On Friday, we got our first look at the long-awaited Fix NYC Advisory Panel Report. The report has mostly been met with praise, even from frequent sources of criticism, and provides a template for how we can simultaneously get vehicles off the road, reduce emissions, and improve the efficiency of public transportation. These measures, in turn, will promote the public health of New York residents through reducing pollution, improving air quality, and offering more space for sustainable forms of transportation such as bike lanes.
Congestion and gridlock continue to block the artery that is Manhattan’s Central Business District. Traffic ambles at an average of 4.7 miles an hour. Bike lanes and iPhone-related apps such as Uber, trucks and buses blocking multiple lanes after red lights, and widespread construction mean less space for everyone, and contribute to shared angst over the traffic. Whether you are a vehicle driver, a pedestrian, or a biker, congestion in NYC has noticeably peaked over the last couple years, resulting in extra emissions, headache, road-rage, and the like.
With rising commute times leading to lower productivity at businesses, the cost of congestion is creeping far beyond the edges of the sidewalk and the double-parked vehicles in bike lanes. Over the course of the next five years, it will cost the city $100 billion. NYC’s traffic sprawl is surpassed only by that of Los Angeles and Moscow, and Governor Cuomo’s declaration of a State of Emergency for the subway in June 2017 illustrates the seriousness of New York’s transit dilemma, above and below-ground. Andrew Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan represents a long-welcome solution to a forty-year problem, which has escalated in the last decade, and threatens to spiral out of control.
The proposal encompasses three steps: first, invest in public transit for outer boroughs and suburbs, improve the enforcement of traffic laws, review bus’ effects on congestion, change laws for limousines, and reevaluate use of government parking placards. All of these measures serve to prepare drivers for the change that will come into effect in 2020, without pulling the rug out from beneath their feet. Second, the City will implement the $25 fees for trucks and $2-5 surcharge for for-hire-vehicles (FHVs). Lastly, NYC will turn the Central Business District (CBD)—below 60th street in Manhattan—into the pricing zone, excluding FDR drive and implementing a credit against the fee for those who enter the CBD from previously-tolled areas.
The plan has been described as “legit,” with details and timelines in place, and NYLCV believes this to be a huge step. Even NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, who has advocated for a tax on millionaires to fund MTA maintenance in the past, said the plan has “some good elements.” Now the challenge becomes ensuring Governor Cuomo does what it takes to make these recommendations a reality and wrangling a legislature that has killed earlier versions of congestion pricing in the past. The stakes are much higher now than they were ten years ago and despite the difficulty of getting such a complex policy through Albany in such a short amount of time, we expect all sides to negotiate in good faith toward a deal in this year’s budget. While we may quibble about some of the details ourselves, NYLCV looks forward to supporting our state leaders in this effort every step of the way.