A task force convened by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was tasked with recommending solutions to the severe traffic congestion problems in Manhattan’s CBD and identify sources of revenue to fix the ailing subway system.
I mean, OK. But this isn't that hard right? If only there were one thing that could solve those two problems at once.
Obviously it's congestion charging and it's heartening to see that, yes, that is what the task force recommended. The system could raise $1.5 billion annually, which while a lot of money, is nothing compared to the $100 billion that congestion will cost the economy of the metropolitan area over the next five years.
Fix NYC recommends a phased approach.
Phase One initiates investments to improve transit connectivity between the CBD and the outer boroughs and suburbs and calls for immediate stepped up enforcement by NYPD of existing traffic laws.
Phase Two calls for a surcharge on taxi and for-hire vehicle trips in the CBD at the conclusion of a ten month period to allow transportation service companies to install the appropriate GPS technology in all vehicles.
Phase Three features the installation of a zone pricing program, first for trucks, and then for all vehicles, entering Manhattan’s CBD below 60th Street.
In what I think is an error in judgement, the Fix NYC plan recommends spending 100% of the money on items in the Subway Action Plan. Not to take anything away from transit, but at least some of the solution to congestion is found in cycling and walking.
I would also disagree with this:
The Panel believes the MTA must first invest in public transportation alternatives and make improvements in the subway system before implementing a zone pricing plan to reduce congestion.
I'd say, first you get the money. Then you get the transit. And then you get the women (to feel safe riding bikes). Things are going to be awful in the near term no matter what, might as well get to phase two as fast as possible and then follow that with the transit investments in phase one made possible by the revenue.
Congestion charging in other cities has reduced congestion, raised revenue, made streets safer and improved air quality. Thus it's surprising that more mayors aren't clamoring to institute their own. San Francisco has shown a lot of interest (and still is) as has New York, but most other attempts are limited to tolling and HOT lanes, some of which don't even allow for the revenue to be spend on anything but car infrastructure. Instead, apparently, we're all getting electric scooters or something. Did not see that coming.
A previous effort to institute congestion pricing in NYC in 2008 failed at the state legislature, as this one might, but improved technology has allowed them to draw a smaller cordon this time. One that may be more politically viable.
Congestion charging, even if it invested nothing in cycling, would make biking more appealing as cyclists would not be required to pay and cycling would become safer. That's what happened in London.
research showed that cycling in the inner city increased by an impressive 66% since the introduction of the congestion charge. Cycling has also become safer: crashes in Central London decreased by 40%.
And if some of the revenue is plowed back into cycling, as was done in Milan, then that would further increase the appeal of cycling.
Setting up a congestion pricing system, and using the money to improve transit, biking and walking is probably the biggest things we can do to reduce congestion, improve mobility, improve health, reduce pollution and grow the local economy. Ideally I'd like to help people to get on bikes by removing barriers or entice them with carrots, not force them with a stick; but if roads get safer with less congestion and revenue goes into improved facilities, I think that's a program that's more carrot and more barrier removal than it is stick.
It's such a no-brainer that it's really a question of when we're going to do this, not if. The sooner the better.