Roberts: MTA Needs Congestion Pricing

When NYC Transit President Howard Roberts announced Monday — to some ridicule — that certain subway lines are overcrowded with little to no relief in sight, it was reported that the system would not be able to handle the influx of commuters who are expected to switch to transit should congestion pricing be implemented.

397225812_7ee4cfae62_o_2.jpgConsidering the consistency of the articles, it seems less likely that the newspapers — which by and large support pricing — spun Roberts’ remarks and more likely that the transit chief, let’s say, gave the wrong impression. After all, congestion pricing would be a boon to the MTA, providing funds to upgrade subway lines, extend bus service on overtaxed or underserved routes, and improve bus rapid transit and ferry service — and much of this in advance of pricing, thanks to an expected $500 million federal allocation. Also, even if 10 percent of Manhattan-bound drivers make the mode shift (an estimate considered to be on the high end), it would equate to a mere 2 percent jump in transit ridership, spread across subway and bus lines throughout the boroughs.

When his warnings were interpreted as a knock at pricing, Roberts summoned reporters back to his office.

Metro reports:

Amid all the bad news, the president of NYC Transit feared an
underlying message had been lost about the benefits of Mayor Michael
Bloomberg’s proposed congestion pricing plan.

During rush hours, the busiest train lines — including the 2,
3, 4, 5, 6 and E — are running at or over capacity. Yet Roberts
insisted the system could still “fully support” the increased ridership
projected from congestion pricing. “In fact the current strain on parts
of the system is a big argument in favor of congestion pricing, not
against it,” he said.

Roberts believes the business-day toll could pay for subway
improvements and for such big-ticket projects as the first leg of the
Second Avenue Subway, which is already $1 billion short.

On Monday, Roberts proposed quick “fixes,” including adding
more cars to trains and extending station platforms. But these remedies
would take “four or five” years. More importantly, they all require
money the MTA doesn’t have.

“Congestion pricing is critical to putting these fixes into place,” Roberts said yesterday.

Photo: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid

  • anonymous

    There’s a couple of quick and easy fixes that do not require heavy construction and five years to implement. The first one is to increase the speed of train doors. Door-holding is a major factor in dwell time and reliability, which both in turn affect line capacity. Making the doors close faster will reduce door holding substantially, and cut dwell times and reduce train headways.

    The other quick fix is to simply make trains go faster. NYC subway trains are the slowest in the country and quite possibly the world. Faster trains that accelerate better will be able to complete their trips faster, and thus each train will be able to do more trips per day. All that it would take is reversing the modifications made to the trains in the early 90s to make them go slow for reasons of “safety”.

    A slightly less quick fix, but still easier than lengthening station platforms, would be to install cab signalling on key lines, allowing trains to run both faster and closer together safely. Functionally, the effect would be much the same as that of the failed CBTC that the MTA installed on the L train. Unlike CBTC, however, coded track circuits are a proven technology with a 50 year record of reliability. Of course, there aren’t nearly as many nice consulting jobs for NYCT officials who buy this cheap system, but I’m sure that’s not an insurmountable problem. And at the end, we can have trains running every 90 seconds and hitting top speeds of 40-70 mph, rather than the current 2 minute headways and top speed of 30 mph for locals and about 40 mph for expresses.

  • Clayton

    Congestion pricing is NOT the answer…yet. If you implement congestion pricing, you have to anticipate thousands and thousands of new mass transit users using an already crush loaded infrastructure. How about implementing changes to the mass transit system, and THEN introducing congestion pricing.

  • Gelston

    Exiting trains could be expedited by posting lists of which side the doors open for each stop. Passengers would then position themselves accordingly. Much time is wasted jostling to get to the right door.

  • Chris


    Where is the money going to come from the pay for the mass transit improvements? There are already plans on the books to improve the buses before implementing congestion pricing, but to pay for projects such as the second ave subway, congestion pricing is the most viable option available to the city.

    If you have another, realistic, alternative to raise the funds to improve the city’s mass transit infrastructure, please let me know.

  • Jon

    This congestion pricing is UTS because anyone who rides the subways during rush hours (which is a few hours in morning and night) already knows how crowded and uncomfortable it i s—- I cant beleive I pay for it — I have to wait 4 time sto get on same train ith everyone pushing each other like were fighting for an xbox — its sewaty nasty and crowded and its same price– freakin BS can you imagine how bad it will get not to mention that everyonein city will have tinnitus because our subways suck and make tons of noise— the quality of life in NYC is terrible against almost any other city — when I hear frank sinatra sing about it now I tell him to keep quiet — I have to move — everyones rude, no one speaks english, subways crowded and noisy— THIS CITY SUCKS!

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    So what’s better, Phoenix? Please.


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