The New York City Council Committee on Transportation held an oversight meeting last Monday regarding how New York City can more effectively address traffic congestion. This comes just a day after the Wall Street Journal published an article about advocacy group Move NY’s proposal to place a $2.75 tax on cars entering Manhattan below 60th Street, and their claim that the city could take these measures without state approval. Professor Roderick Hills of New York University crafted Move NY’s legal opinion, citing a 1957 law that says that cities with a population over a million have the power to toll their own roads and bridges. Move NY testified at the Council Committee on Transportation hearing, advocating for their solution as a way to reduce traffic congestion in downtown Manhattan while raising revenue for the City that could go towards improving transportation infrastructure and decreasing toll fares.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan were the first to give testimony on what their respective departments are doing to manage and reduce traffic congestion in the city. Following them, many stakeholders, representing a variety of interest groups, gave their own statements on traffic congestion and the best way to address it.
Traffic congestion in the city is a reflection of a growing economy with an inadequate public transportation network that has fallen behind the needs of its residents. Although three fourths of all commutes to Manhattan are made via public transit, transportation in the boroughs is largely dependent on automobiles. This exacerbates congestion as half of all workers who live and work in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island drive private automobiles to work, often because public transit is inaccessible in their area.
Adriana Espinoza, New York City Program Manager for NYLCV, was one of the representatives who advocated for improvements to mass transit in order to reduce traffic congestion and therefore decrease carbon emissions. In order to make borough-to-borough trips more accessible she proposed an upgrade to the bus system through all-door boarding, proof-of-payment fare collection, traffic signal priority, and bus lanes, all which have contributed to a 20% increase in bus ridership across the city according to the DOT. Furthermore, Adriana’s testimony referenced the 80×50 goals to increase in-city trips by bike from 1% to 10% by 2050, which depends on improvements to bike infrastructure such as protected bike lines and more available bike parking. In addition, improved walkability and expanded ferry and rail systems outside of Manhattan are vital to enhanced transit that will ultimately reduce traffic congestion.
Overall, the City Council Committee on Transportation heard a variety of opinions on how to best address the oppressive traffic congestion that currently plagues the city. Advocates like NYLCV’s Adriana Espinoza, highlighted the extensive work that needs to be done to improve public transit, and simultaneously decrease New York City’s carbon footprint. From the outer boroughs to Manhattan, low-carbon transportation infrastructure needs to be expanded and improved in order to help the city achieve its 80×50 goals.