Decorative gate at the top of one-block-long Pearl Street, Stapleton
NOT JUST FOR COMMUTERS TO MANHATTAN
I'll be attending tomorrow night's (November 5) Staten Island hearing of the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission at the Williamson Theatre of the College of Staten Island at 6 p.m. The commission will be taking public testimony on the congestion pricing proposal, one of many in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ambitious and visionary PlaNYC.
The proposal would charge private cars $8 to enter the Central Business District (minus any other tolls they may have paid to get there). The proceeds would be devoted to expanding and upgrading mass transit services throughout the city to accommodate the projected increase in ridership that higher tolls and gas prices--and near-gridlock congestion-- would generate.
Those who've followed the arguments for and against Congestion Pricing probably are already familiar with the major points in contention--most but not all of which, in my view, have been manufactured by opponents to obstruct or derail a program model which has proven its viability elsewhere. One of the most vocal in its opposition, unsurprisingly, is a parking lot owners' group and its seeming mouthpiece, Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat.
Following is the testimony I will present:
More vehicles = more congestion = more pollution = more pulmonary and other diseases
Staten Island is New York City's fastest-growing borough, with a mass transit infrastructure and a dispatching frequency utterly inadequate to the needs of our exploding population--one that does nothing to remedy the island's increasingly limited capacity to operate and store the numbers of vehicles we add to the existing number each year.
Expanded mass transit operations are the only solution, and the only source of funding for those operations is the Federal government--provided the city can come up with a plan that can significantly reduce the number of private vehicles entering the Central Business District each weekday. Only Congestion Pricing, or a plan very much like it, holds the promise of delivering on that requirement.
The transit solutions proposed under Congestion Pricing--like the entire transportation system on Staten Island--focus on the needs of weekday commuters to Manhattan. That's a start, but an expanded, enhanced Staten Island transit system must also respond to the needs of the many Staten Islanders who commute to jobs within the borough, do not drive, and depend exclusively on bus operations whose traditional focus has been coordination with the schedule of the Staten Island Ferry.
How to avoid two, three or more cars in every driveway
Staten Island's notoriously poor bus service practically guarantees that, as soon as they can, islanders abandon the bus, one of the most efficient transport modes, for the private automobile, the least efficient and most polluting. We need service that's so good, and such a good value, that people will want to leave their cars at home and walk to the bus stop or the railway station--whether they're commuting to Manhattan, shopping in New Springville, or visiting family in Grasmere. Congestion Pricing can start to move us toward that goal.
Poor bus transit, more than any other factor, actually promotes two- and three-car households, and the health problems, congestion, pollution, lost time and lost productivity that adding more population and more cars inevitably brings about. Over time, Congestion Pricing can help to bring Staten Island's use of mass transit more in line with that of the other boroughs.
Congestion pricing NOW
This New York City borough is, or soon will be, built out. Building new major roadways is simply not an option. Widening existing roads to accommodate increased traffic, where feasible, is really just a Band-Aid. Only a major investment in our mass transportation infrastructure can help us reduce congestion, improve air quality, better accommodate our current transportation needs and better prepare for the increased demand we all know is coming. That major investment will come only from the Feds and only if the plan submitted can meet their requirements. That plan is Congestion Pricing.