“Lock Box” Provides $39M for Livable Streets, Ferries, BRT

Last week Streetsblog reported on the Traffic Commission’s proposal to create a "Livable Streets Lock Box" fund from parking revenue and taxi surcharges generated in the congestion pricing zone. If created, the fund could become a substantial new source of money for bicycle, pedestrian and public space projects in New York City. The fund would be controlled by the Department of Transportation per the approval of City Council. Its creation would mark the first time in the modern era that a dedicated transportation fund will be created in New York City. Currently, all parking revenue disappears into the City’s general fund.

Now, thanks to documents published by the Traffic Mitigation Commission, we have a better idea of how big this Livable Streets Lock Box fund will be: Roughly $39 million a year. As spelled out in the "Increase Cost of Parking" document in Appendix J of the Commission’s final report:

Annual Funding for NYC DOT Fund:
$22 million Eliminate Manhattan resident parking garage tax exemption:
$17 million
Increase rates for on-street parking (widely considered a low estimate).
Total: $39 million

Though perhaps modest by London standards where the Mayor just announced that the City would be spending $100 million a year on bicycle projects, the Fund could get bigger in the future if it also receives revenue from curbside parking reforms being contemplated by DOT. However, big questions about how the money will be spent remain. The Traffic Commission called for the fund to be spent on:

"transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and parking management improvements, including, but not limited to, expanded ferry service, bus signalization, BRT investments, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian enhancements."

Yet, in her State of the City address earlier this week, Council Speaker Christine Quinn called for the creation of a "comprehensive five-borough, year-round New York City Ferry System." Ferries require heavy subsidies. The Staten Island Ferry costs the city about $74 million a year to operate and New York Water Taxi is currently going bust. Quinn’s proposed ferry network will be expensive. And yet the city is entering a period of budget cuts.

The Speaker is in a powerful position right now. The Mayor is dependent on her to deliver congestion pricing in City Council. So, how will Quinn’s new ferries be paid for? Is she aiming to redirect the Livable Streets Lock Box funds to ferries?

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