And the towering falsehood that free driving is a concern of majority middle and lower class New Yorkers. Thanks T.A., this is what we pay you for! (Not for those fliers you keep sending–those are a waste.)

  • Just got back in from tonight (well last night’s) meeting of the Queens Civic Congress where a new president got installed (Assemblywoman Barbara Clark was the installing officer; Cathy Nolan keynoted).
    Anyway, I have been following the various posts and some require a response.
    #23 Steve.
    You speak of the congestion tax scheme as discouraging auto use. This impact falls squarely on the less well to do folks from the borough (and upper Manhattan) who drive. The toll offsets mean no wealthy suburbanite pays. Those who do not use E-ZPASS will migrate to the Queensborough and other free bridge crossing because paying a toll by cash gets no offset. See the Brodsky report.
    The vitriol is just uncalled for. You claim to look at my record – well check out the environmental laws I had a role in. I just find it so ridiculous that an administration that presided over the gutting of the 1989 landmark New York City Recycling Law – NYC should be ahead of Seattle in terms of recycling and waste reduction – can claim to be GREEN all of a sudden. I do not claim to focus on parking but I have been early and a consistent advocate on the issue of clear air vehicles as mentioned in post #19. I also have focused on mass transit to encourage a shift to that mode.
    The City plan to remove cars by targeting the poor – or if some prefer “less-well-to-do schnook” — creates space for the new residents of luxury developments on the FWS.
    I do not believe the TA attacks particularly by my friend – and I believe we remain friends – Chad were directed at me but at a darn good report.
    I believe the VMT numbers in that report are much lower than they analysis dictates and should be higher. I believe those approaches will minimally achieve double the City plan’s VMT reduction.
    A lot of the group just bought into the whole PlaNYC. The Queens Civic community by and large has not. At Monday night’s Queens Civic Congress and on many other occasions I likened PlaNYC to a mango – very sweet but you risk losing your teeth if you bite into it because of that humungous pit it hides. It is was the first time I spoke on the issue in that forum because I had to outline an agenda on various issues for the new administration; my predecessor and our transportation chair spoke for QCC on the issue because on my involvements there (which is well known in the civic community). They will continue to be the chief spokespersons for just that same reason.
    I am heartened at knowing that one of the well-known proponents of the congestion tax – someone I have worked with on many issues in the past and expect to in the future — recently told a state legislator that the report is good. Bottom line, the proponents never expected such a good document and were blind-sided.
    #24 JF.
    I mentioned to Fred Kress at the QCC meeting your post mentioning ARROW and West Queens Greens as the “ones that make noise” and he indicated both are among the more than 400 member organizations of Queens Coalition on Parks and Green Spaces. Later during my remarks I reiterated my view of QCP&GS being our borough’s foremost green group. In addition to QCP&GS, I am also a founding board member of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy which lacking the budget (yeah, nowhere near the dollars) of the Central Park Conservancy has proved to be an advocate for the park that serves as the backyard for many New Yorkers of lesser means with no yards of their own.
    The motorists you should be targeting do not get hit by the city plan. The elite do not pay under the city plan and folks need to understand that. My personal view – and this is not speaking for any group, is to give all city motorists an E-ZPass and then charge the non-city residents, including the many pass-throughs. And the Alternative Approaches report by calling for two-way Verrazano tolls does address truck traffic that snarls Canal Street among other location nights and weekends as well.
    As to McMansions, QCC and civics in general oppose them and are trying to get city hall back on track with downzoning to limit these out of scale and character development. Blame city hall, not Queens civics for the McM’s.
    Again look at CIVIC 2030. I also resent the racist and other allusions. My work and life is as much an open book as anyone – particularly since I do not believe I qualify as a public figure. Post #19 indicated my work against racial profiling; and frankly I developed some of the best “justice” proposals around and the civics of Queens endorsed that in platforms going back five years. And the QCC leadership is diverse as are our members.
    #26 Larry Littlefield.
    I prefer to shift freight to rail an my discussions of a cross harbor tunnel included a Long Island terminus. I would have preferred light rail developed on the LIE and absent that it makes sense to have buses running in place of light rail on dedicated lanes. There have been no plans thus far to widen the LIE from GCP to the Cross Island. The fourth lane from the city line to the Cross Island got built; traffic on the LIE remains lousy most times just as it was when I first started driving too many years ago.
    #28 Tolboy.
    The city forecasts 104,000 riders diverted from cars to transit. There exists no capacity for new riders at most main subway routes; thus the reliance on buses; express buses cost $5 each way; the congestion tax costs $8 total. Folks more likely will opt for subway. Visions of Sardines. I know no capacity exists in Jamaica Center or 179th St.
    I do not understand your “resentment” for subsidizing mass transit. It ought to be free and the Feds should be giving much more so this could occur. That is another debate and I expect to touch on it during discussions on the fare hike.
    #29 Steve. See my comments to post #24 above.
    #31 Hilary makes good points and that mindset influenced the Alternative Approaches report.
    #34 G-M. Congesting Pricing does not offer long terms benefits and had economic consequences not incurred by the Alternative Approaches. Please read the report.
    #35 Jones. Alternative Approaches addresses congestion and traffic. Plain and simple. Read the report. Many of the approaches qualify as value-pricing. And only that report address the placards and permits.
    #36 Doc Barnett. Public officials do not like taxes and prefer fees and charges. We civic folks call it as we see it – a tax, just as we rail against water and sewer charge that continue to skyrocket without any oversight.
    Looking forward to continuing the dialogue
    -Corey Bearak

  • JF

    Thank you for responding, Corey. Just a few points here:

    This impact falls squarely on the less well to do folks from the borough (and upper Manhattan) who drive. […] Those who do not use E-ZPASS will migrate to the Queensborough and other free bridge crossing because paying a toll by cash gets no offset.

    Please stop talking about “less well to do folks.” The “less well-to-do” people who drive to Manhattan are still upper-middle-class. Everyone else is on subways and buses.

    As for the toll shopping, this is an issue close to my heart, because I have to deal every day with traffic bound for the “free” Queensborough Bridge. Everyone expects that traffic to shift away from the Bridge to the tunnel and the Triborough; in fact, that’s the basis of one of the silly allegations of “discrimination” raised by Silver. Even if you assume that none of the cash users will switch to EZ-Pass, and all of them will shift to the Queensborough Bridge, I think that’s more than made up for by the users that will shift away from the Bridge. If you disagree, show me some data.

    I mentioned to Fred Kress at the QCC meeting your post mentioning ARROW and West Queens Greens as the “ones that make noise” and he indicated both are among the more than 400 member organizations of Queens Coalition on Parks and Green Spaces.

    Sure. Did they vote on the Coalition position against congestion pricing?

    The motorists you should be targeting do not get hit by the city plan.

    Who are you to tell me who I should be targeting? I’m targeting the people who insist on driving through my neighborhood, giving my son asthma attacks and running over my neighbors. They’re not Manhattanites, and they’re not driving to the tunnel or the Triborough, or they’d be on the LIE or the Grand Central. They’re mostly from Eastern and Central Queens, and compared to the people who take the subway, they’re most definitely elite. They certainly act elitist as they speed, gun their engines and fail to yield to pedestrians.

    I also resent the racist and other allusions. My work and life is as much an open book as anyone – particularly since I do not believe I qualify as a public figure.

    The accusation of racism is not directed at you, but at the elites from Queens who are leading the opposition to congestion pricing. I’m not saying all of them are racist, but there are enough racists in there to give Queens politics an unpleasant taint. And yes, I know that there are plenty of racial minorities in Queens politics. White people don’t have a monopoly on racism: one of the most racist people I know is a Guyanese immigrant of Indian descent, and he saves the worst of his tirades for other Indians.

    In any case, the Queens politicians and the Queens Civic Congress are spending a lot of time and energy fighting for the right of the richest 10% of Queens residents to drive into Manhattan without paying $8. They’re fighting a plan that would improve air quality, speed bus travel times and make streets safer in our borough. That’s elitist and it’s a waste of time, money and energy. If you really care about all the people of Queens, I don’t see how you can spend so much time and energy fighting for the elite.

  • Steve

    Corey, some responses:

    -“You speak of the congestion tax scheme as discouraging auto use. This impact falls squarely on the less well to do folks from the borough (and upper Manhattan) who drive.”

    Stop playing grammar games. When you say “the less well to do folks from the borough (and upper Manhattan) WHO DRIVE” (my emphasis), you are limiting your analysis to those who drive–only a percentage and in most parts of the city a minority of residents–and observing, among this subset, that those who are “less well to do” feel the $8 fee more than those who are more well to do. This “insight” is specious. From my perspective, the relevant comparison is between the folks those who take transit, walk or bike–the majority in most if not all New York City neighborhoods and certainly the majority of all New Yorkers–and those who drive. Comparing THOSE groups, it is apparent that the burden of the current system of free roads and bridges reserved primarily for motorists disproportionately benefits the minority and falls disproportionately on the majority.

    -“The toll offsets mean no wealthy suburbanite pays.”

    Your “wealthy suburbanite” is a straw man. A motorist from Westchester that takes the Henry Hudson pays most of congestion charge. One who takes the Triborough pays about half of the charge. Those from New Jersey still pay part of the charge. Eastern Queens residents, wealthy or not, would get a discount if they used the Midtown tunnel, and pay half the charge, Manhattanites in the zone would pay $4 to make an intra-zone trip to drop their kids off at school. If Manhattanites are willing to pay for the privilege of motoring on their own local streets because they finally have recognized all the negative indirect costs of free driving, then they have every right to ask that everyone, rich or poor, New York city residents or not, pay a charge as well.

    -“Those who do not use E-ZPASS will migrate to the Queensborough and other free bridge crossing because paying a toll by cash gets no offset.”

    You assume that East River commuters will not buy an E-Z pass once they have a financial incentive to do so. That makes no sense. Don’t tell me a story about hand-to-mouth motorists who have enough money to pay for a car, insurance, gas, repairs, tickets, parking etc. but can’t scrape together enough money to buy an EZ pass.

    -“The vitriol is just uncalled for.” Sorry Corey, but you started it with the broadside attack that I and other CP supporters were “drinking kool-aid,” paying attention to “only one or two issues,” and playing patsy to developer interests. You reap what you sow.

    -“I have been early and a consistent advocate on the issue of clear air vehicles.” I have spent some time studying your self-promotional materials on your website and I told you that I agree with many of your positions. I am not sure exactly what role you played in actually getting anything accomplished, but I take you at your word that you had a significant role. Good for you. My question remains, however: are you receiving anything of value in return for suddenly championing parking reform (something you admit to have no “claim to focus” on) as an alternative to CP?

    -“The City plan to remove cars by targeting the poor – or if some prefer “less-well-to-do schnook” — creates space for the new residents of luxury developments on the FWS.”

    You know as well as I do that the poor overwhelmingly use mass transit and walk; they don’t drive. How on earth does congestion pricing, which transfers money from motorists to mass transit, “create space for new residents of luxury developments”? This is not logical argument but charlatanry.

    -“I believe the VMT numbers in that report are much lower than they analysis dictates and should be higher. I believe those approaches will minimally achieve double the City plan’s VMT reduction.”

    Whether you are correct or not on this is beside the point because you are not aiming to reform parking, you are aiming to derail congestion pricing by appearing to champion parking reform.

    -“A lot of the group just bought into the whole PlaNYC. The Queens Civic community by and large has not.”

    Another straw man, or “straw group.” I have no idea what “group” you are talking about. You are not talking about me. You are not talking about the Streetsblog readership, who studied and commented on the problematic aspects of PlaNYC, in depth, on these pages, months ago. Did you read those posts? They are in the archives under “Congestion Pricing.”

    -“At Monday night’s Queens Civic Congress and on many other occasions I likened PlaNYC to a mango . . . . It is was the first time I spoke on the issue in that forum because I had to outline an agenda on various issues for the new administration; my predecessor and our transportation chair spoke for QCC on the issue because on my involvements there (which is well known in the civic community). . . . . Bottom line, the proponents never expected such a good document and were blind-sided.”

    From these comments and my review of Bearak.com, it seems clear that you have two objectives: defeat congestion pricing and promote yourself (not necessarily in that order). I hope you are being well-paid for your efforts. All this posturing does not convince me that you actually speak for anyone other than yourself or your clients.

  • Whoa… I guess I’ll respond to my personal nugget: “#36 Doc Barnett. Public officials do not like taxes and prefer fees and charges. We civic folks call it as we see it – a tax, just as we rail against water and sewer charge that continue to skyrocket without any oversight.”

    Oops you said water and sewer “charge.” If you civic folks want to game the language and call by-usage fees and charges collected by the government “taxes,” you might want to do it consistently. (Of course then every time you said “water tax” you would have to explain what you’re talking about.) Being neither a public official nor apparently whatever a civic folk is, I call them like I see them, too, and I happen to see a use fee as a use fee, and congestion pricing as pricing for the massive and exclusive use of city street space. If only I could avoid real taxes as easily as I avoid driving!

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