Why discriminate through zoning; doesn't
everybody in Manhattan deserves to benefit from
The zone of the plan is also problematic. South
of 86th street receives relief from congestion
but north of 86th street doesn't? Aren't the
residents of Harlem entitled to the same congestion
relief that the residents of the Upper East
and West Side are expected to receive? Also,
we fully expect real estate prices to rise within
the zone and think the residents of Harlem and
upper Manhattan should benefit directly from
this as well. It also makes no sense to us that
any part of the loop roads of Central Park will
be excluded from congestion zone.
More to the point congestion is a problem everywhere
on the island of Manhattan. And since this is
an island let's just treat it as such instead
of carving zones within an island that will
create all sorts of parking problems above the
zone as people to seek to avoid charges.
While much has been said about the costs to
enter Manhattan under the plan much less has
been said on the credits that most drivers will
"EZ Pass users paying bridge and tunnel
tolls to enter the zone will be credited the
amount of their round-trip toll that day".
What this means is that if you live in Brooklyn
and drive to work using the Battery Tunnel the
cost to you under this plan will be zero. Spending
hundreds of millions dollars to implement a
plan to charge people to enter Manhattan and
reduce congestion won't work if you then decide
not to charge them. In fact this part of the
plan just doesn't make sense.
There are already tolls on the Hudson River Crossings and the East River Tunnels. The tolls are actually quite high and in fact comparable to the suggested congestion charges. And if you have ever tried to drive into Manhattan in the morning you are well aware they act as pretty much zero deterrence to drive into Manhattan as with them in place we have about a million drivers a day who think driving into Manhattan a day is a better choice than public transportation. And while I hate to admit it, many of them are right in making that choice.
We're ready for a good Congestion Pricing plan.
Is our transit system and infrastructure?
As part of the research for Congestion Pricing
I stopped driving and started commuting by bus
to Ulster County on weekends. To see what a
beautiful gateway to our city the Port Authority
is and how much work is necessary to be done
before we ask people to leave their cars at
home and commute into the city by public transit,
I recommend taking the 11:42 PM from New Paltz
arriving into Port Authority at 1:30 AM on a
Sunday morning. Or perhaps you should try to
take the 6:00 PM leaving the city. You can even
show up by Subway it's only a 7-minute subway
ride to Port Authority from West 4th Street.
But since there are no Metro Card like vending
machines to purchase bus tickets I suggest you
arrive early, as the lines can be long, I've
waited in line more than 20 minutes just to
purchase a ticket to the leave the city. Comparatively
sitting in traffic starts looking like a reasonable
alternative. I mean there are no people sleeping
in your car that you have to step over to get
where you are going. And the interior of new
cars while often pungent tend not to smell like
That said, the lowly bus, that many think of
as something for people who can't afford cars,
has a lot of potential. The buses are comfortable,
roomy and it's downright refreshing to not have
to drive. But before you can realistically get
people out of their cars, the experience has
be positive and currently it is sub-standard
on many levels.
This is not a simple matter of busses leaving
port authority but subways as well. In a recent
report issued by New York City Transit is an
articulation of what many subway commuters already
know. Many subway lines are at full capacity.
On the IRT there is literally no room to accommodate
new riders. And in fact crowding is so bad on
the east side IRT (4,5,6) that rush hours exceed
the MTA's loading guidelines. According to this
report it's just not the trains that are crowded
but the tracks as well. While we need to reduce
automobile trips into the city, the people that
are going to get out of their cars need a way
to get around. And to not put a system in place
before this is figured out does not seem like
a formula for success.
Congestion Pricing isn't just about cars,
less cars, or the movement of cars.
An important transportation insight, and one
that makes the goals of congestion pricing possible
(whether Sheldon Silver gives it his blessing
or not) is that the answer to NYC traffic problems
is an infrastructure problem and not a vehicle
This is why in the past we have advocated that a lane on arterial streets be reserved for the use of vehicles responding to emergencies. The thinking is that his lane can then be utilized by human powered vehicles such as cyclists and rollerbladers and light zero emission electric vehicles, such as Segways and electric mopeds, during non-emergency use. With the allocation of just one lane on every avenue, we can provide the needed space to move around this city safely and efficiently using human or electric power. Obviously this will serve to lessen the amount of vehicles on the avenues and corresponding pollution as well and is aligned with the broader goals of Congestion Pricing. We envision that this will significantly reduce emergency vehicle response time and for this reason alone it should be tried.
One of the obvious outcomes of Congestion Pricing
is the mitigation of urban auto trips. Initially
this will be done mostly by bicycle but we can
envision other mobility options. The reality
is that whatever the preferred non automotive
mode, there needs to be a safe way to move around
the city and this is where infrastructure comes
in. While it's not possible to build a new subway
line in a month we can make our city safe for
cycling in a short amount of time if we wanted
to. And considering our subways are full this
is something that absolutely must be done prior
to congestion pricing being implemented in New
It is important to emphasize that making it safe to cycle in New York is not for the convenience of the small but vocal group of current cyclists but rather to exponentially increase cycling as a transportation mode in NYC.
An innovative solution to our problem of wanting
to get people out of cars but not having capacity
in public transit to accommodate them once they
are out is to use to technology to increase
efficiency of private autos. It's hard not to
notice that the amazing revolution in information
and communication hasn't been applied to our
transportation system. As an example the apple
I-phone, which was released with much fanfare
on June 29th contains built in Google maps,
containing live traffic information, mobile
Internet, and is one generation away from true
GPS. This offers a glimpse into the potential
of an application that can allow people to easily
find others going to the same place they are
going and thus be able to share rides. Think
of this as a form of e-hitch hiking. And by
applying what we have learned with social networking
and e-bay type user ratings, this can be made
Coupling information and communication also
opens the possibilities of being able to not
only share rides but also reserve and pay for
on demand light mobility systems. Think of kiosks
of Segways, bicycles, and electric carts placed
throughout the city available to pick up at
one location and drop off at another, once our
infrastructure allows for safe use. European
cities are already well ahead of us with the
adoption of hugely successful bicycle sharing
programs. Most noticeably system in Lyon, a
small city that is seeing 20,000 daily micro
rentals. And Paris just green-lighted a citywide
self-rent bike system with 20,000 bicycles and
1500 kiosks. There are companies trying to implement
systems like this over here such as http://www.intragomobility.com/,
and there are more than 5 startups in the Dynamic
Ride Sharing Space. The Bloomberg administration
should work with them and have the city act
as an incubator, for what we need is a modern
mobility system of which decreasing cars is
only one component of.
Adding efficiency to our plan is the smart
thing to do and with the subways maxed out also
necessary prior to implementing a congestion
plan in NYC. Such an innovative approach is
something that also takes us from follower to
leaders in transportation thinking and solutions.
Additionally with a recent release of a report
by the Union Of Concerned Scientists stating
that with Global Warming NY faces 100 year floods-which
will knock out the subway system-every
10 years the ability to increase surface efficiency
takes on added importance.
There are exemptions to every rule. In the case of Congestion Pricing the nuances matter. A lot.
What also has not been talked about in depth are the exemptions.
The New York plan calls for exemptions for Handicapped license plates, emergency vehicles and transit buses, yellow taxis and livery cabs.
It is our belief that this exemption list is a missed opportunity to decide what types of vehicles we want driven in our city. Traditionally this has been decided by Detroit for us and since this is our City, having a stake in deciding what types of vehicles we drive is long overdue. We live in a dense urban environment and many of the vehicles that we bring into this environment are out of context. It inherently makes more sense to drive smaller lighter vehicles in our city and the plan should have a mechanism to facilitate a shift in the private vehicle fleet. It is thus our suggestion that all electric vehicles, as well as the super-compacts such as the Smart Car, Honda Fit, Scion A, and Toyota Yaris, to name a few, and Motorcycles below 350 CC and scooters should be exempt from congestion charges.