TESTIMONY BEFORE THE ASSEMBLY COMMITTEES ON WAYS AND MEANS, TRANSPORTATION, CORPORATIONS, ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION, ENERGY AND CITIES
FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2007
PRESIDENT & CEO
The Partnership for
I would like to use the opportunity of this testimony to address concerns that are frequently raised about congestion pricing. The purpose of congestion pricing is to discourage people from driving private vehicles into the city during the busiest times. This creates two legitimate challenges that the Mayor's office and the MTA are working to address:
- Expanded mass transit options must be provided for areas of the city and region that are currently underserved; and
- Communities surrounding the Central Business District must be protected against an invasion of park-and-ride commuters.
We believe that both these challenges can be resolved with good planning and commitment of additional resources. On the other hand, there are a half dozen commonly raised concerns that we believe can be set aside more easily, drawing upon a huge body of research on the subject and the experience of other cities.
The first concern is generated by polls that show public opinion runs against congestion charges, generally in a ratio of 60:40. This ratio has been about the same in every city around the world before congestion pricing is introduced and before the details of the program and its benefits are clear. After a congestion pricing trial is underway, however, the ratio flips almost immediately and public opinion always runs heavily in favor of the charge. The air is cleaner, streets are safer and more pleasant, and riding a bus becomes an efficient and pleasant way to move around the city. Polls of New Yorkers show that opposition to a congestion fee comes from people who use mass transit as much as those who drive, illustrating that this is a reaction to the perceived imposition of a tax (which we all hate), not a concern about a modal shift. Until people see the dramatic results, the decision to charge for driving on roads that have formerly been free will take political courage.
The most common objection to congestion pricing is that it is a regressive tax. In fact, it is a progressive toll. Last December, the Partnership published a major study that quantified a cost of more than $13 billion a year that excess traffic congestion is imposing on businesses and residents of the Metropolitan Region. We are all paying this cost of congestion, whether we drive, use mass transit, or walk, and that is regressive. We also found that congestion throughout the region has passed the "tipping point" - that is, the point at which heavy traffic no longer contributes to a vibrant, healthy economy but is essentially destroying economic activity because it causes delay, inefficiency and increases the costs of living and doing business in
It is also alleged that Manhattanites are the only beneficiaries of the traffic relief program. In fact, the reason for locating a congestion pricing zone in the Central Business Districts of
Some fear that the pricing plan would put an unfair hardship on people who drive into
Another worry about congestion charges is that they would hurt small business. Experience shows, however, that nothing is better for business than streets that are free of gridlock so that customers can get to the stores, deliveries arrive on time, and employees don't face hours of delay in getting their jobs done. The local florist, for example, could make more deliveries in the same amount of time and save money on fuel and labor costs because of less idling in traffic. Experts confirm that the cost of freight delivery in
Introduction of more cameras to enforce congestion charging has also raised some alarm. On this issue, I think we have to say that the horse is long gone from the barn. There is virtually no place in
Finally, there is the question of how much it will cost to implement the pricing system and whether it will achieve the desired results. The federal DOT is prepared to provide funding to help pay for set up as well as a variety of transit improvements. In terms of results, we have the benefit of learning from the experience of other cities and also the Mayor has proposed a three-year pilot project. This means we have an opportunity to test how the system works, adjust it to achieve desired results, and correct for any errors.
Critical to the successful implementation of this plan are federal and state support, both in terms of funding, as well as legislative and regulatory assistance. We could probably spend several years debating the specifics of the perfect congestion pricing plan, but there are several reasons to act now. The federal DOT is offering as much as half a billion dollars if we agree to move forward with a program before the end of the federal fiscal year. There are enormous unmet funding needs for our regional transportation system - both capital and operating. It is important to act quickly to secure federal funds and to establish a new revenue stream for mass transit. Finally, our region is losing an estimated 50,000 jobs a year because of the negative impact of traffic congestion. To maintain the pace of economic growth, we need to act now.
A few weeks ago, the Partnership joined the Bloomberg Administration in hosting leaders of government and business from over forty world cities for the Large Cities Climate Summit. This historic event brought together mayors and business leaders from the world's largest cities from six continents to collaborate on efforts to stop climate change. The highlight of this summit was Mayor Bloomberg's presentation of PlaNYC. This document was hailed as the first truly comprehensive approach by a city to address all aspects of sustainable growth and carbon emission reduction. It has propelled
Senior Vice President
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