Attic window transoms with stained-glass insets, St. George, Staten Island
LATER TODAY, Thursday, January 24, 2008, the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission will hold hearings in each of the 'outer' boroughs on five plans designed to reduce vehicular congestion in Manhattan's Central Business District while generating revenue for major mass transit improvements citywide.
I have submitted to the Commission written testimony about the plans, which appears later in this entry.
GO AHEAD, CALL ME A FLIP-FLOPPER
I know; I know.
First I supported Mayor Bloomberg's original Congestion Pricing plan and testified in favor of it at a hearing of the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission (TCMC) late last fall.
But even as one of the plan's ardent supporters, I had to admit it sounded awfully complicated and seemed pretty expensive just to implement.
Then I thought I liked the sound of tolling the East River bridges--a simpler means of discouraging private car commuting into Manhattan's Central Business District. Not only was the bridge tolling plan projected to yield greater income than the mayor's plan; it was also projected to yield greater reductions in traffic congestion as well.
But like the original, this plan had some serious flaws.
The bridge-tolling plan charges for all trips into and out of Manhattan all the time. So it cannot distinguish between trips when traffic is light from trips that occur when congestion is heaviest. And it fails to charge for trips that start and end within Manhattan, where congestion is greatest. Further, how ever unintentionally, the bridge-tolling plan tends to penalize particular classes of drivers and particular locations, some of them small commercial vehicle operators and many of them low- and moderate-income motorists, disproportionately from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.
I SUPPORT THE ALTERNATIVE CONGESTION PRICING PLAN
Of the three remaining plans being considered by the Commission, one fails to reduce traffic congestion adequately; the other fails to generate income for mass transit improvements. So neither of these can be considered viable. The remaining proposal, called The Alternative Congestion Pricing Plan, is a streamlining of the mayor's original PlaNYC proposal with significantly lower capital and operating costs. It also satisfies the revenue and traffic reduction mandates upon which funding by the Federal Department of Transportation depends.
Here's a profile of the Alternative Congestion Pricing Plan, taken from an interim report of the TCMC:
"The alternative congestion pricing plan is a modified approach to congestion pricing that eliminates the intra-zonal charge [$4] . . . charges inbound trips only, and moves the northern boundary of the charging zone to 60th Street [NOTE: The original plan's northern boundary was 86th Street.] Cars would be charged an $8 fee to drive into the zone on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Trucks would pay $21, except for low-emission trucks, which would pay $7. Under this fee-based plan, drivers would pay once upon entering the charging zone and would be able to make additional trips in and out of the zone at no additional cost. For E-Z Pass users, the value of all tolls paid on MTA or Port Authority bridges and tunnels would be deducted from the fee up to $8." [The alternative plan includes three additional measures affecting taxi/livery service vehicles, parking rates, and parking tax exemptions.]
MY WRITTEN TESTIMONY TO THE COMMISSION
Greetings to the Commissioners.
I appreciate the opportunity to share my views on this important topic. My name is Dan Icolari. I'm a 30-year resident of Staten Island; the founder of Walking is Transportation.com and a co-founder of the St. George Civic Association and the Preservation League of Staten Island. I've served on Community Board 1 and am a member of numerous Staten Island civic and cultural organizations.
As I did at an earlier hearing, I would like to declare support for the concept of congestion pricing as an approach with many benefits to offer residents of every New York City borough. Chief among these are (1)
Reduction of negative health and conduct-of-business impacts of traffic congestion; (2) Development of a new funding source for mass transit improvements; and (3) Positive impact on climate change--a global
problem with potentially life-threatening consequences for our city.
Of the several plans proposed by the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, I support The Alternative Congestion Pricing Plan. I base my support on the alternative plan's reduced complexity
lower cost and greater ease of implementation. I believe these attributes offset the alternative plan's various weaknesses, as enumerated by the Commissioners in their interim report.
Thank you for your consideration.