“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?

  • Damian

    Quinn cares about getting publicity. She wants to make ferry service “her” project and get her name attached to it in the press.

    After the way she caved in to her TLC buddies on the pedicab issue, I’m convinced she could give a crap about livable streets.

  • mfs

    Is this speculation or based on some actual information?

  • Lola

    Where can we find Appendix J? The page you link to includes a Final Recommendation pdf, which doesn’t have the appendices. (Appendices are given for the Interim Report, but I don’t see the figures you cite.) Thanks.

  • Hilary

    Ferries may be extravagant and questionably environmental, but they are also fun and “new” (to people under 80). I say subsidize them as the gateway drug to the rest of the transit/greenway system. (In the same way, the exorbitant Skytrain does get people onto the A train — though that’s probably the best introduction to the system.)

    Most people have extremely limited transportation habits – they take a mode, a route, a combination and fall back on their cars or cabs for everything else. The NYC system does a very poor job of helping us think of the system as a whole. The separate authorities/companies are the biggest problem, of course. But why don’t all of their our transit maps show all of the bus, subway, train and ferry connections? Could we have computer screens at bus stops, stations, hotels to help us identify the optimum route?

  • JK

    Lola

    See the congestion commission’s final report page 23 (44 of PDF) which quote the Interim Report and the findings of the technical memorandum. The powers at Sblog will change the link to make it easier to find. The final legislation could result in changes in the $39 million estimate depending on whether various parking charges are applied.

    https://www.nysdot.gov/portal/page/portal/programs/repository/TCMC-Final-Report.pdf

  • JK

    The language establishing the “Livable Streets Fund is on page 69 of the commission’s recommendations (90 pdf)All at link above at NYSDOT website.

    • Securing of parking revenues: All funds from increased on-street parking rates and
    the elimination of the resident parking tax exemption within the zone should be
    dedicated by the City of New York to additional transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and
    parking management improvements, including, but not limited to, expanded ferry
    service, bus signalization, BRT investments, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian
    enhancements. NYCDOT should submit an annual plan to the City Council for
    approval on the use of these funds and shall report on the actual expenditures of such
    a plan.

  • Corey Bearak

    It all goes in the city budget and as happened with Safe City, Safe Streets money, existing allocations will be moved, defunded, deleted and the city lockbox will not involved net new funding and that is what everyone seems to miss with the lockbox concept. Nothing offered thus far addresses that key omission. The city does it all the time and in tight fiscal times, it happens even more.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I have a way to pay for the Rockaway ferry. People in the Rockaways say they have no mass transit. Anthony Weiner spoke those very words.

    Well, as it happens the least heavily used and most heavily subsizied subway line is the A to the Rockaways. Look at what the least used subway stations on the system are. They are all out there.

    The rest of us are paying big money for that service to continue, and I don’t hear much gratitude. And some time in the next 20 years, the signal system will have to be replaced. The way things are going, that could cost $300 million-plus. Maybe as much as $500 million.

    So why not do this instead? Eliminate the subway past Howard Beach, and convert the structure to a cheaper two-lane busway. The people in the projects would take the bus and transfer, probably in Brooklyn. And some of the savings could be used to subsidize ferry service for the people who matter.

    Why pay $300 million to listen to Weiner complain?

  • JF

    It all goes in the city budget and as happened with Safe City, Safe Streets money, existing allocations will be moved, defunded, deleted and the city lockbox will not involved net new funding and that is what everyone seems to miss with the lockbox concept. Nothing offered thus far addresses that key omission. The city does it all the time and in tight fiscal times, it happens even more.

    This is interesting. You’re saying that you don’t trust the government not to defund transit if additional money is raised, and we’re saying we don’t trust drivers not to use the additional road space freed up by enforcement-based measures. In each case there’s a scarce public resource and a powerful group that has the power to appropriate if for their own ends.

    Our approach is to use the “stick” of pricing to discourage people from using more than their fair share of road space. Your approach is to deny the increased funding for transit.

    Maybe we should try your approach with the drivers, which is also the one that Larry has advocated in the past. Rather than pricing single-occupant drivers of choice off the roads, we should deny them the use of a portion of the road space and make sure that it’s available for those who really need it, like emergency vehicles and buses.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    The A train is the old Rockaway Branch of the LIRR. What that neighborhood needs is what it had, commuter rail service, before the Right of Way was transferred to the TA. The Rockaway Branch LIRR also ran into Long Island connecting Nassau and Rockaways. The Rockaways was then about a half hour out of midtown or Flatbush and Atlantic and had Commuter Rail connections to Long Island and Jamaica as well. The ghettoization of Far Rock can be traced specifically to the end of Commuter Rail service. Instead of being a half hour from mid town the poor citizens of the penninsula became 45 minutes from East New York in one fell swoop.

    And, while A train service is underutilized by TA standards it would be right in line with LIRR capacity utilization.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (While A train service is underutilized by TA standards it would be right in line with LIRR capacity utilization.)

    Maybe, but somehow those living in Rego Park have acquired an absolute political veto over any reuse of the between Atlantic Avenue and Whitepot junction. In many cases, property owners have in effect annexed it to their own property.

    In addition, those now living hear the A cannot afford commuter rail, and would be better served by BRT.

    Those “too good for the subway” live beyond it, and would be served by the ferries.

  • Hilary

    It would enlighten the ferry discussion if we knew what the economics of the various operations are: Staten Island ferry vs. Waterway vs. Water Taxi, which have radically different price structures (free vs. $3 for Hudson River crossing vs. $5 per each short segment around Manhattan).

  • one of the things we are working on now is a metrocard pilot program to use metrocards (or other electronic fare collection device) on one of the private ferries starting later this year. this will have the dual benefit of a) providing the most reliable numbers about ridership etc, and b) incorporating all these passengers into the real transport planning and modelling that right now totally leaves them out.

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