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Congestion Pricing

Tuesday’s Headlines: Once and Forever, Congestion Pricing is a Good Thing Edition

Entitled Manhattanites who oppose the central business district toll are the most misguided, it turns out. Plus other news.

Underlying photo: Josh Katz|

Congestion pricing will make ghosts of some cars.

Other than the New York Post editorial board, a few residents of New Jersey who insist on driving into Manhattan, a handful of Staten Island teachers and a few residents of Lower Manhattan who are willfully misreading an environmental assessment, pretty much everyone knows that congestion pricing will be a good thing.

But those entitled Manhattanites who oppose the central business district toll are the most misguided, it turns out. According to new data being released today by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Transportation Alternatives, the tolling zone will benefit the most from congestion pricing.

We already know that setting up a toll to drive into Manhattan below 60th Street will reduce congestion, improve bus speeds, lower air pollution and asthma rates, and decrease pedestrian injuries by as much as 20 percent.

But the new data show, for example, that: 

  • The state Assembly districts that comprise the congestion pricing zone are very congested — with 68 percent more vehicle miles traveled and 20 percent slower bus speeds compared to the average Assembly district. And that's truly offensive because 79 percent of those CBD households don't own a car! So here's a region of roughly 685,000 people living with pollution, congestion and road violence being dumped on them every day.
  • In the congestion zone, levels of pollution — in the form of PM2.5, the most serious particulate — are 17 percent higher than the average Assembly district. Again, that's pollution being dumped on an area where nearly eight out of 10 households don't have a car.
  • Serious traffic injuries in the Assembly districts that comprise the zone are 22 percent higher than in the average Assembly district. 
  • Because of all the driving that is being accommodated by current road design and free access to the busiest and most transit-rich area of the city, roads in the tolling zone have 24 percent less tree canopy, 41 percent less permeable surface area, and 13 percent fewer benches than the average district.

In other words, think of all the good things the city could do if tens of thousands of drivers switch to transit, carpool, bike or simply choose not to drive into the central business district.

In the short term, Transportation Alternatives has once again joined the chorus of advocates demanding that the Department of Transportation come up with a plan to convert all the unnecessary car space "to higher use, including converting car lanes into protected bike lanes, car-free busways and bus lanes, and new pedestrian spaces that ensure that every New Yorker feels the benefits of congestion pricing."

To check out the data, click here.

In other news:

  • Speaking of congestion pricing, Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff got a second day bite out of that loathsome New York Post op-ed saying that car-less Manhattanites won't benefit from the toll.
  • And the Tribeca Citizen blogged on Komanoff's recent coverage about the congestion pricing community meeting earlier this month.
  • And the Post continues to miss the forest of dollars for the trees of pennies, writing that the Hampton Jitney is upset to have to charge customers a few cents more for the $40 ride to the Hamptons because of the $24 congestion toll (which will be paid by the bus company only on its outbound trips). A full Jitney carries roughly 60 people, meaning the $80 round-trip would have to be raised to $80.40 to cover the toll. I think people headed to the Hamptons for a weekend at a $1,000-a-night hotel can afford 40 cents.
  • Want more on congestion pricing? After Streetsblog pointed out a flaw in the way the agency planned on making sure people with disabilities got their exemption to the toll, the MTA fixed the problem. (Streetsblog)
  • Check it out: The new Google HQ has parking for 500 bikes! (Tribeca Citizen)
  • Our Deputy Editor David Meyer pointed out the irony of bills that would criminalize protesting Israel's aggressing in Gaza by blocking traffic — the same peaceful technique was used by civil rights protesters four decades ago. (Hell Gate)
  • Former federal transit man Larry Penner updates us on the Grand Central Madison project (what, you thought it was done?). (Mass Transit)
  • The Daily News, Documented and Gothamist provided further coverage of the battery fire death of journalist Fazil Khan. The Times has still not covered his death.
  • Hell Gate followed our musings on Flaco with its own lament. Best line: "The city, built without even much care for the humans who inhabit it, is no place for a bird thousands of miles from its natural home."
  • Well, we used to love the outdoor dining area at Frank. (Village Sun)
  • Finally, this isn't related to our coverage area, but when someone donates $1 billion so that would be doctors can get free medical educations, we feel the need to point it out. (NY Times)

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