Congestion Pricing Would Cut Weekly Express Bus Commute Times By Hours: Report

This hurts our city — and our lungs.  Photo: giggel/Wikimedia Commons
This hurts our city — and our lungs. Photo: giggel/Wikimedia Commons

Money is time.

The proposed congestion pricing plan to create $1.5 billion in new funding for the MTA would also have the side benefit of saving express bus commuters up to two hours per week on their horrendously long commutes, a new report by the Riders Alliance reveals.

All commutes on MTA express buses would shorten dramatically, with the single best time savings along the X63 bus from Rosedale in Queens to Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan.

The Riders Alliance did the math by using Charles Komanoff’s seminal Balanced Transportation Analyzer to calculate the expected reductions in bus travel times based on the declining number of cars expected to enter Manhattan below 60th Street if a congestion pricing fee were to be implemented. Komanoff’s model takes into account the reduction in congestion both within the congestion zone and on streets in the outer boroughs that would also be carrying less traffic.

Traffic speeds are expected to increase by 20 percent inside the zone and by 7 percent outside of it.

Data analysts at the Riders Alliance broke up express bus route segments into those two portions and then calculated how much faster buses would be expected to run through both zones to come up with the overall time savings for commuters. Nothing came close to the two-hours-per-week that X63 riders might save, but the overall benefits were substantial for riders of the X64 (1:52 per week), QM8 (1:37), BM1 and BM3 (1:35), BM4 (1:34), and QM17 (1:26).

Source: Riders Alliance
Source: Riders Alliance

Despite those time savings, many elected officials in communities served by express buses have not signed on to support congestion pricing. Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman, whose district includes the X63 and X64 buses, has opposed new tolls to enter Manhattan. Her neighboring Assembly Member Vivian Cook, whose district also includes those lines, also opposes congestion pricing. And Assembly Members Jeffrion Aubry, Ronald Kim, Michael Miller and Michele Titus, who all have express bus lines running through their districts, all have said negative things about congestion pricing, too.

That’s exactly the kind of opposition that the Riders Alliance can’t understand.
“Queens and Brooklyn express bus riders pay $6.50 each way to slog through traffic to and from neighborhoods far from the subway. Many spend over 15 hours a week in transit,” said Danny Pearlstein, the group’s policy and communications director. “An extra hour or two per week gained from congestion pricing would mean real time for real people to take care of themselves and their families. With so much talk about fairness, congestion pricing returns a truly priceless resource to folks who can spare precious little of it. Congestion pricing could mean an extra moment together over breakfast, a little more help with homework or housework, another chapter before bedtime, a longer kiss goodnight.
“When Albany takes up the issue next year, express bus commuters from the outer reaches of the city — and their families — should be high on the governor’s and legislators’ packed agenda.”
The Riders Alliance will share its full findings on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the BM1/BM2/BM3/BM4/QM7/QM11/QM25 express bus stop at Church Street and Park Place in Manhattan.
  • VinBK

    I question the methodology of this, and definitely dispute this assertion that so many cars will simply disappear if we start tolling access to Manhattan. The majority of these trips are by either people who are too wealthy to notice, or by small businesses who will pass the costs on to consumers like things aren’t expensive enough.

    New Yorkers already send more to Washington than what the federal government spends here, and city & state taxes, in addition to federal taxes, are not nearly progressive enough. Wealthy people and businesses need to invest in this community that made so many of them so rich, by revising NYC and NYS’s income tax scedules while we look for a solution with a federal government that steals from us. I’d rather secede from the US than make trades cost more because we’re nickel & dim-ing plumbers and electricians. What, are they going to stop driving? I guess the writers at streetsblog are going to fix your heating issues south of 60th street now? Give me a break!

  • VinBK

    I’m not sure the methodology is sound here. How many drivers are tradeworkers like plumbers and electricians going to jobs? Wouldn’t they pass those costs on to customers, further increasing services in an already expensive city? Wouldn’t that, in turn, accelerate gentrification in Manhattan?

    I think billing ourselves is the wrong solution. We need the courage to stand up to Washington and demand that the federal government matches spending to the amount we pay in federal taxes, right now they spend way less than what we pay in. Furthermore, in NYC people who make $50,000 per year pay the same rate as people who make $499,000 per year. That doesn’t seem right when the latter benefited much more from the community than he former did. Similar problems exist in the state tax code as well.

    I am not sure how to solve our problem with Washington. Why not advocate for a state and municipal bailout, to bail out the MTA from it’s debt? If I had to choose which institution was more “to big to fail” between Goldman Sachs and he New York City Subway, I’m definitely choosing the subway!

  • chass3

    their jobs will be easier because for them it makes sense to pay the congestion fee, whereas people who don’t need their cars as a part of their job will drive much less, reducing congestion in the city. this allows these kinds of mobile workers to get to more jobs in a day because there’s less traffic. It’s good for commercial traffic.

  • VinBK

    That totally fails to address the added costs. Also, I question this idea that there are so many drivers who are one small fee away from taking mass transit. Most people who are driving leisurely or even driving as a commute are far too wealthy to care about an additional cost, and commercial drivers of course have no choice. I dispute the idea that there will even be a significant reduction in traffic too, and reduction in the amount of cars on the road will be matched and then some with roads being converted to pedestrian plazas and bike paths. Not once has any congestion pricing advocate had an answer for the few years gap between the institution of congestion pricing and the money derived from this pricing being implemented in improving transit service, and what happens during that time? continued traffic, higher costs, further widening the gap between rich and poor.

    I do not understand why anyone aside from the well to do would oppose increasing income taxes on the well off to fund transit repairs. If you really cared at all about reducing traffic, you could subscribe to the false notion that an “upper class exodus” would happen over a few hundred dollars a year in extra taxes and that will free up much more road space for driving than a regressive tax on workers would. But the donors writing off their donations to congestion pricing advocacy groups want to avoid paying into the community from which they accrued so much wealth, so they sell congestion pricing snake oil.


Photo: Rebecca Bailin/Riders Alliance

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