NYLCV recently joined The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and Moms Clean Air Force as part of the Fix Our Transit Coalition to urge lawmakers in Albany to include a comprehensive congestion pricing plan in this year’s budget. The groups released a fact sheet of numerous environmental and public health benefits that congestion pricing would bring.
Congestion pricing, an idea that has been debated in New York since the 1970s, would impose a toll on vehicles entering the city during specific times in predetermined traffic-heavy areas. This could mean charging cars that drive south of a certain street, like 60th Street. Legislators in Albany are currently in negotiations to include congestion pricing as part of the state budget, which would pass on April 1st. Passing congestion pricing will improve transit reliability by providing funding for the MTA, while also reducing traffic, and decreasing emissions. It would reduce pollution, improve air quality, and lower asthma rates.
At the rally, NYLCV President Julie Tighe announced that congestion pricing will be included in NYLCV’s State Environmental Scorecard for 2019. This is the first year a budget proposal will be scored. Support for, or lack thereof, will be given twice the weight of other legislation in calculating final scores. A letter was sent to legislators notifying them of this announcement.
She said that congestion pricing could be the cornerstone we build on to transition the transportation sector, which is the #1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York.
She also discussed the public support for this solution. Over 500 NYLCV members have taken action to tell their representatives to pass Congestion Pricing. The majority of New Yorkers believe climate change is a very serious problem and will harm them personally. Vast majorities of New York voters want the state to invest in transportation choices that reduce air pollution.
Andy Darrell of the Environmental Defense Fund, Stu Gruskin of The Nature Conservancy in New York, and Rich Schrader of the Natural Resources Defense Council emphasized that congestion pricing could provide New York with a reliable public transit system, which would encourage New Yorkers to leave their cars at home. With the potential to raise over $1 billion every year, congestion pricing can help repair and modernizing the subways, electrify the city’s bus fleet, and improve commuter rail.
Cecil Corbin-Mark of WE ACT and Natalie Cronin of Moms Clean Air Force focused on how pollution affects vulnerable groups. Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by pollution, and children are often at risk as their lungs are still developing. Congestion pricing can reduce pollution, build a more equitable transportation future, and reduce school absenteeism. Only two percent of working poor New Yorkers from the outer boroughs would be affected by the charge as part of their commutes, while the 58% who take transit would benefit greatly.
The need for congestion pricing is growing. Public transportation has been plagued with delays, signal failures, and crumbling infrastructure. The sad state of the MTA encourages commuters to drive or take for-hire vehicles, clogging our streets and increasing air pollution.
New York was recently named the second most congested city in the world, after Los Angeles. Vehicles in Midtown Manhattan move at an average of 5 mph, just a little faster than walking. Over 2 million New Yorkers live or work within 500 feet of a congested roadway.
This congestion and pollution affects public health. One in ten children in New York State suffers from asthma and one in four children in New York City suffers from asthma. It is the leading cause of school absences in New York. Asthma-related hospital visits cost taxpayers $1.3 billion per year.
Local research shows that congestion pricing could decrease traffic congestion by 13% and prevent 2.1 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year in New York. That is equivalent to emissions from 740,000 passenger vehicles in one year and equivalent to powering 600,000 homes.
NYLCV will continue to keep congestion pricing a top priority. You can also help by telling your representative that you support congestion pricing. Take action here.