De Blasio’s Congestion Plan Will Tackle Deliveries and (Maybe) Parking

...and other quick hits from today's City Council transportation hearing.

Will the MTA take advantage of its real-time data to reduce bus bunching? Photo: David Meyer
Will the MTA take advantage of its real-time data to reduce bus bunching? Photo: David Meyer

There was a little bit of everything at today’s City Council transportation hearing — and we have the highlights for you right here.

What’s in de Blasio’s congestion plan?

The mayor has been teasing a plan to address congestion, but the only thing we know for sure is that it won’t rely on the single most effective congestion-fighting policy out there — road pricing.

So what’s the plan? It sounds like City Hall will be focusing on curbside parking policy and delivery traffic efficiencies to cut congestion.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg promised “smarter” delivery practices and said the city is looking into parking policy reforms. If those reforms involve raising the price of curbside parking during times of peak demand, it could cut traffic by reducing how long drivers cruise for open spots. Trottenberg said that 50,000 people have registered for the ParkNYC mobile parking payment app, which launched in December and could help ease the way for smarter curbside parking prices.

MTA still downplaying its ability to improve bus service

After months of shrugging off recommendations from advocates to improve bus service, last week MTA Chief of Operations Planning Peter Cafiero signaled a willingness to embrace several of those ideas. But today felt like more of a step backward.

In testimony, MTA Chief Financial Officer Michael Chubak downplayed the fall in NYC bus ridership by pinning it on riders switching to parallel subway lines. That may explain part of the decline, but it’s no excuse to put off proven policies to speed up bus service and improve reliability.

In one exchange, Chubak was unable to say whether the MTA plans to follow through on a recommendation from advocates to reduce bus bunching by using real-time GPS to help drivers maintain more consistent headways. He said that real-time information from MTA Bus Time “might be a potential mechanism for undoing bus bunching,” but that the agency had never explored the possibility.

That stumped Council Member David Greenfield. “You have the technology to actually make sure that bus bunching doesn’t occur,” he said.

Passing the buck on “Fair Fares”

Mayor de Blasio has declined to fund half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, saying it should be covered by the state since the MTA is a state agency. Advocates have pegged the cost at $212 million annually, and today Trottenberg said the mayor “doesn’t feel that he wants to add that large of a commitment to the city’s budget” but is “open to having the discussion with the state.”

The MTA doesn’t want to have that discussion, however. “It’s really a social services question,” Chubak told transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “We don’t think it’s a decision for the MTA to make. It’s really a question of social policy, which would need to be made… by New York City.”

  • Ben Weiland

    What happened with Citibike?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    I suspect that congestion downtown won’t be fixed without addressing the placard problem.

  • Walter Crunch

    There is no fixing congestion. Cars will fill up whatever available space. Get rid of the space.

  • HamTech87

    “We don’t think it’s a decision for the MTA to make. It’s really a question of social policy, which would need to be made… by New York City.”
    I’ll remember that when his boss, Governor Cuomo, runs for president.

  • JudenChino

    congestion pricing. It’s so fucking obvious. I fucking love/hate how so much of our economic discourse is based on the “free market” but yet we obliviously push and incentive driving into the city, which is very much not the “free market.” I live in South Slope near the Prospect Expressway, which is a giant hole in the ground, traffic sewer intended to funnel automobiles and trucks from Ocean Parkway into Manhattan. Like — what do you think would happen when we have 3 [4th including a HOV rush hour lane] lanes going straight into the city. People are going to drive, negative externalities imposed on others be damned. I bike to/from work [FiDi] most days, even though I can get a car at night if I work past 8, because, it’s nearly as quick and sometimes quicker than taking the car or train. Like, having to inch along the Brooklyn Battery tunnel, at 8.30 pm — is really painful, especially after having sat at a desk for 9 hours nearly straight . And to take a non-rush hour local train home, which may be incredibly packed — that shit’s nearly abusive. [Hell, I had to wait 12 minutes for an R at 7:00 pm at Atlantic on Monday evening — platform was dangerously packed].

    It’s so incredibly obvious. The only people who drive to work at my office, are the Managing Directors/Partners. They’re really rich. Another $8 for them would be nothing. In fact, there’s so much affluence in this city, I don’t think we’d really diminish the congestion too much, because so many would be willing to pay (including livery services which aught to pass the cost on to the customer), that at least we’d get a large source of revenue to fund transit which is so desperately needed. It’s amazing how crowded the platforms are. I remember just 6 years ago, the Essex/Delancey station would never be too crowded. Now it resembles Bedford St, and it’s [Essex/Delancey] going to get a lot more crowded with the L shut down.

  • Anonymous

    “the agency had never explored the possibility.”

    That’s not true at all. The MTA has explicitly said that BusTrek, a new tool as of 2013, will fight bus bunching:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/donohue-fare-hikes-better-service-article-1.1278530

    Michael Chubak is uninformed of what’s happening in his own agency, or doesn’t care, because he’s about to retire.

    To give credit where credit is due, the issue with BusTrek is that it can’t communicate with bus operators directly, so a small team of BusTrek dispatchers (who are often busy with reroutes, incidents, crashes, buses with engine problems, police activity, etc) is responsible for manually using the radio or phone to call thousands of individual operators. The missing piece is a gadget (smartphone app or dedicated device) onboard every bus that would tell the operator what to do – a variant of the Uber/Lyft apps used by drivers of those services.

    However, a poor use of a technology is a very different story from the claim that a technology has not been used, or its uses even explored.

  • cc

    You want to address congestion? Zero tolerance for double parking. Period. Including delivery vehicles. If someone is double parked they get towed immediately and have to pay a small fortune to get their vehicle back. They will learn quickly and won’t do it again.

  • Tower18

    IMO Delancey/Essex was worse ~6 years ago because the M didn’t head to Midtown, so *EVERYONE* got off the JMZ and then waited for the F. Now you only have that on the weekends.

  • Tower18

    He said that real-time information from MTA Bus Time “might be a potential mechanism for undoing bus bunching,” but that the agency had never explored the possibility.

    This is confusing, because this is usually included in the Top 3 reasons to implement a system like Bus Time. San Francisco did it, Chicago did it, and I bet the MTA did it too, I’m just too lazy to look for sources. You mean to tell me, you honestly want me to believe you have this real time bus performance data sitting there, and it never occurred to you to look at it to see exactly where and when buses were getting stuck? FOH

  • Tower18

    Yes I really don’t understand why double parking is so blatantly tolerated. Ban it, tow immediately, and take away some free “storage” spots to reserve for dropoff/delivery zones. The only “legit” excuse for double parking is picking someone/something up. And even then, the number of times you’ll see someone double parked either DIRECTLY BLOCKING a real space, or 2-3 cars away from a real space, is mind boggling.

    The attitude is “I’ll stop wherever I want.” So, punish that, and incentivize them to stop 2-3 cars ahead, out of the flow of traffic.

    Done.

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