Jessica is Lappin’ up the Congestion Pricing Anxiety

lappin.jpgAt a City Council transportation hearing yesterday Manhattan City Council Member Jessica Lappin expressed anxiety about the effects of congestion pricing on her Upper East Side district. The ill-informed Lappin, who clearly has not read Donald Shoup’s 750-page masterwork, The High Cost of Free Parking, asked DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan if the city would be building new municipal parking garages to accompany Mayor Bloomberg’s traffic-reduction plan. Metro reports:

Under the mayor’s congestion pricing proposal, drivers will have to pay a toll to go south of 86th Street in Manhattan. At a City Council hearing yesterday, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin drew a bleak picture.

“There will be a crush of cars circling around 86th Street looking for parking spots that don’t exist,” said Lappin, who feared the downtown-bound bridge-and-tunnel crowd would use her Upper East Side district as a parking lot before catching a train. “I envision idling, and more congestion, and more pollution in the air, because there aren’t places for these cars to go.” Parking in a garage would be out of the question, she said: “The garages up there are full.”

Janette Sadik-Khan, two weeks into her job as the city’s transportation commissioner, had a simple solution: a residential parking permit. Such permits would allow only residents to park on the street. Violators would be fined and perhaps towed.

Lappin wasn’t buying it: “A residential parking permit is a hunting license.” She believed plenty of outsiders would still be looking for a place to land. “Is the city considering municipal garages?” she asked.

  • Steve

    How long will rational people drive in circles around the Upper East Side “looking for parking spots that don’t exist”? A few hours? Days? Weeks, at the most? Duh!

    And I don’t get the hunting license comment– hunting licenses reduce the number of hunters and increase the likelihood they will score. Hunting licenses, like other “user fees,” are used to allocate limited resources. Residential parking permits would most likely greatly enhance the free parking opportunities for CM Lappin’s Yorkville constituents.

    Is Lappin getting garage owners’ money? Or is she just clueless?

  • Nona

    This theme of people driving 75% or more of the way to their destination, stopping to pay for a parking garage or hunt for a non-existent free space, walk to the subway and then pay a transit fare is completely retarded.

    The point of driving in the first place is the door-to-door convenience.

    The additional cost of congestion pricing is obviously balanced if you are also going to pay transit fares, and in the Councilwoman’s scenario, for parking as well.

    Plus under the plan the streets have been cleared of marginal car trips.

    When can we get a few NYC politicians who actually think before they talk?

  • Zam

    I assume that Lappin either doesn’t understand the issues very well or her ear is being filled by the All-Powerful Queens Democratic Machine to which her former boss, Gifford Miller, owed his Speakership.

    Not being the conspiratorial type, I lean towards the former and hope that some of her constituents will get her educated before she opens her mouth again.

  • Kate

    I would expect more innovative thinking from this young City Council member!

    It’s completely irrational to think that people will drive into the upper east side and subject themselves to the impossible task of finding a parking space.

    People will make the decision to drive or take transit when they leave home, not right at 86th street.

    Doesn’t she realize the money raised from congestion pricing will go into transit projects (like the 2nd Ave subway, in her district)? She should be a strong supporter of this proposal!

  • Danaeo

    I agree that people driving around the UES would get the message about the absence of parking in short order. But we’re not just talking about the UES.

    By 2010, Atlantic Yards will have two city blocks of surface parking (for about 1200 cars) and an additional 900 spots in indoor lots – all within two blocks of the Atlantic Avenue subway’s new entrance on Flatbush and Dean.

    People will get in their cars with the assurance that they will find parking spaces.

  • Agreed that parking = traffic, which is why these officials asking for garage construction would only fulfill the false prophecy of adding traffic around the edge of the zone.

    But it depends on the price. A lot of paid parking is more than the $8 congestion charge, and many driving into Manhattan now have found a way to park for free or they wouldn’t be doing it.

  • My letter to CM Lappin today:

    Dear Councilmember Lappin

    I am concerned that your quote in today’s paper may be misinterpreted by many of your constituents to indicate that you fear congestion pricing will lead to more traffic in our area. I understand that today’s article in MetroNY probably does not give justice to the nuances of your position on congestion pricing, but taken at face value without knowing you, many would say that you would not support congestion pricing and even if it were implemented you would not support any type of residential parking permit system, but you would support more municipal parking garages near 86th Street.

    I think we can all agree that if congestion pricing were tested, we would find that traffic volume in our area would be reduced, as has been the experience in London, Stockholm and Singapore. Specifically it would reduce traffic in an area that we know to be problematic – the Queensboro bridge – as it would end the incentive to choose that bridge over tolled alternatives like the midtown tunnel and Triboro bridge.

    Similarly, we all know what happens when we build more parking spaces, especially low priced municipal lots – we get more cars driving to them through our neighborhood. The real way to increase the availability of parking in our area is to deter motorist through higher priced curbside space. As studies by Donald Shoup clearly show, the real reason for lack of parking is the fact that much of it is given away for free.

    The real need for many of your constituents is not for free onstreet parking, but rather a place for trucks and taxis to load and unload goods and passengers, such as what the Madison Ave BID has arranged. This eliminates much of the double parking that causes traffic jams and idling.

    On May 7th, Upper Green Side’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to support the mayor’s plan for traffic relief and congestion pricing. We think this is an experiment that should move forward since the current situation is intolerable.

    This is an opportunity (perhaps the best you will get during your time as a councilmember) to show real leadership on an issue that many of your constituents consider to be their top proirity – improving quality of life. You may have concerns or fears, but only a trial run will allow us to understand the potential impact and how we can adapt the plan appropriately.

    I hope you will consider clarifying your position to the many constituents in your area and publicly support a trial run of congestion pricing to provide traffic relief, safer roads and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me about this if you have any questions.


    Glenn McAnanama
    President, Upper Green Side
    PO Box 656
    New York, NY 10028

  • Nice job, Glenn.

  • AD


    Great letter.


    Well put. So in Jessica Lappin’s world, day after day, hordes of people from Westchester and Fairfield Counties are going to drive 95% of the way to their destination, circle around the Upper East Side searching for non-existent parking spaces, and then pay $2 pack onto the most crowded subway lines in the city to save $6?

    It’s absolutely absurd.

    As an 18-year resident of the Connecticut ‘burbs, I can say that nobody would even think of doing that. The point of a car is door-to-door service, or close to it. You lose that, and you take Metro-North, even without congesion pricing.

    The result of congestion pricing will be a large-scale modal shift into improved transit, resulting in less of the “idling and pollution” that Lappin fears — below AND above the cordon.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    This City Councilperson is not a lot different than the others, or the Assemblypeople or the Senators or the electorate for that matter. The last time the voters were asked what they thought about transit funding they supported the Transportation Bond Act. Good for them. But they thought that was it. Borrow the money to pay for 2nd Avenue and East Side Access. They agreed to do so.

    Now we come back to them a few years later and say, “oh yeah, remember those bonds you voted for, now we have to pay them back”. Now the same politicians and voters want to know why. The Bond Act was not sold to them as a borrow now, tax later program. No, it was, borrow now then we will build the system. It was a have your cake and eat it too thing.

    Now comes along Congestion Pricing to pay the vigorish on the bonds and the outstanding MTA debt. Who is surprised at the political backdraft?

  • Steve

    Nic, your analysis makes sense as a general matter, but does not seem to lie at the root of Lappin’s apparent opposition oto Congestion Pricing (if we are to take her comments reported here at face valuue).

  • A student of congestion pricing since 2002, I predicted that the US would not “get it” about congestion pricing until after 2015. Judging by the first 11 comments here, I have seldom been more wrong. From our limited experience to date we can expect 35-40% of a population to be pro-pricing before a scheme goes in and some 55-65% to be pro-pricing after a scheme has been in for a few months. I have predicted that this phenomena will continue for the next 15 or 20 cities through the chute. Maybe I will be wrong about that, too. I hope NYC goes in and I hope it goes smoothly. As London set the example for the world, may New York lead the US. Read about more Lappin-like Congestion Pricing mythologies at grushhour.


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