Queens Legislator Offers Congestion Pricing Torpedo

Assembly Member Rory Lancman from Fresh Meadows, Queens has sent a three-page letter to his fellow legislators soliciting their support for a legislative alternate to Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal and long-term planning ominbus bill, Sewell Chan reports

"Instead of threatening to beat New Yorkers over the head with a $2,000 a year stick if they drive into Manhattan," Lancman writes, "this bill proposes a set of incentives — carrots — to encourage New Yorkers to reduce congestion in Manhattan." 

Lancman, of course, fails to point out that the $2,000 fee would apply only to the 4.6 percent of New York City residents who commute to work into Manhattan every day. And that these car commuters earn significantly more income than those who commute by transit.

To solve the congestion problem Lancman proposes new tax credits to encourage more telecommuting, car pooling, and non-rush hour truck deliveries. He proposes authorizing $500 million to expand bus service, increasing enforcement of existing traffic regs, and the creation of a "commission to study congestion issues in New York City."

Lancman’s proposal is, essentially, impossible to take seriously since it offers no ideas for how to pay for the new tax credits and transit improvements.

Congestion pricing opponents can now say that they’ve put an alternative on the table, however un-serious it may be.

  • annie

    Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries was at the 2/3 Eastern Parkway stop this morning shaking hands and despite my running-latedness I stopped to ask him if he supports congestion pricing. He said that although he thinks the idea is ok he has some concerns about the lack of specificity within the mayor’s proposal (mostly regarding residential parking permits; he thinks they should be free and I countered that people who can afford cars can afford a $50 permit). Also, he doesn’t like the idea that NJ residents will be able to drive into the city for an extra $2 while BK residents will have to pay an extra $8. I encouraged him to support CP as it is simply (and I know i’m preaching to the choir here) the #1 thing that we can do to improve the environment in our city.

    Jeffries is holding “office hours” at various subway stations for the next few weeks and I encourage anyone who lives in his district to take advantage of the face time if you have the opportunity. At least it appears that he’s one member of the assembly who’s willing to listen to reason.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Tax credits are always an easy lift politically. So was the Transportation Bond Act. But, ultimately they are both very expensive. After feeding the citizens a steady diet of tax credits and borrowing for two decades to pay for mass transit needs is it any surprise that those citizens now smell a tax behind the pricing of congestion? They are very sensitive to anything that remotely resembles a tax after all those years of sensory deprivation.

  • Be

    The touting of the congestion pricing plan’s potential reductions in tail-pipe emissions as a panacea for respiratory disease is unfortunate. This argument is a red herring. The plan does nothing to help the quality of air in low-income areas of upper-Manhattan and the Bronx – where asthma rates are among the highest in the country.

    Much talk is made of the potential loss of $500 million in federal funding if the congestion pricing scheme is not approved, but New Yorkers should not let themselves be bought in exchange for a plan that would provide as little as a .6 mph increase in traffic speeds. I believe that some plan to reduce congestion is appropriate, yet the current proposal being rammed through the legislature would be ineffective and primarily benefit Manhattanites, and the wealthy, whose air will be cleaner and who will continue to drive with impunity, because they can afford to.

    Only a plan devised by a billionaire, non-New Yorker, playboy like Bloomberg could be so out of touch with the diverse, complicated reality of commuting in the New York metropolitan area. What this plan does most is further turn Manhattan – the white parts – into a playground for the wealthy, while making life much more difficult for low-income, disabled, or elderly commuters and New Yorkers.

    Moreover, you would see an overnight reduction in traffic by almost half or more if the MTA would simply retrain its bus drivers to never even attempt to go through an intersection unless they can get all the way through. If you want to reduce traffic even less, you would more aggressively enforce the same traffic regulations fro blocking the box on all autombiles. Problem solved.

    And let’s see some real efforts to add Bus Rapid Transit lanes and dedicated bike lanes. THere are so many problems with this congestion plan, and too few real commitments.

  • drose


    How do you pay for your dedicated bike and Bus Rapid Transit Lanes without the congestion pricing plan? According to Brodsky’s non-plan, you’ll be paying for them with higher taxes, higher Metro-North and subway fares, and higher bridge tolls. That will be the result if the Assembly doesn’t get off their collective rear-ends and pass Bloomberg’s bill. As sure as night goes into day, the MTA will be announcing fare hikes fairly soon after July 16, when the Assembly yawns and lets yet another opportunity to pass a meaningful law go by the wayside.

    But at least we’ll be able to blame that billionaire Bloomberg once those fare hikes come since he won’t use his personal fortune to pay for the MTA’s deficits for years to come. How selfish of him.

  • Adam White

    In a City of over 9 million people, what percenntage regularly commute to Manhattan by cars? I’m also curious, what percentage of folks from Long Island and Westchester regularly commute by cars into Manhattan as well? Lastly, what percentage of those folks who regularly commute into Manhattan by cars could be classified as middle class? Adamlaw

  • Be

    Your conflation of two seperate issues – MTA funding/fare hikes, with traffic congestion – is one of the major problems with how this issue is being rammed down people’s throats. THere is not an honest debate, and its being presented as if there’s no choice between the two.
    As to your first point, adding bike lanes would be minimally expesive, some concreate maybe and some paint. THe city DOES have a $5 billion surplus. Besides, I would gladly pay more in taxes for an increase in the quality of life that I would derive from the additional ease and safety of being able to ride around the city – its currently how I get around half the time, so I’m not pro-car.

    The sad fact is that the MTA has been and remains horribly, and non-transparently managed for years such that nearly have of our subway fare currently pays for debt. There will be fare increases no matter what, and the the congestion plan makes absolutely NO guarentees that the tax/toll would be allocated to the MTA. THis is one of Brodsky’s main points: He wants the legislation to actually have a legal promise that the money will be alloacted where it is supposed to be, and the fact that it is not is a major flaw in Bloomberg’s proposal. How can you disagree with that.
    Plus, this whole 2030 plan is a load of crap. 2030!!!! No one in there right mind would seriously believe that a plan for 22 years off would remain on track. Only a fool would believe a politician who makes a proposal like that, despite it many excellent ideas. This is just Bloomberg making a proposal so he’ll look good. There’ a good chance he’ll be dead before 2030 arrives. There zero accountability for this project. We need to address the issue of congestion, funding public transportation, and taxes seriously and do it right. This is going to take some time and negotiation – not the bullying of a power hunger billionaire mayor.

  • Jmc

    Be– the mayor isn’t a New Yorker? What’s wrong with you? Are you serious? I guess I haven’t lived in NY long enough to be a New Yorker, as I was only born in 1981, almost 20 years after Bloomberg arrived. Was Jane Jacobs a non-new yorker because she was raised in PA?

    Commuting in NY isn’t some complicated flower or a baroque painting. It’s people moving to get to a place. Your comments lack any reference to facts and studies and is instead a pseudo-Marxist rant. If a car is going to take a trip into Manhattan and this trip is diverted to transit, the air quality overall would improve as people don’t take the trip to begin with! Plus, congestion pricing has discounts for particulate filters on trucks, furthering air quality goals overall.

    And it’s nearly 300 million$ in transit improvements. 400 new buses and BRT architecture would do a lot of good. How do you propose to raise this money?

    As far as I know, the vast majority of middle class and poor people commute by mass transit!

    These anti-congestion pricing rants are starting to get really irritating…. the absolute worst is Parking-Bribes-Brodsky (who represents my old ‘hood, Westchester, one of the richest places in the US) and his “congestion rationing.” You want to tell people they can only drive every other day? How does that help the theoretical working people who NEED to drive every day? This is done in Mexico City and in Athens and rich people basically all buy two cars, making traffic worse and increasing the number of parking spaces necessary. It’s such a retarded (and very unserious) plan. I hope that rational voices prevail.

  • Jmc

    Be, or can I call you BrodskyBribes… You are being ridiculous. The congestion pricing proposal brings money to a “SMART” authority, which is an authority devoted to transit improvements and is managed separately from the “horribly, and non-transparently managed” MTA. It IS guaranteed and it’s separate from the MTA inefficiencies that you rail against.

    How do YOU plan on raising money for transit, Be, how?

    Saying there is zero accountability is also a huge lie. It’s a three year trial and can be repealed. It’s also spurious to say that fare increases are ‘guaranteed’ and nothing can be done. People are doing something to address these problems and raise this money, and all you’re doing is spreading false information.

    Saying that we can’t make plans on how we want to run things for 22 years and how we want to allocate resources is beyond ridicuos. Do you want to spend the 5 bn surplus now on giveaways and not invest in the future?

    Bloomberg did not become a billionaire by ignoring facts and statistics and not planning for the future.

    I am glad that our ancestors planned for the future and built aqueducts,subways, stone and steel buildings, and Central Park, otherwise New York would probably be a much more unpleasant and uneconomic place.

    Brodsky is not serious. See “congestion rationing.” Be… do you seriously agree with looking at “rationing?”

  • Be

    Being from Westchester, you ought to know that while it does have pockets of affluence that get the majority of attention, Westchester County is highly diverse community, that is primarily working class, middle class. And has a very large low-income population as well. Someone from Westchester should no better than to stereotype like you did.

    We have the most complex multifaceted commuting system in the world. That’s not complex to you? I guess you’re just thinking on a higher plain the the rest of us!

    People who need to drive everyday are going to continue to do so and get hit by the charges. And the rich will feel nothing and have Manhattan to themselves.

    And it’s pretty ridiculous to consider “mid-town” as extending up to 86th street. Any serious plan would have realistic mid-twon boundaries – 60th (maybe up to 63rd st taking into account the approach to the Queensboro Bridge) – 34 or maybe 23rd st. And having a second zone around Canal st and downtown. That’s a good start for a plan.

    I never said I supported Brodsky’s rationing plan, but at least he’s trying to come up with alternative. Also see Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman, Queens, proposal http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/10/nyregion/10congestion.html

  • Be


    You have no idea what you are talking about, know little about politics, and are the one promoting lies, and imputing ideas to me that I’ve never suggested and are the opposite of what I believe.

    There is no accountable authority that would control the money, the three year plan is a load of BS, and there are not legal mechanisms for replacing it once it’s in place.

    Fare increases are inevitable over time. It’s called inflation. It’s a sad fact we must all deal with. We can prevent it by forcing more transparency and better management and accountability on the MTA, something Brodsky had been advocating for years (and I have no connection to him, merely an admirer of his ideas and integrity.)

    I want to invest in infrastructure. I’m all for the 2nd Avenue Subway, and I even think that we should consider building a cross-town subway on 125th st, a cross-Bronx subway, and a subway connecting the Bronx with Queens (we already have the tracks on the Hell Gate bridge, which Amtak uses. You could connect in Astoria.) No one is more in favor of investing in long-term infrastructure for the benefit of all New Yorkers than I am. I’m even willing to sacrifice and pay for it with higher taxes, are you?

  • Jmc

    There are commuter rails and transit systems and extensively used subways in many cities of the world. New York is bigger but I don’t know if it’s so complex as to be unknowable, and it’s definitely not too complex to adjust with reasonable corrective action, such as adding transit and pricing roads (or tolling bridges).

    I was born in Westchester and grew up there. I also worked for a charity in the area where my job was to calculate incomes to determine aid eligibility. While there are very poor people there, on average, it’s the *6th richest county* in the country with an average income of 52k per capita and a average household income of 142k. To say it’s predominantly low and middle class is not true.

    The poorer people in Westchester are primarily situated very close to Metro-North and if they work in the zone they most certainly take this to get to work. It’s one of the best commuter rails in the country and is so nice it’s used by millionaires and poor people alike. I lived in the northeastern corner of Westchester for years and I had neighbors who took MNRR and the subway to Dwntn. Brooklyn who were making over 100k a year. People there who worked in the city (and we lived kind of far from MNRR) either drove to the metro north or were rich enough to have a limo driver take them. A few people drove but they weren’t driving chevettes, they were driving Audis. Gas+tolls+parking are expensive and the MNRR is really nice.I never knew anyone who drove to the outer bronx and took the IRT to avoid the 4.50 bridge tolls. That’s a joke, it would take much more time!

    In my opinion, Brodsky isn’t even serving his constituents in Westchester as they’ll have tolls deducted anyway. He’s serving the parking industry.

    The boundaries were studied thoroughly, it was decided to be extended to 86th because there was a lot of traffic between 59th and 86th. The boundaries weren’t picked out of a hat. Making complicated adjustments to the test zone really could only screw up the proposal at this point, while there’s plenty of time to make adjustments during and after the three-year trial period. London found it necessary to extend it.

    If you want to talk about discount for zero-emission cars or something like that, I see that as reasonable (it’s done in London and similar discounts apply for HOV in california) but to just apply random tweaks in order to stall is kind of silly.

    Perhaps I could see lowering the boundary somewhat but I think that this would be more to make the opposition feel that they had won concessions rather than do the right thing.

    The right thing to do is the pass congestion pricing trial soon.

  • Be


    If you look at the County wide average of Westhchester as a whole you will get distorted picture. Also, it’s not accurate to look at Westcher’s incomes compared to the rest of the country since the cost of living is so much higher here. The average income in Westchester may be 52k vs. 32k for the rest of the country, but that 52k in Westchester is almost worse than the 32k anywhere else, you seem smart, and I assume you know that. Also, using averages instead of median incomes is very misleading. The handful of millionaires and billionaires in Bedford, Katonah, and Rye, and New Rochelle, scew the average higher presenting an inaccurate picture.

    Also, think of all of the elderly and retired people of limited means, but who want have the convenience of a car, but for whom taking public transportation is too difficult. You are beholden to the various public transport schedules. You have to drive to the Metronorth station or take a cab. THat all costs money. Then you have to wait for the train, find a seat (which is not easy, since there often aren’t any (I ride all the time)) then you have to transfer to a subway and go down lots of stairs and jostle to get in a get a seat. And wait for the subway. Or take a cab. If people drive less, everything will become even more crowded. If you can’t afford a cab, you have to wait for transfers and then walk to your destination. This is all much more time consuming than driving.

    You are incorrect in your belief that no one drives down to the Bronx-Woodlawn border to take the 4 train to save on the fare. Tons of people avoid the tolls, gas, and train fares by using the subway. I used to do that all of the time, and if you go down and check for your self you will see from the mile-long of parked cars, hundreds of other people do the same thing.

  • Jmc

    If you are elderly or retired you are only using the car a few times a week because you’re not going to WORK. It’s not an economic necessity to drive into manhattan. Doctor’s appts, another reason I’ve heard, are not super-frequent and are themselves expensive. Plus, if these people are driving into midtown to do this they’re already paying large parking garage fees (my parents would drive into the city some weekend nights when I was a kid, especially in the 80s… the parking garages were expensive then and are more expensive now)

    If we’re talking about westchester, chances are people are going to pay $5-7 dollars in tolls to get in and out of the city, so congestion charging would only be a toll increase of *$1-$2* for these westchester drivers. I don’t see how Brodsky is representing Westchester its residents will benefit from the lower congestion and the better funding to MTA (MNRR tickets will increase as a faster rate than NYCT because it’s more politically acceptable to change a $12 ticket to $15 than to change a highly visible number such as $1.50 to $2 ad astra….) Westchester actually wins with congestion pricing.

    If someone has a disability permit they will be able to avoid the charge.

    Regarding border parking, I know that in some cases this will be true, especially if it’s convenient to get into the city, for example the Fordham metro north or the some of the BMT/IRT stations. For this reason, residential parking permits are a good idea. People who are concerned about these issues should support legislation, for example, saying that residential parking permits are cheap and easy to get and that SMART money can be used to build park and rides and add’l stations.

    A legislator acting on behalf of his constituents takes positive action to tweak the plans to his constituents benefit, not try to scuttle it.

    If one was really concerned about this the proper action as a legislator would be to petition to pass modifications such as forcing the BRT improvements and new commuter rail stations, residential parking permits, etc before implementation of the CC.

    Brodsky’s opposition is probably because of that $16,500 he received from the parking lobby (whose parking garages serve the wealthy!). It’s amazing to me that $16,500 dollars in payments can derail $500 million in free money and $500 million/yr in potential revenue for the metro region.

  • Jack

    Be, a few counterpoints from your last post. Per capita income in Westchester is $58,592, the eighth-highest in the nation. Overall, it’s $42,000 nationwide. Yes, Westchester is more expensive than the rest of the country, but not by 40%. The disabled and many elderly (since a large portion of them have handicapped license plates) will not have to pay the congestion fee at all. Cars with handicapped license plates are exempt. Aside from that, if a senior takes Metro North into Manhattan, the cost of that is already cheaper than driving because of the senior citizen discount. Chances are that person is not taking the train to work (I believe the most common argument is medical appointments) so there should be much less worry about that person getting a seat on the train. Also, don’t underestimate the generosity of other people; many people are always willing to give up their seat for an elderly person or a pregnant woman.

    Now, about Lancman’s bill:

    None of these measures will help small businesses. Telecommuting is only used by a small percentage of employees. The techonology exists for a decent percentage of the workforce to telecommute and it has for quite a few years now. But it is not utilized much. The reason? Employers like to have a close eye on their employees. To them, the more time you are at your desk means more productivity (this isn’t entirely true but that’s a whole different story). It is very expensive to set up a home office with remote access and additional security and maintain space for employees for when they happen to come to the office. Many occupations can’t even telecommute, especially those in the public sector such as teachers and police officers? Speaking of which, how come you never hear of government employees telecommuting? That’s right, when an employee from the department of Veterans Affairs took his work home, his laptop containing 26.5 million social security numbers was stolen.

    Carpooling is difficult to arrange. Trying to do this in New York City is even harder for two reasons: 1) since few people drive, the amount of people who could carpool is severely limited, and 2) the New York metropolitan area is geographically the world’s largest metro region. Unless the company in question has several hundred or thousands of employees there few amount of people who drive in that office will likely live far apart from another.

    And as for deliveries being made off-hours, it’s not always possible. I work in an office with a dozen people. For the most part, we’re a 9-to-5 organization, and we use FedEx every day. Does that mean we would have to hire an extra employee just to accept packages?

    And that $500 million to expand transit? I’m willing to bet that it will come out of the MTA’s budget, either directly by forcing the MTA to allocate it or indirectly by cutting spending. And that means there will be a fare increase very soon. Yes, Be, inflation does occur, but rate increases shouldn’t be going above the rate of inflation. Some MTA officials have speculated that the price may go up to $3, and we shouldn’t have the cost of transit double in less than ten years. Also, Lancman’s bill doesn’t have the stream of income that congestion pricing does.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Amazing how two seemingly intelligent individuals can debate “averages” without bothering to extract simple means, modes and medians. My favorite for this sort of “analysis” is almost always the median and I think both of you would be much happier using it. But then you would lose the opportunity to rank on each other and of course the MTA.

    I think it is a very hard case to make that “mismanagement and lack of transparency” caused the projected deficits at the MTA. The debt bomb is thought by most sober analysts to be almost exclusively a function of the failure of City Hall and Albany to support the capital plan with the historic tax revenues. In addition, during the Virgil Conway era the MTA switched from Petroleum-based bonds to Fare-based bonds (a subtle but insidious change).

    Even so, neither the MTA nor the City is short of cash right now. The MTA only has projected deficits, projected because it is assumed the real estate market will ultimately falter. The city has a 5 Billion Dollar surplus so it is hard for Bloomberg to make the case that he can’t come up with the next $300 million.

    Many suspect that if PlaNYC would pass (I’m not holding my breath) Bloomberg will give out some tax cuts of equal or greater value (last time I got I think $254, gee thanks Mike). Then again we have 8 million people so 300 Mill/8 Mill=$40 per person, not a real heavy lift.

    Congestion pricing is appealing because it transfers money from drivers to the mass transit. The SMART authority is designed to allow the city more leverage over how that money is used. Who thinks the suburbs like the politics of that formulation. It is very easy to see why Westchester would resist politically. They will pay a large part of the congestion charge yet the City will get to decide where the SMART money is invested.

    And there is a substantial assumed and projected synergy that comes with Congestion Pricing. The MTA will get substantial economic boosts simply from increased bus driver productivity.

    Nonetheless, the political forces are not aligned behind it and Bloomberg has really done very little to so align them. Even the City Council doesn’t support it, why would the Assembly?

    I have enjoyed the insults you have been slingling back and forth though. Sort of has the sexual energy of Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin, Point Counterpoint (“Jane, you poor misguided slut.”)

  • Be

    When I say “elderly” I don’t mean just 90-year olds with walkers. I mean people 60 and over. It case you haven’t noticed middle class people are joining the ranks of the poor in having to keep working until they die. People are retiring much later, and continuing to work into there late 60s and 70s even. I have direct experience with this. And it is quite common. If you consider the continuing destruction of the pension system, elderly workers will continue to grow to become a much larger part of our workforce. These people HAVE to go to work in the city EVERY weekday. Maybe you don’t have a lot of direct experience in this matter but if you start observing, and asking people in your office where they communte from you will begin to see.

    Oh, and doctors appoints ARE usually super frequent when you are afflicted with severe problems.

    And where does it say that if you are elderly or sick, or disabled that you are exempt? Hmmm…??? And most people who need to go into the city and are older or sick don’t have or qualify for a disabled permit. DO you want people to start gaming the system, and apply for disabled permits just to get exempt? That’ll happen.

    JMC, the tolls for Westchest are no where near as expensive as you think. THe Henry Hudson Bridge is $1.75 with an EZ Pass and $2.25 otherwise. If you go down the east side, I-87/Major Deagan there is no toll either way. Completely Free. $8 is a big increase from nothing, not a $1-$2 increase as you wrongly suggest.

    I know other cities have been experimenting with residential parking permits, but I think this is a very wrong idea. THe streets are apublic good that belong to everyone. I am a Manhattan homeowner, and although I do not own a car in the city, and even though I would directly benefit from residential parking permits, I should not be more entitled to have a space of the road than anyone else. My taxes support public goods, and the roads should not be privatized. And don’t give me the tragedy of the commons line. I’m very familiar with Garret Hardin.

    I really don’t see how you can actually attack Brodsky as being corrupt. Few people campaign harder than he does for transparency, anti-corruption, and campaign finance laws. $16,500 is a very small amount of money. Maybe you would be able to be for so little!

    Jack, I think you ignore Lancman’s most important idea: Actually enforcing the traffic regulations (as I have mentioned, as well, above) would lead to a dramtic reduction in traffic and congestion.

    Maybe we are not talking about the same issue… Maybe there are two seperate issues masquerading under the guise of common language. Do we want to decrease “congestion” and “traffic”, ie have there be less stand-still, slow moving cars in the city? Or is the plan actually about removing cars entirely, instead of increasing travel times? Both? Maybe. Perhaps that’s why they are not interested in simple measures to reduce congestion. They just want to get rid of cars.

    Maybe you also see this congestion plan as a good, reliable stream of revenue to support public transportation infrastructure of the next 25 years… Bloomberg argues that it will generate nearly $400 million per year for transit improvements. But have you considered the fact if the plan is successful, then you will have a declining amount of revenue every year? It’s simple math. If you people do what you want, and find alternative to driving, then you will dry up your revenue source. THen you will have to pay off the enormous debt you’ve accrued from the massive new capital projects… except there’ll be less revenue than Bloomberg said there woudld be in his PlaNYC!, so you’ll have to jack of the fee for drivers. To $16. Maybe $20. It’s a really stupid plan, as is. I think we should make some sort of congestion pricing plan, or something with incentives, positive or negative. But the current one is pretty lousy.

  • Be


    YOu are a really smart guy, and I’d love it if you could point in the direction of learning a little more about the MTA history you discussed.

    Also, it’s “Jane you remarkably ignorant slut!”
    But thanks for noticing.

  • Be


    YOu are a really smart guy, and I’d love it if you could me point in the direction of learning a little more about the MTA history you discussed.

    Also, it’s “Jane you remarkably ignorant slut!”
    But thanks for noticing.

  • jmc

    Firstly I am 100% in favor of making transit improvements before implementing congestion pricing. I’d even add more stations and trains to metro-north and lirr, I think there are some lines that could use extra trains and there should be stations in the outer boroughs like the “s-bahn.”

    The congestion charge does have to be big enough to motivate people to change to a different transportation system, so yes, it’s a “big change from nothing.” Though when you add the cost of parking it’s not a huge amount, unless everyone coming from westchester is parking on the street.

    I think a more dynamic and adjustable system would be to toll all the bridges and then adjust the tolls to try to moderate congestion (for example, before 5 or 6 it would be cheaper). Apparently that’s politically impossible though.

    I also think there should be a discount for people who drive zero-emission (or perhaps partial-zero emission) vehicles that you should be able to apply for… I think that this would help clean the air in the whole city and motivate people to buy cleaner cars and trucks.

    Why would people game the system to get disability permits if they’re not doing it already? It would save people a ton of money in parking costs to use free disabled spaces so I can’t imagine that the congestion charge would encourage it uniquely.

    I don’t expect everyone to be happy with congestion charging, and I can’t understand driver behavior completely (for example, why do people not use EZ-Pass? there can’t be that many people who are getting reimbursed at any given time and ezpass is cheaper, a lot of the cars are from in the “EZ pass zone,” and you can’t say that people in NJ can possibly avoid tolls regularly!)

    The one thing I don’t understand is the future plan WITHOUT congestion pricing and a pedestrian focus, especially if the MTA is supposedly so horrible that it can’t operate a single train, any political plans are capable of being destroyed by inertia, and traffic is inexorable. How is the city supposed to grow economically if it can’t add residents and use its existing (and therefore cheap) infrastructure more efficiently?

    Re: residential parking permits: I don’t think other cities are experimenting with them, they’re just using them. They exist in Somerville, Cambridge, and Seattle and have since at least the 80s. It’s not so much “privatizing” public space as reserving some space for residents, i.e. people who pay local taxes. Most of the residential permits in Seattle when i lived there had the notation “2 hour limit or permit.” I think these mainly should be used to limit “parking and riding” in certain hot spots (as they are in those cities) and not as a general rule. Also, in my opinion parking spots are not really a public good as they’re just private vehicle storage and I think that means that those who use it can be charged fees.

    Also, if the city keeps growing, people will keep paying the charge at similar rates, and a lot of the growth will go into transit. This means more people will be able to go into Manhattan and do business, which means more general tax revenue for the city. If it doesn’t, I guess we don’t need to worry about increasing congestion.

    PS If cars flowed like a liquid they’d speed up when going on a narrower road!

  • Jack

    Be, anyone over 62 (65?) qualifies for a senior citizen fare, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Older people are working longer than they have before, but many of them are still in good health and as medicine progresses people are living longer and healthier lives. So a person who is 60 today is more likely to be in better health than a 60 year-old 30 years ago.

    I do agree that blocking the box needs to be enforced. But why not enforce that and have congestion pricing simultaneously so that the public can also benefit from the additional mass transit funding? I don’t see how only enforcing traffic regulations will be enough. Yes, it will make quite an impact, but is it enough of an impact? Some of the busiest streets are far too congested and need something more profound to make a true difference. Also, are there any studies that measure the potential decrease in traffic solely by enforcing traffic regulations? We can say that traffic regulations will be enforced, maybe even hire additional traffic officers. But unless a measure that deliberately controls the amount of traffic on the streets is produced, eventually enforcement will decrease as traffic increases. The amount of vehicles entering Manhattan is too high as it is and without congestion pricing that amount will continue to increase.

    The amount of funding should not decrease. In an earlier post you brought up the effect of inflation on transit fares. The same goes for congestion pricing. While I think many people here will disagree with me, I do not think there should be a large increase in the congestion price in the near future (London’s went from 5 to 8 pound sterling in a short amount of time, and many State Assembly members are using that as a reason to not have congestion pricing). The cost, however, will still increase gradually over time. Also, there are a lot of people who will still drive into the zone, whether they have to or just want to. Businesses will not be deterred by the costs of it, so there is a large amount of income there. And individuals will still drive, but a large portion of them will switch to transit.

    jmc, having discounted pricing at certain hours is very possible. There are a lot of highways in other parts of the country where solo drivers can pay to use the HOV lane. As traffic increases in the HOV lane, the price of doing this increases and goes down when fewer people use it. However, I don’t think that low emissions vehiciles should pay less, at least not yet. I think primary approach that Bloomberg is taking is on behalf of commerce, trying to increase mobility throughout the city on all methods of transportation.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    With regard to the elderly, my grandfather used to say that he didn’t think anyone over sixty-five should be allowed behind the wheel. But he drove until he was well into his eighties because the transportation infrastructure in South Florida made it horribly inconvenient to walk or take transit. I’m concerned about my own parents and in-laws, because they’re getting up there too and they live in isolated places with no transit.

    Elderly New Yorkers are fortunate enough to avoid this. My father took the subway or bus to work until a few weeks before he died, and lived above a supermarket. I’ve got a lot of elderly neighbors, and they can all walk to the shopping and services that they need.

    Elderly Westchester residents who can’t walk to the train, but still “need” to go to Manhattan on a regular basis? How many people are we talking about here? We should allow all the non-elderly, non-disabled wealthy people to clog the streets, kill our neighbors and pollute our air to make life a little bit easier for a few hundred elderly people who should have planned better?

  • jmnyc

    I just love how in some people’s minds free parking and roads are a public good but use of subways, buses and commuter rails are not and should be charged for. In a city where 90+% of the people use public transportation, bikes or foot travel to get into the CBD it should be the other way around.

    I am a NY native, who lived for a while in DC where they have residential parking permits and I must say I thought they were the greatest thing ever. I didn’t have to drive around for an 30-60 mins looking for parking b/c the people parking in my neighborhood lived there and there was enough street parking for everyone. It was great and most of my friends had the same experience. In NY, we screw the people who live in the neighborhood so the people from the suburbs can get the parking spots. I have never gotten it and I guess I never will.

  • Hilary Kitasei

    As it is now, New York City is providing parking for suburban commuters that their own communities will not. One reason many of them drive is because they can’t park at their local stations! It’s expensive and it’s not available. They might as well drive in and park here. Maybe part of the negotiation should include building parking capacity around (and better local bus/jitney service to)local stations. This should be a responsibility of MTA.

  • Be

    parking and roads are not free. We pay for them with taxes and anyone can use them. They belong to everyone. That is why they are public goods.

    And actually, I am in agreement with you (I think). I do beleive that subways, buses, and commuter rails should be considered public goods and should not have a usage charge. There have been economic studies that have shown that if you eliminated the fare on subways and buses, the increased ridership would generate so much economic activity that you could pay for the entire public transportation system with a very small sales tax, grabbing some of the increased econmoic activity generated by the free transport. The two would be complimentary. So, if you want free public transport, I’m all for that too, and I’m willing to pay for it.

  • Be

    Hillary has it right. Parking at Metronorth stations is expensive and more difficult than it has to be for many people. In general, there are a lot of things that can be done to positively encourage changing behavior away from driving and towards using public transportation – as opposed to penalizing people as an form of (dis)incentive. As Assemblyman Lancman metioned as part of his proposals: We should be emphasizing the carrot more than we are currently emphasizing the stick.

    I would as to Jack and Angus that just because someone qualifies for “senior citizen” status someplace (where were you talking about precisely) doesn’t mean that the congestion plan will have that exemption. In fact, it doesn’t. You and I both agree its a good idea, but two schmucks on a blog saying something will be included in legislation doesn’t make it so. Many of the promises made in the congestion plan press releases are not made in the actual legislation. Let’s see these exemptions in writing.

    Yes, on AVERAGE, a 60 year today is more LIKELY to be in better health than one 30 years ago. But by how much? 5%? 10%? And isn’t that a meaningless point since it doesn’t consider individual circumstances? And you are really overestimating the physical abilities of senior citizens. If you look around, the mjority of them do not use the subway. They take the bus. The stairs and temperature, etc are toom much of an issue for them.

    August, 65 is pretty young to say people should ‘t be driving, I’m sure most baby boomers will take issue with that. I’d wait another 10 years before taking away there license. As Jack stated, 65 ain’t what it used to be. (although, there are a lot of people of all ages that shouldn’t be on the road at all is a bigger issue.)

    Jack, I take issue with the plan being a source of revenue. I have an objection to generating from from the pricing of taxpayer funded, public goods. We probably won’t see eye to eye hear, but I believe it is a serious violation of democratic and ethical principles. If something is worth having, its worth paying for. If the public wants a good public transport system, the public should pay for it. But don’t pay for your system by taxing others, are part of your economic, geographic, and cultural community, but not political community.

    August, those elderly neighbors of your can walk to what they need because it’s nearby. People from Westchester can’t walk to work in the city. You point make no sense. There are probably thousands of people 62 and over, non-disabled, who can’t walk to the train station, who are lower or middle-class, who drive into Manhattan for work every day. And I’m willing to bet none of them have ever killed your neighbors. A few hundred? Please! They go to work, park, contribute to the economy and go home. Trucks and drunk young men kill your neighbors.

  • Be

    There seem to be a lot of Manhattanites and people in NYC who have cars. http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=254692831&context=set-72157594201383931&size=l

    Also, when most people from Manhattan actually stop calling Westchester “Upstate New York” or can actually locate it on a map, or not think it’s in Long Island, maybe then they can have an honest discussion about this issue that effects the entire region.

  • jmnyc

    Be – the point is that there are no usage fees for roads and you can get to virtually every borough without a toll. Public transportation also receives tax dollars but there is also a usage fee. I am not necessarily for removing the usage fee for public transportation although it is an interesting idea but I am for placing one on roads.

  • Jack

    Be, personal attacks aside, a senior citizen can already get a discounted ticket on Metro North. It’s been there and nobody’s talking about removing it. Many of them will end up taking the bus instead of the subway, that is true. But the federal funds that the city would receive would allow us to buy more than 400 additional buses and create about a dozen additional routes. This would decrease the amount of walking that they would have to do (but for those that are healthy, we should continue to emphasize the benefits of walking as a mode of transportation). And also remember, the disabled would be exempt from the congestion fee.

    Also, having the fee as a source of revenue is just straight from the bill. I wouldn’t go to so far to say that it’s unethicall. Fee-based revenue is a major part of all forms of transportation. After all, subways do buses, while funded by tax revenue, are also funded by the users. And toll roads collect revenue to maintain roads. What’s wrong with collecting a road usage fee that will improve both public transit and the roads (due to their decreased use and less traffic).

    I do agree with Hilary that commuter parking in the suburbs needs to be increased. Some of the more crowded stations have waiting lists that extend months or years just to get a spot. These people will have to drive some distance, but let’s have them drive to the station, not to the City.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I don’t have statistics for the ages of drivers who kill people in my neighborhood, but I know a guy who lost a good friend when an elderly woman hit the gas instead of the brake and drove into Washington Square Park (picture here). If it happens in Greenwich Village, I’m sure it happens in Woodside. (Well, this phenomenon at least.) Anyone can kill someone with a car, completely unintentionally; it could be you next. You don’t have to be drunk or young, or drive a truck.

    I don’t live in Manhattan, and I actually know the geography of Westchester pretty well, since I spent almost two years looking at apartments there before deciding to live someplace with a subway, and I still go back and visit often. A lot of the people in Westchester are an easy walk from a Metro-North station, and a lot more are a short bus ride away. Galvo’s right (on the other thread) about how much Bee-line sucks, but one thing it does pretty well is get people to and from Metro-North stations during rush hours. You say thousands, I say hundreds, neither of us has any hard facts.

    I also know another aspect of Westchester geography that you neglect to mention, Be: that property values and incomes go up as you get further from train stations. I know a lot of areas in Westchester where there are poor people, but I don’t know too many that aren’t walking distance from a train or bus that goes to the city.

    I have to disagree with Hilary about Metro-North station parking. In addition to being ugly and hazardous, it’s a major generator of car trips. I seriously doubt that it discourages people from driving all the way to the city; instead it invites people to live in transit-deprived areas. Improved pedestrian access and feeder bus service is a much better way to go.

  • Hilary Kitasei

    Angus is right in that transit-oriented development is preferable to sprawl, but we need a practical short-term solution to enable suburbanites to make better use of the best train system we’ve lot left, Metro North. The trains are virtually empty for most of the day, and run only hourly in many places off-peak (e.g., after 7 pm). The parking shortage reinforces the peak-period crowding of the trains, as people know their only chance of getting a spot is to get there early. The “Kiss ‘n Ride” system used a lot for the DC metro stations reduces the need for parking, but doubles the time the car is on the road (two round trips) — not to mention the time of the driver. I’ve lived in several areas with jitney services to the stations (including Riverdale in the Bronx) but their frequency and routes were tortuous. Jitney and bus services only work where there is enough density.

    None of this is to say the suburban station-access problem isn’t solvable — just that it must be solved if we expect suburbanites to switch modes for the difference of an $8 (and usually far less) congestion fee.

    Metro North’s most underutilized stations of course are in the Bronx. Ridership there would be increased by restructuring the fares to be competitive with NYC transit.

  • Emily Litella

    Look at us trying to undo 100 years and counting of bad transport and land use policy. Congestion pricing is another band-aid, another distraction as we stumble along towards the end of the oil age. Mother nature will tell us when enough is enough, yet we still won’t get it. But hey, we’re still number one and that’s all that ever mattered. Go USA!

  • SPer

    Be writes:

    “Moreover, you would see an overnight reduction in traffic by almost half or more if the MTA would simply retrain its bus drivers to never even attempt to go through an intersection unless they can get all the way through. If you want to reduce traffic even less, you would more aggressively enforce the same traffic regulations fro blocking the box on all autombiles. Problem solved.”

    I truly cannot fathom your logic here. How would enforcing the law against blocking the box reduce traffic? That doesn’t make any sense at all! We would still have the same number of cars on the street and the same rotten air quality as a consequence and the same sky high asthma rates. How does keeping the box clear reduce the number of cars on the road?

  • Jmc


    You argue that there are people and places that would feel negative impacts from a congestion charge if there are not improvements to the transit system before the charge is implemented. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.

    The reason the congestion charge legislation is in such a rush is that the deadline for funding is Monday the 16th. About half of this funding will be going to improvements, including hundreds of new, high-tech, flat floor buses with full disability access. This will be great for helping elderly and disabled people access Manhattan, as some of them might not be able to climb subway stairs… not to mention able-bodied city residents. Rehabilitation and construction of new intracity MNRR and LIRR stations will allow for increased ridership on these modes. Some of these lines are not operating anywhere near capacity.

    But there has to be money to do this, and the federal government is offering us $500 mln of our tax dollars (which could instead go to construction of HOV lanes in Dallas, etc.) to make these improvements. Congestion pricing won’t be implemented until there are new buses and stations.

    Re #29: The MNRR is also along freight railroads much of the time, so many of these neighborhoods have industrial/worker housing character to them, meaning that they’re generally lower income. Many upper Westchester residents with money traditionally took horse-and-carriage or car to the train station and so a large number of the mansions are located farther away from the station. There are, of course, exceptions.

  • Be

    “Traffic” means cars, not moving/ barely moving. Decreasing the number of cars is totally different from decreasing traffic/congestion. THis is another problem with the congestion plan. It is claims to be about solving two different, albeit linked, problems: The amount of cars in the city, and the amount of traffic in the city/ increasing travel speeds for cars.

    I’m sorry, but if you don’t understand the logic of how keeping cars/buses from crowding the interesections will reduce traffic, then you either have never even been in New York City, much less lvie their, or you are literally blind. If you are not visually impaired, I suggest you look at any intersection and watch what happens. Try riding a bus to or from work. Any bus.

    I’m talking about reducing traffic.

  • Be

    By the way, the Federal money might not even exist… Chew on that.


  • Be,

    Your comments keep getting caught in the spam filter, I believe, b/c your email address is too fake looking. Come up with something else like bob@aol.com, would you? It’s a lot of work to fish your stuff out of there.

  • SPer


    FWIW, I’ve lived in NYC for 23 years. But that’s irrelevant to the problem with your claims. Moving cars more quickly — which seems to be all you are concerned about — just makes room for more cars — and what’s the result of that? Congestion. We have tried and tried and tried for decades in NYC to get traffic moving — “Don’t Block the Box”, “Thru Streets” blah blah blah. And what do we have today? Horrible congestion.

    Getting cars off the road will certinly get traffic moving faster much better than all of the efforts to improve traffic flow ever have. But getting traffic moving faster is not the only aim here! Getting cars off the road will improve air quality, the funding stream will mean significant investments in mass transit, and unclogging the streets will mean more room for pedestrians and cyclists.

    How will your idea of enforcing “don’t block the box” improve air quality in NYC?

  • Be


    New York has never actually been serious about enforce “don’t block the box” regulations. Every year for about 3 weeks, the city cracks down hard on this, and then does absolutely nothing for the rest of the year. Traffic enforcement is simply not a priority for the city or the police. I have witnessed first hand, on several occassions, a car blatantly running a red light and almost hitting pedestrians in the cross walk (ME) and there was a police car, literally directly behind that car, and the cops did not respond. Drivers feel they can disobey traffic regulations with impunity. I will not take seriously any proposal made by the city on anything to do with traffic until they demonstrate a basic commitments to enforcing the laws they already have that would do much to improve traffic condistions.

    If intersections were clear, cars would idle less and burn less gas just sitting still or crawling through the city. They could get to wear they are going and leave the city much faster, which means that there will be less time for them to be on city streets burning oil and fouling our air.

    Also, it needs repeating, the proposal does nothing to improve air quality outside of the zone in Manhattan. This is a boon for the wealthy, and does not thing but harm for the areas that have the highest asthma rates in the country – poor neighborhoods in the Bronx and Uptown Manhattan. Those neighborhoods WILL become a parking lot for commuters trying to beat the congestion fare. People already do this in the Bronx and Brooklyn/Queens – driving to a subway station and taking that into the city instead of MNRR or LIRR. I used to do it when I commuted to school in the city for a year, and from the hundreds of cars a saw at the Woodlawn station, stretched back for almost a mile, plenty of other people do it too. THe congestion plan creates an even STRONGER incentive for people to use the burroughs as parking lot.

    ANd don’t forget, the more successful the plan is at reducing the numbers of cars driving in the zone, the faster the revenue will decline.


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