Growth or Gridlock?

This morning, the Partnership for New York City publicly released its long-awaited study, Growth or Gridlock: The Economic Case for Traffic Relief and Transit Improvements for a Greater New York. London’s congestion charging initiative was kick-started, in large part, by a similar report published by London First, that city’s version of the Partnership. From today’s report: 

Looking at just a limited set of costs and industry sectors and using very conservative assumptions, economists assisting the Partnership in the preparation of this report were able to identify more than $13 billion in annual costs to businesses and consumers, billions in lost economic output and tens of thousands of lost jobs that result from severely overcrowded conditions on the region’s streets and highways. Every year, these losses will grow if something is not done to reduce the number of vehicles moving through the region during the peak periods.

Download the report here (PDF).

  • Congestion charging is so popular that their server can’t handle the load! I’ve mirrored it at in case their server falls over.

  • Sproule

    To me, I just don’t see how municipal leaders can continue to ignore the combined economic weight of the opportunity cost of traffic and the potential revenue from more (and smarter) tolls. It’s so huge – I’m sure $13 billion is on the low end. Think of the civic and quality of life improvement!

  • P

    Meanwhile the counterattack has begun:

    “Drivers get brake on congest tax”

    The groups pushing for new tolls on cars entering the most congested parts of the city have hit a red light – it’s not on Mayor Bloomberg’s to-do list.
    “We are open to new ideas and, of course, read other people’s reports and studies, but congestion pricing is not on our agenda,” Bloomberg press secretary Stu Loeser told the Daily News.

    Several organizations are mounting public campaigns to encourage New York to follow London’s lead in the battle against gridlock.

    Three years ago, London began charging drivers to enter its center, and by all accounts, it has prompted many commuters to take mass transit.

    But opponents here say New Yorkers are hit hard enough by tolls and that congestion pricing would force drivers to park their cars outside the new toll districts, ruining quieter neighborhoods.

    Those critics were encouraged by Loeser’s comments.

    “This is good news for the working-class people of New York, businesspeople and the labor community,” said former City Councilman Walter McCaffrey, who has been enlisted as a consultant for a new group with a name as long as the Holland Tunnel: The Committee to Keep New York City Congestion Tax Free.

    “There are ways of dealing with this problem without imposing a draconian tax,” he added.

    Despite City Hall’s tepid response, proponents of congestion pricing aren’t giving up.

    The Partnership for New York City is releasing a report today detailing the “massive costs of traffic congestion” on the region’s economy, both in terms of money and jobs.

  • crzwdjk

    “There are ways of dealing with this problem without imposing a draconian tax”
    Indeed. Just turn over more of the roadway capacity in Manhattan from cars to public transportation and pedestrians. Close 42nd Street to cars and turn it into a pedestrian boulevard with streetcar. Extend the 7 train through the Lincoln Tunnel, and restore the branch over the Queensboro Bridge. Put at least one pair of streetcar tracks on every East River bridge and run express light rail trains instead of express buses through the Brooklyn-Battery and Queens Midtown tunnels. With a bit of cleverness it would even be possible to extend the LIRR to Downtown Manhattan via Flatbush Avenue, the Manhattan Bridge, and the underused Nassau Loop tracks.
    No tax on the motorists is needed, just reducing the inbound capacity as much as possible until it’s just physically near-impossible for cars to get into Manhattan. That seems to be the only other viable option at this point.

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    Good point by crzwdjk (what kind of handle is that, must be a Polish guy out of Greenpoint). However, his solution, while entirely viable from a utilitarian point of view, beaches upon the same shoals as congestion pricing. Congestion pricing suceeds politically in London because it is has a center-out cache politically. And, in the UK, and Europe univerally, the cities have their own political center of gravity. In the US that is simply not the case. From the Federalist structure in DC to the State Government in Albany the cities in the US have no independent center of politicla gravity. In fact, the opposite is true. The Federalist structure of national politics and even the state structures (except, ironically since it is the heart of sage brush country, the unicameral structure of Nebraska government) tend to disenfranchise cities. The US was structured politically to settle the frontier. We have done so. However, now that the frontier is settled and most people live in cities, our political institutions still send power outward.

    Thus, when urban-positive transportation systems, like congestion-pricing, come to the front, they are shot down by the political forces of the of the periphery. Yeah, congestion is real popular in Manhattan, no shit. And very unpopular in Eastern Queens, no shit. Too bad congestion doesnt carry the political weight in Albany that it does in Manhattan. Too bad.

  • The Partnership has thrown down the gauntlet – $13 Billion a year in lost economic activity. That’s huge. And that’s not including quality of life impact on residents that are filling back into downtown areas.

    And the complaints of lack of transit access in the outerboroughs is a real ongoing concern for the poorest in those areas that cannot afford cars and the rest that would rather not drive.

    We have to break this endless cycle of debate on congestion pricing and thoughtfully craft some solutions that may include congestion pricing. Or alternatively, we may have to dramatically raise all fees on drivers across the city to pay for the road&bridge repairs, nevermind increasing sources of funding for a mass transit system that can reach out to the outerboroughs.

    It seems based on Aaron’s historical look that even if congestion pricing itself is not achieved, it can be a very large hammer to motivate compromise on increasing mass transit funding and potentially other benefits to the non-car owning majority.

  • Why is Bloomberg talking about exempting city residents from the CC? Sounds like a smoke screen to me.

    Can we expect him to start working on exempting city residents from the subway fare next?

  • JK

    Hey Streetsblog or advocates, how about a nice report dedicated to demolishing the myth that there is “no transit” to the Manhattan CBD in Eastern Qns. (Hey, you’ve got time, this issue is not going to be resolved anytime soon.)In Douglaston, Bayside and Springfield Gardens there is LIRR and express bus to Manhattan. Liu, Weprin, McCaffrey et al are confusing the issue of weak local bus/transit service with transit to the potentially priced CBD area. They are not at all the same.

  • d

    Exempting Manhattan residents from the CC might be a good idea. How many people actually drive from their apartments in, say, the Village or on the Upper West Side to their offices in midtown?

    If that’s a sticking point, give it up.

  • In London, people who live in the area where the CC is in effect (i.e. if they move their car, they get charged) get a 90% discount. That seems like a bit too much of a discount to me, but I guess these people have a lot of political power.

  • Sabina

    The number of people who live in the CC area is very small (relative to the number of people who live in Manhattan, or even just in the area of Manhattan that would likely be in a charge zone).

    Make it free for Manhattan folks seems like a *bad* idea for the following reasons: (1) Most folks who live in Manhattan don’t have cars and thus don’t care if it is free. (2) People who do have cars and live in Manhattan generally have lots of $$$. (3) The people who are hard to sell on CC are people in the other boroughs — so you sure don’t want to make it look like you are giving something away to Manhattan folks.

    – Sabina

  • v

    Wowsers. 13 billion and 52000 jobs. That means we could pay each of those add’l workers $250k/yr and still break even. Ok, I exaggerate, but you see what I mean.

    Next time the MTA says that unionized workers are the problem, let’s throw this one back at them.


  • Jane

    Famed labor mediator and long time mass transit advocate Theodore Kheel has issued a statement saying that congestion pricing should be coupled with free buses in New York’s central business zone. The statement is at the website for an environmental charity he established, Nurture New York’s Nature.


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