The following is a transcript from an event the Manhattan Institute
organized on December 7, 2006 titled "Road
Pricing Worked in London. Can It Work in New
Kathryn Wylde is president
& CEO of the Partnership for New York City,
the city's preeminent business leadership organization.
She joined the Partnership in 1982 and has served
as founding president & CEO of its major
two affiliates: the New York City Investment
Fund and the Housing Partnership Development
Corporation. An internationally known expert
in housing, economic development and urban affairs,
Wylde serves on a number of boards and advisory
groups, including the Port Authority of NY/NJ
Security Task Force, the Mayor's Sustainability
Advisory Board, the NYS Commission on Public
Authority Reform, the Special Commission on
the Future of NYS Courts, the NYC Economic Development
Corporation, the NYC Leadership Academy, the
Manhattan Institute and the Biomedical Research
Alliance of New York. She chairs the board of
Lutheran Medical Center, a community hospital
in her home borough of Brooklyn.
Bruce Schaller is a nationally recognized
expert in transportation policy, his New York
City work includes reports on: why people drive
into Manhattan; East River bridge tolls; bus
rapid transit; suburban commuter access to Lower
Manhattan; transit fare policy; taxicab regulation,
transportation operations for special events;
and transportation financing. His consulting
clients have included the Metropolitan Transportation
Authority, the City of New York, the Federal
Transportation Research Board, the Regional
Plan Association, the New York Metropolitan
Transportation Council, the NYPIRG Straphangers
Campaign, and Transportation Alternatives. He
has a Masters in public policy from the University
of California at Berkeley. At the time of the
report and panel discussion, Bruce Schaller
was principal of Schaller Consulting. As of
June 2007, Schaller became deputy commissioner
for planning and sustainability at the New York
City Department of Transportation. Among other
tasks, he is responsible for implementing any
congestion pricing program developed by New
Samuel I. Schwartz is president and
CEO of Sam Schwartz LLC, a firm specializing
in traffic and transportation engineering. He
writes the Daily News' "Gridlock
Sam" column and the "Gridlock Shmuel"
column for the Yiddish News Report. Mr.
Schwartz got his start studying New York City
traffic forty years ago when he worked as a
taxi driver while getting a degree in physics
from Brooklyn College. He worked for over two
decades at the New York City Department of Transportation,
serving as traffic commissioner, chief engineer
and first deputy commissioner. During the transit
strike of 1980, Schwartz was responsible for
moving 8 million people without subways, buses
or rail, as well as inventing the word "gridlock."
In 1980, following the strike plan's success,
he introduced the city's first congestion pricing
plan; the city, however, was sued by the Garage
Board of Trade and the Automobile Club of New
York, and the plan was never implemented. Schwartz
currently serves as a visiting scholar at New
York University. He has been adjunct professor
at Cooper Union, Long Island University, and
Brooklyn College and founded a public school:
The School for the Physical City. Schwartz has
a Masters in Civil Engineering & Transportation
Systems from the University of Pennsylvania
and is a professional engineer licensed to practice
in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
His many awards include Bridge Engineer of the
Year, Transportation Engineer of the Year, and
the Sage Award from the American Engineering
David Weprin was elected to the New
York City Council in 2001 and serves as the
Council's finance chair. As finance chair, Weprin
has overseen a city budget that has grown to
$55.6 billion for the 2007 fiscal year. Prior
to his election to the Council, Weprin held
a variety of leadership positions at Donaldson,
Lufkin & Jenrette, Kidder Peabody, Paine
Weber, Inc., and Advest, Inc. He was elected
by his peers to serve as chairman of the Securities
Industry Association, New York District. Weprin
also serves as Democratic district leader and
executive board member of the Saul Weprin Democratic
Club and serves or has served as an officer
or board member for a wide variety of community
Hope Cohen has been deputy director
of the Manhattan Institute's Center for Rethinking
Development (CRD) since February 2006. Before
joining CRD, she worked in a variety of planning,
management, and IT positions at MTA/New York
City Transit and the New York City Parks &
Recreation Department. She has also served for
over 11 years on Manhattan Community Board 7,
including two years as Board Chairperson.
* * *
HOPE COHEN: I am deputy director
of the Center for Rethinking Development (CRD)
at the Manhattan Institute. At CRD, we work
to foster a new understanding of the importance
of good development to the city's well-being.
Traditionally, that has meant focusing on issues
of zoning, planning, and housing.
But more recently, we have begun to
focus on the infrastructure needed to make New
York work. We're sponsoring this program today
because we believe that good transportation is
vital for the city to function and grow; and,
frankly, our transportation system is strained
almost to the breaking point in many places and
clearly will not be able to handle the additional
million people anticipated to be here in the next
So we have to start figuring out how
to make our transportation system work better
and be more efficient. That includes discouraging
unnecessary and inefficient car trips-especially,
but not only, in Manhattan. New York's clogged
streets increase the difficulty and cost of building.
And the noise, stress, and pollution make New
York less attractive than it can be in competing
for businesses and residents.
Road pricing solutions have been around
for about 50 years, and they are embraced by
transportation and environmental elites; but
traditionally, New Yorkers have never accepted
these ideas. We at the Manhattan Institute wondered,
however, if those anti-road pricing attitudes
are changing. As the city continues to grow
and traffic gets worse and worse, and as other
cities such as London begin to implement pricing
programs and electronic toll collection devices
like E-ZPass become commonplace, we wondered
if perhaps New Yorkers' attitudes about road
pricing were evolving.
The Manhattan Institute hired transportation
expert Bruce Schaller to find out the answers
to this question. He conducted several focus
groups for the Institute, and in a few minutes
he will be sharing the findings of his new report
"Battling Traffic: What New Yorkers Think
About Road Pricing."
First, however, we are going to hear
from Kathryn Wylde about the congestion pricing
study just released by the Partnership for New
York City; then Bruce Schaller will discuss his
research and findings; then we'll hear from Sam
Schwartz, who first proposed a congestion pricing
plan for New York back in 1980; finally, council
member David Weprin, who speaks so eloquently
for the people of eastern Queens, will weigh in
on the pros and cons of congestion pricing.
KATHRYN WYLDE: The Partnership
for New York City is a business leadership organization.
We got involved in the issue of congestion and
congestion pricing as a result of the experience
of our international companies in London and other
cities around the world that saw dramatic improvements
in their traffic congestion when they introduced,
as they say in London, "road-charging schemes."
The Partnership felt that we had to
look at the potential economic impact of congestion
pricing, but then we said, "Wait a minute.
The first thing we have to do is understand what
the impact of traffic congestion is on our economy."
We found that there was no evidence
or information, no strategy or methodology for
analyzing the economic impact of congestion. So
we found David Lewis, who is a transportation
economist who runs a firm out of Ottawa called
Decision Economics, as part of a company called
We recruited them, and we've worked
for the past year with the economists to develop
a new approach that is different from what has
been done in the past by traffic and transportation
experts: we take a look at the cost to and the
impact on the overall economy, at both a macro
level and within individual industry sectors.
The complete Partnership report is
available on our website, but today I will highlight
its conclusions. The bottom line is that, from
a standpoint of out-of-pocket costs, lost revenues
in the entire 28-county, tristate metro New York
region due to traffic congestion total well over
$13 billion a year. And, in the foreseeable future,
we're looking at economic contraction of another
$3-4 billion a year and up to 52,000 lost jobs
a year. So the bottom line got our attention.
It became clear that in looking at
congestion and its remedies, one had to look also
at other transit options and ensure that we had
those in place before we started any congestion
pricing plan. So that also became a major part
of the study.
This is a regional problem. During
peak periods, traffic travels at under 12 miles
per hour across the region, and I think this is
something that we haven't been conscious of. Then
there is the number of hours that people spend
delayed in traffic across the region. Long Island,
which is far more dependent on cars than the rest
of the region is, suffers most, with Queens close
behind: 20 percent of the traffic congestion delay
is in Queens.
The other thing that David Lewis and
his team of economists did for us was come up
with a definition and a way to calculate the tipping
point. We all want a busy city. We want people
coming into Manhattan. We want traffic and activity.
There is a point at which, however, traffic goes
negative on us and starts destroying our economy,
discouraging people from coming in. There is a
point where the costs, the inefficiencies, and
the logistics make it a bad place to do business.
And the calculation that David Lewis made, which
is discussed in detail in our report, is that
48 percent of the traffic in New York City is
excess traffic, destructive traffic causing inefficiency
and losses to our economy. When we do the quantification-the
$13 billion number, the 52,000 lost jobs-all we're
talking about is that excess congestion. We are
not talking about normal traffic that we can all
put up with.
This damaging "excess" congestion
is pretty evenly distributed across the tristate
region. While Manhattan is the source of the problem,
the entire metropolitan region suffers. In the
boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, we're talking
about losses of over $2 billion a year from their
local economies due to excess congestion.
The source of the problem is Manhattan's
central business district (CBD), which is the
concentration of economic activity for a 28-county
region. Fortunately, we have a great mass transit
system; 67 percent of the people in the region
take mass transit coming into Manhattan. But of
the 3.6 million people who come into Manhattan
every day, only 1.8 million are coming to work.
A third come by vehicle, plus there are 600,000
people living in the southern half of Manhattan,
and virtually every tourist who comes to New York
City visits Manhattan south of 60th Street.
This translates into 810,000 vehicles
a day, 40 percent single-occupancy vehicles, 19
percent just passing through. Surprisingly-at
least we were surprised, and we took a close look
at this-trucks account for only 5.4 percent of
traffic. Most New Yorkers think that trucks are
responsible for our congestion problem. However,
by virtue of volume, they certainly are not.
Important issues regarding the accommodation
of trucks and freight-loading facilities need
to be addressed. Certainly, there's a lot that
has to be done there. But our analysis indicates
that messing with trucks could really mess up
our economy, especially the logistics and the
costs associated with just-in-time delivery. We
don't have a rail freight system serving this
region. We are entirely dependent on trucks; small
business, in particular, would be badly damaged
if we started regulating truck time. We looked
closely at that option, thinking that that might
be the low-hanging fruit, but it turned out not
We at the Partnership ask ourselves
all the time: What is contributing to the cost
of doing business in New York? Higher salaries,
in a way, directly relate to the length of commute
and the difficulty of commute in terms of attracting
talent. Think of the logistical costs, the delay
costs, the productivity losses, and the parking
tickets. There are a whole series of costs associated
with traffic congestion that we've begun now to
quantify and understand.
We are a headquarters city, and that
means people coming in and out by airplanes, in
particular, and having to move from the airports
into the center city and out again for us to be
able to function. The excessive congestion has
affected not just commuters-and New York has the
longest commutes in the country-but also work-related
travel time, which adds to the costs for employers
and is starting to take a toll on the economy.
We wonder why construction costs are
going up one percent a month in New York. A major
contributor to construction problems and delays
is traffic congestion. Congestion also has a negative
impact on manufacturing, which is an industry
we've been hemorrhaging for the last decade. These
are very low-margin sectors where, again, the
cost of inventory and the high cost of real estate,
of keeping inventory, of shipping and delay are
all passed along. All these costs, of course,
are passed along to retailers and, ultimately,
I should note that our numbers are
adjusted for regional displacement. For example,
when people want to go to a restaurant, if traffic
congestion discourages them from coming to the
center city to a restaurant, they go to a restaurant
in the region. The economic model we used has
adjusted for all that displacement that stays
within the 28-county region. So we're really talking
about lost business to the region. We're not talking
about displaced business within the region. The
job losses are concentrated in Manhattan, on a
percentage basis, because that's where the huge
concentration of jobs is. But every county in
the region, including nearby New Jersey, is suffering
a significant loss of jobs because of traffic
congestion generated by the magnetic pull of Manhattan
and the through traffic that's going to and from
We looked at what London is doing.
It started in February 2003. It has a system that
includes a daily charge for entering the center
city and exemptions for bicycles, taxis, and special
user groups. The wonderful thing about technology
and E-ZPass is that you can do just about anything
with these systems. After three years, the results
are in and anybody who tells you that London's
program is not working is not paying attention.
There has been an average 17 percent reduction
in total traffic. Trip speed is 19 percent. Trip
reliability is also up, which is very important
to business and professional services, as it saves
time when you don't have to leave a half-hour
early to make sure that you get someplace.
Bus ridership in London is up 37 percent-and
this aspect may be of special interest to us here
in New York. Before it instituted its congestion
pricing plan, London bought 300 buses, equipped
them with global positioning devices, and set
up a system that was able to accommodate additional
people. Obviously, capacity is a huge problem
in New York, as well. Interestingly, in London
only 15 percent of the folks driving into center
city changed what they were doing to achieve those
dramatic results; 85 percent pay the fee and keep
going; 50 percent of those who changed what they
were doing shifted to transit.
There are a number of options for
New York to reduce vehicle traffic, and we certainly
do not think that congestion pricing is the
first or only one of them. We have to think
very carefully when dealing with freight, but
there is much that can be done with incentives
for better accommodation and management of freight
On-street parking offers an opportunity,
and there has been some work done in that area-but
not enough to accommodate commercial traffic
at curbside. More needs to be done. I'm sure
that more will be said later on public parking
permits, among other things.
Bus rapid transit, which is being
tested now, offers promise for moving people more
quickly, although, again, buses can only move
as fast as general traffic until we have dedicated
lanes set up. In many of the most congested parts
of the city, this is going to be very hard to
achieve without a general improvement in traffic.
Expanded regional ferry network is
something we've been in favor of for a long time,
and it can be done at a relatively low cost. Finally,
introducing road charges and looking at congestion
pricing is another option.
If we were to achieve what London
has-a 15 percent change in how people go to work,
getting people out of cars and coming into the
central business district by other means-the impact
could be substantial. If we got the London-like
results, Manhattan traffic would be reduced by
27 percent; downtown Brooklyn, 29 percent; South
Bronx, 7 percent; 125th Street, 18 percent; and
Staten Island, 5 percent. As you can see, there
would be a ripple effect throughout the region
if we were to achieve what London has achieved.
It is clear to us that something has
to be done. As Hope mentioned, in the next 25
years the predictions are that New York City will
have a million more residents, 750,000 more jobs,
and a projected 20 percent increase in the number
of vehicles entering Manhattan, which would put
the number at more than a million per day. If
we don't act now, the problems are only going
to get much worse.
So our recommendation: this week in
the Federal Register, the Federal Department of
Transportation is putting out an offer. It is
going to select five cities to enter into urban
partnerships, which will give federal funding
for further study of congestion relief measures
and will also provide those cities that participate
with priority for their public transit funding
investments, in terms of moving to the top of
the list, and provide extra funds for them. We
are recommending that New York City apply for
this federal money to begin to experiment with
various congestion relief measures, including
BRUCE SCHALLER: I'd like to
thank Hope Cohen and the Manhattan Institute for
the opportunity to work on this important and
timely issue. I'd also like to thank those of
you who are here who helped us in the research
with your advice.
The first question that comes to mind
when you start to think about things like congestion
pricing is: Why would you want to think about
something like this? As we've seen in the media
this week, and I'm sure we'll see in the discussion
today, there's strong public resistance to such
things as congestion pricing. That resistance
is based, in part, on opposition to anything like
a fee, or toll, which often comes across as a
tax; and we know how people feel about taxes.
There's also strong concern about how pricing
would affect certain groups, such as low-income
people, and people who lack a good transit alternative
to the motor vehicle.
There are, however, a number of reasons
to look at congestion pricing and other types
of fees and charges for the use of streets and
highways, which together we're calling road pricing.
There's the cost of congestion to the city's economy,
as Kathy has detailed in her excellent report.
There's also the way that unpredictable travel
times, truck and auto exhaust, and sometimes the
peril of just crossing the street make New York
something less than the kind of city that New
Yorkers would like to live in.
Traffic congestion isn't just an economic
issue. For the average New Yorker, traffic congestion
is also an important quality-of-life issue and
one that recent polls show most New Yorkers
very much want the city to do something about.
Moreover, it's hard to see, as has been mentioned
twice already, how we're going to accommodate
another million new residents in New York if
we don't do something about the traffic.
A final and very important reason
to talk about road pricing is that it's effective.
It works. Cities such as London, Stockholm,
and Singapore have shown reductions of up to
35 percent in the number of vehicles that are
subject to a charge for coming into the center
city. There are no other options on the table-none
that I can think of, or have read or talked
about-that would have such an impact on traffic
Even with these reasons in support
of looking at road pricing options, there is
obviously strong opposition. A recent public
opinion poll by the Tri-State Transportation
Campaign showed that in New York City, the public
is evenly divided in terms of congestion pricing.
So, as the mayor's comments earlier this week
reflected, the main barrier to road pricing
is its acceptability to the public and the political
implications of that. In our research, we set
out to face this public opinion issue squarely.
The questions we asked were: What
role, if any, should road pricing play in improving
transportation in New York City? What type of
plan would improve transportation in New York
City? What would be a sensible road pricing plan,
one that would gain public acceptance and support?
Those were the research questions.
This is the first research study to look in-depth
at these questions, and so we chose a focus-group
methodology to explore them. We did eight different
groups with different segments that represent
every type of transportation throughout the region,
residents from both the city and the suburbs.
We also did focus groups with small businesses,
restaurants, retail, and companies that make deliveries
in Manhattan. We wanted to understand the public's
views about road pricing from every possible perspective.
We wanted their opinions about how transportation
could be improved not just big-picture but from
the perspective of the day-to-day transportation
difficulties that people face as they move around
the city and in the suburban areas.
In each of these three groups-residents,
small businesses, and delivery companies-we tested
three road pricing concepts: first, a London-style
congestion pricing plan that would apply below
60th Street in Manhattan; second, a concept of
express lanes with tolls on selected highways
throughout the five boroughs. These express lanes
would be reserved for high-occupancy vehicles
such as cars with three or more people and, obviously,
buses. Other cars would also be able to use E-ZPass
to pay a toll to use the express lane. The toll
would be set high enough to maintain uncongested
speeds in the express lane, while the general-purpose
lane would presumably remain highly congested.
The third concept is increasing the cost of metered
on-street parking in commercial areas of the city.
The intent of this third idea would be to increase
the turnover of vehicles in the parking spots,
make it easier to find an open spot, and to encourage
motorists to use off-street parking for longer
By talking about this range of forms
of road pricing, we were able, in focus groups,
to obtain a three-dimensional understanding of
what people do and don't like about pricing. So
how did our focus groups respond to these concepts?
Overall, express lanes with tolls receive the
broadest support. Even drivers who use highways
outside Manhattan were particularly in favor of
this concept, showing that those who would pay
the charges will support at least this one form
of road pricing.
A major conclusion from the research
is that road pricing is not a political nonstarter.
Certain forms of road pricing can win public support
from people who wouldn't pay, as well as people
who would pay, the charge.
Response to congestion pricing was
mixed, similar to the Tri-State Transportation
Campaign poll results that I referenced earlier.
Some people supported the concept, and others
were strongly opposed. The reaction, notably,
was mixed in each of the segments that we looked
at. It was mixed among transit users as well as
among auto users. Reaction was mixed within the
groups. Reaction was also mixed both at the beginning
of the discussions and after our extensive discussion
of congestion pricing in each of the focus groups.
A second major conclusion of the study
is that London-style congestion pricing is unlikely
to win broad support in New York City. The same
type of mixed response and the same conclusion
apply to the parking-fee concept that was tested
in the focus groups.
Given these results, one wonders why
a concept like express lanes with tolls attracts
broad support, even from those who would pay the
tolls, while other pricing concepts that we tested
received very mixed results. What are the ingredients
that must be present in a successful road pricing
program? When looking at the reaction to the three
concepts, we identified six factors that underlie
or that drive the public response to road pricing.
First, people have to believe that
pricing will, in fact, induce fewer people to
drive. This may seem obvious, but it's a very
important point. For example, many auto users
expect that they will continue to drive. They
think: "I like the comfort and convenience
of my car. It's a hassle to take public transportation
from areas like eastern Queens, the outer parts
of Brooklyn, and Staten Island, into the Manhattan
central business district. If I'm going to continue
to drive, so will other people." According
to this line of thinking, pricing won't affect
congestion, so it just becomes a mandatory fee
with no benefit to the driver.
Drivers from eastern Queens, the outer
parts of Brooklyn, and Staten Island were particularly
adamant in this view, as were the delivery-company
owners who make deliveries in Manhattan. They
suggested that trucks, commercial vehicles, and
taxis are the predominant vehicles in midtown
during the day. They need to be there. So, in
their minds, pricing would not have much impact
on reducing congestion.
Second, pricing needs to lead to improvements
in people's day-to-day experience of the transportation
system. For example, subway commuters may be,
at best, lukewarm toward pricing, unless it addresses
the problems that they personally experience,
such as subway crowding, which pricing conceivably
could even worsen, causing delays on subways and
Third is the concept of improving
transportation choices-not just the mode that
I'm using now but the choice that I have to select
from. We saw the drivers support the express-lane
concept, because it gives them a new choice. When
they're in a hurry, they can choose to pay a toll
to have an uncongested, faster trip. At other
times, if they are not in a rush and don't want
to pay the toll, they can do the same thing that
they do now, by staying in general-purpose, more
A fourth consideration is the impact
on other New Yorkers. People don't just think
of the impact of pricing on themselves personally.
Interestingly, focus-group respondents, particularly
transit users, thought about other types of people
who would be affected by a charge. They thought
about the working person, parents dropping off
kids at school, the elderly going to medical appointments
in the Manhattan central business district, and,
of course, commuters who lack viable transit options.
The impact of pricing on these groups may lead
transit users, as well as auto users, to oppose
Fifth, it's also important that the
program is enforced and that revenues be used
for the purposes that they're intended: public
transportation and road improvements. People
cited such cases as OTB and the lottery, where
revenues raised were promised for one thing
but, in their perception, were actually used
for something else.
Finally-and Kathy emphasized this-the
non-pricing steps should encourage the use of
public transportation and address the many varied
causes of traffic congestion. Pricing does not
solve all problems, by any means. So you have
the impact of deliveries in commercial areas
and the impact of taxis picking up and dropping
off at places other than along the curb. You
have so many people crossing the street, blocking
movements of cars trying to make a turn. There
are many causes of congestion. People in the
focus groups were very sophisticated about all
the things that contribute to congestion and
the need for a comprehensive set of programs.
No one program will do the trick.
So what would be a sensible and effective
plan that meets the public's needs and that answers
these questions? Our conclusions come in two parts:
first, a specific plan for road pricing that I'll
set out as a basis for discussion; and second,
a road map for moving from where we are today
toward a consideration of road pricing in New
The first element of the plan is a
targeted form of congestion pricing. It's a targeted
form because the charges apply only at the times
and places that congestion is most severe. And
I think we all know what those are: traveling
inbound to the Manhattan CBD, the area below 60th
Street, in the morning rush hour; midday throughout
the Manhattan CBD; and leaving the CBD in the
afternoon rush hour.
So rather than having one relatively
large charge that would apply from 6:30 or 7:00
in the morning until 6:30 at night, as London
has done, our plan has three smaller charges that
are targeted at each of these key times and places,
each of these types of trips.
First, there would be an AM cordon
fee, which would apply to vehicles entering the
CBD below 60th Street in Manhattan in the AM peak.
The fee might be variable, so it might start lower
and then rise over this time period, as traffic
builds. Motorists driving into the CBD would pay
the fee as they cross the Hudson River, the East
River, or 60th Street. Those driving out of the
CBD would not pay, so reverse commuters would
not pay, nor would anyone who is simply making
a trip from one place to another within the CBD
in this morning peak time.
Second, there would be a midday fee
that would apply from, say, about 10 AM to 4 PM.
This fee would apply to any vehicle driving in
the Manhattan CBD, whether the trips are within
the CBD coming into or going out of the CBD.
Then there would be a PM cordon fee,
which would apply to vehicles leaving the CBD
in the afternoon peak. Like the AM fee, the
PM fee would not apply to vehicles traveling
in the reverse direction, nor to vehicles simply
traveling within the CBD. So each of these fees
targets the times and places where congestion
is most severe.
For the focus-group discussion,
we suggested that each of these CBD fees would
be $4. In addition to the CBD fees, the plan
includes express lanes on selected major highways
throughout the city. Express lanes would be
open to vehicles that would pay a toll for the
use of them, as well as to high-occupancy vehicles,
buses, and the like. An essential part of this
is that the fees would vary by time of day.
It would be highest when congestion is most
severe, which might be rush hour, midday, or
throughout all those periods, depending on the
On the other hand, there would be
no fee for using the express lanes when the
general-purpose lane is uncongested. Express
lanes would be implemented on major highways,
as practical, given the considerable physical
and operational constraints that exist. An upcoming
study for the New York State Department of Transportation
will help to identify feasible highway corridors.
The final part of the plan is a
pilot parking-fee program on selected blocks
in commercial areas. The charges would be set
to achieve a reasonable level of vehicular turnover
in order to demonstrate to people the effectiveness
of this approach in increasing the availability
of parking. People in the focus groups were
very skeptical that any type of parking pricing
would make it easier to find a parking spot.
So I think the first step is to do a pilot that
shows people that this would, in fact, be the
case and provide a basis for further discussion.
How would this plan affect various
types of trips? Let's take a few examples. The
rush-hour commuter who drives over the Brooklyn
Bridge would pay $8 in fees per day: $4 inbound
in the morning and $4 outbound in the afternoon.
The same commuter who goes home late in the
day would pay the AM fee of $4, but no PM fee,
if he is going home after 6:30 PM. So, again,
it applies to each trip, and there is a sort
of incentive to go home later.
A salesperson who commutes into
Manhattan and then drives around during the
day making calls would pay $12, the most that
anyone would pay per day. Motorists would receive
a credit on the AM and PM cordon fees for any
bridge or tunnel tolls that they might pay.
Thus, rush-hour commuters from Queens who use
the Midtown Tunnel would pay the tunnel toll
as they do now but would not pay a cordon fee.
A number of drivers would pay no
fees-for example, the janitor who works midnight
to 8 AM. These are the groups of people that
the focus-group participants expressed particular
concern about: someone driving in for a Broadway
show who drives into the city in the late afternoon;
the CBD resident who commutes out to Queens;
or the parent who lives on the Lower East Side
and drops off the kids at a downtown school
and parks by 10 AM.
The plan that we recommend recognizes
that, as Kathy suggested, traffic congestion
is a citywide problem. The express lanes are
one method of providing citywide traffic relief.
The CBD cordon fees also reduce traffic not
just below 60th Street but in downtown Brooklyn,
Long Island City, on the Upper East Side, the
Upper West Side, and many other parts of the
city, as well, because fewer motorists would
be driving into the Manhattan CBD.
This plan particularly helps downtown
Brooklyn and Long Island City by removing the
incentives for motorists to use the free East
River bridges in order to avoid the tunnel tolls.
The plan targets road pricing to the times and
places that the congestion is most severe, thus,
as we've seen from the examples, minimizing
the effects on motorists who are not really
a part of the congestion problem.
This is a plan for all of New York.
It selects the best-practice elements from London,
Stockholm, and Sweden, in terms of express tolls
from other parts of this country, to meet the
needs of our city and provide citywide traffic
That's the pricing part of the plan.
Now I'll go over the equally important non-pricing
elements of the plan.
Revenues from fees and tolls should
be used to improve transit and roads in the
city. Most of the funds should be allocated
to improvements in public transportation, especially
in areas where people drive because they're
not well served by public transportation.
The heaviest concentrations of auto
commuters to the CBD live in eastern Queens,
Staten Island, and, interestingly, on the Upper
East Side of Manhattan. These areas need faster
and more reliable transit service to the CBD,
which could be paid for using congestion fees.
I saw in the newspapers this week
that people talk about folks in eastern Queens
as not having subway service, and the assumption
is that they all drive into the CBD. In fact,
this isn't the case. There is no area of the
city where most people going to work into the
CBD are driving.
Anyplace you look, most people are
using public transportation. So if you look
at eastern Queens, for example, by a two-to-one
majority, CBD commuters from these areas already
use public transportation. They would be helped
by this plan, assuming that the revenue is used
to improve their commutes.
The allocation of revenues to public
transportation and roads needs to be guaranteed
through some appropriate mechanism. This needs
further discussion. People are very concerned
about what will actually happen to the revenues.
There needs to be a carefully designed
array of non-pricing congestion reduction steps,
as we've discussed. It's essential to show that
things are moving in the right direction by
implementing short-term programs currently in
the planning stages, such as bus rapid transit.
Finally, there should be a public
dialogue about transportation problems: the
importance of doing something about them; the
advantages and the disadvantages of a range
of pricing and non-pricing solutions; and the
impact of alternative solutions on congestion,
equity, and other considerations.
New York needs to have a broad discussion
about how traffic congestion affects the economy
and our quality of life and what we want to
do about it. This study and our discussion today
are intended to contribute to that dialogue.
There are clearly many challenges
to pursuing the plan that we recommend. The
details need to be discussed and refined. There
are substantial institutional hurdles. There
are substantial challenges in terms of just
getting the technology right.
But despite these challenges, at
this point we are able to answer a few key questions.
Can a plan that includes road pricing work as
intended? From the experience of London and
elsewhere, we see that the answer is yes. Would
it have a beneficial effect on the city's economy?
From the New York City Partnership study, we
see that the answer is yes. Would it improve
the quality of life in the city? From the focus
groups, we see very clearly that the answer
is yes. Can it gain support from the public?
We see from this research that the answer is
SAM SCHWARTZ: If congestion
pricing is such a good idea, and it was a good
idea back in 1980 and in 1970, why hasn't it
hasn't been implemented? What's going wrong
with congestion pricing?
Plans like this have surfaced in
the past. I think it's really important to look
at the history and then figure out if there
is a way that we can address the concerns. I
know that Councilman Weprin has a lot of concerns,
which we will hear in a few minutes. How can
we address the concerns of the people from Brooklyn,
Queens, Staten Island, and the other boroughs
in dealing with this issue?
Looking at the history, we once
had congestion pricing. Until 1911, there were
tolls on the East River bridges. Every way to
get into Manhattan was tolled. After an assassination
attempt on Mayor William Gaynor's life, tolls
were removed. I'm told that the two events were
In 1951, congestion pricing, the
concept of using a capitalist approach to traffic,
was conceived here by William Vickery, an economics
professor at Columbia University who went on
to win the Nobel Prize. I'm so jealous that
London did it first, when the idea was born
here in New York.
From 1971 to 1973, I worked with
Brian Ketchum on the transportation control
plan, which included congestion pricing. We
got it approved by Mayor John Lindsay and Governor
Malcolm Wilson but were later beaten down by
Elizabeth Holtzman, a Brooklyn congresswoman,
and Daniel Moynihan, with the Holtzman-Moynihan
Abe Beame asked me to look at the
plan, and I concluded in my report that it would
work. That report never saw the light of day.
After the successful outcome of the 1980 11-day
transit strike, the Koch administration was
hailed as heroic, and we were asked, "What
kinds of things could we do to improve transportation
in New York?" We singled out the single-occupant
car and said, "If anybody should have to
pay to come into Manhattan, it's the single-occupant
We got local laws passed that required
the single-occupant car to use the toll facilities.
They couldn't use the free bridges from 6 AM
to 10 AM. Ironically, we were sued by the Garage
Board of Trade. All garages practice congestion
pricing. But we were also sued by the Automobile
In 1986, under Ross Sandler, again,
with Ed Koch, we released a plan that was referred
to as the draconian measures, including congestion
pricing. We didn't call it the draconian measures;
others called it that. So we've gotten beaten
up over the years. I'm a veteran of the congestion
pricing wars. I'd like to see it finally implemented.
I think it has a lot of very positive effects,
but it's got to be a different program.
What we have in New York right now
stinks. We have the world's worst pricing scheme.
We toll people to drive from Queens to the Rockaways,
but we don't toll people to drive from Queens
into the central business district over the
Queensboro Bridge. We toll everybody driving
from Staten Island to anywhere. We toll anybody
driving from Queens up to the Bronx.
So my plan is to remove all tolls
from the Verrazano Bridge-where they don't belong-and
from the Whitestone Bridge, the Throgs Neck
Bridge, the Gil Hodges Bridge out to the Rockaways,
and the Cross Bay Boulevard Bridge, and then
apply congestion pricing only where we have
two situations: congestion and good transit
alternatives. So we would apply that to the
central business district.
What does that do? First, the program
can't be viewed as a tax. That's what's killing
it. Tax, tax, tax. What politician is going
to say, "I voted for a tax"? It should
be a revenue-neutral program. The Bridge and
Tunnel Authority collects a billion dollars
a year now. It should be a billion dollars afterward.
The Port Authority collects, I think, $600 million.
It should stay at that level with some inflation
thrown in. So it's not a tax.
Second, the people from Brooklyn
and Queens would suddenly have five river crossings
that they wouldn't have to pay any tolls on.
And the only place that they would pay tolls
is not on the river crossings but when they
get into the central business district.
If you want to drive over the Brooklyn
Bridge, go up the FDR Drive, and go out the
Willis Avenue Bridge to the Bronx, I would say
no tolls. You didn't set rubber in midtown Manhattan.
So we need to rethink things. We
have to give Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island
a great deal. We have to recognize that we are
dealing with drivers, and they are part of the
population. I think those of us who have been
advocating congestion pricing for a long time
have been talking to one another. We've been
talking to people who ride the subways. We haven't
been talking to people who drive cars.
We have to-if we're going to make
this work-make it real congestion pricing. London
didn't set up tolls 20 or 30 miles out of central
London. Congestion pricing is in central London;
that's the only place where it belongs.
And if we do that, maybe we've got
a chance, and I won't be back here in 20 years.
I don't know if I've got that much longer in
this business to be talking about congestion
DAVID WEPRIN: I'm going to
tell you story about a man who drives his Rolls-Royce
into downtown Manhattan. He's about to go on
a two-week business trip and goes into a bank
in downtown Manhattan and asks for a $5,000
loan. The loan officer asks, "Do you have
any collateral for the loan?" The man says,
"Well, I have my Rolls-Royce here. It's
worth a lot of money." "Okay, that
works. We'll take your Rolls-Royce."
The loan officer puts the car in
the private underground parking garage for senior
executives of the bank. The man takes his $5,000
and goes to Europe. He comes back two weeks
later and returns to the same bank. He goes
to the same loan officer and says, "I'd
like to pay off my loan." So the loan officer
says, "That's fine. It'll be $5,000 in
principal and $15 in interest. The man quickly
writes a check for $5,015, and the loan officer,
before the man leaves, says, "Excuse me,
sir. We were just wondering, why would a man
who drives a Rolls-Royce need a $5,000 loan?"
The man said, "Well, I really didn't. But,
frankly, where else can I park my car in Manhattan
for two weeks for $15?"
That's a whole other issue, I guess,
which perhaps we'll get into. A lot has been
said about eastern Queens, and I do represent
a district in eastern Queens. The nearest subway
station to most of my district is three or four
miles away. In some cases, it's about a mile
and a half to the 179th Street subway. But we're
also not accessible to bus lines, for the most
part. Most people who take public transportation
in Queens actually take their car to that public
The Queens Chamber of Commerce did
a study showing that about 40 percent of the
people who commute by car into Manhattan come
from Queens and that they have little choice
but to come by car. We rely on those free bridges
because it gets expensive, especially for residents
with relatively modest incomes. You can argue
the statistics. The Queens Chamber of Commerce
did a study showing that the average income
of a Queens commuter was $42,000. Kathy Wylde
actually grabbed me earlier and said, "That
statistic is wrong. It's really $72,000 or $75,000."
Even $72,000 or $75,000, we're not
talking about wealthy individuals. And when
you're dealing with individuals who are middle
class and struggling to make a living, imposing
a tax-and it is a tax on those residents-is
really not fair.
Sam Schwartz referred to making
all the bridges free. Using the hat of my prior
investment banking career, I think that there
might be some issues of outstanding bonds because,
of course, you have 30- and 20-year bonds outstanding,
and there are certain covenants involving the
revenue earmarked for the debt service. I'm
sure that there are legal issues, but it is
an intriguing possibility for future discussion.
But, as you know, this is not a new topic, and
Sam Schwartz will be the first one to tell you
that it isn't a new topic.
I think that there is a major problem
with congestion; I'll be the first one to say
that. But I don't think the answer is to tax
residents of Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island,
and the Bronx. I think the problem is enforcement
of existing traffic rules.
I've come up with four or five suggestions
for how we can reduce traffic with the current
pricing scheme. Those of you who have driven
into Manhattan and even those of who have taken
taxis in Manhattan know the problems created
by double- and triple-parked cars all over Manhattan.
Clearly, that is illegal, but there is no enforcement.
We have to put more resources into cracking
down on enforcement of double- and triple-parked
Taxis are required to pick up and discharge
passengers at the curb or close to the curb.
How many times have you been in the flow of
traffic when a taxi would stop dead in the middle
of the road and cause major congestion because
he is picking up a fare or discharging a fare?
We need additional public transportation.
I'd love to see a subway in my district. We
have some express buses, but in recent years
they've been cut back; we really need more express
That's another way to deal with
that issue. But a lot of the congestion in Manhattan
deals with traffic problems and enforcement
of existing traffic laws-such as double- and
triple-parking, taxis that are discharging and
picking up passengers illegally, and other violations
of existing traffic laws.
A lot of people have referred to
the London experience. The London experience
has been good, as far as reducing traffic, but
there are organizations in the London area that
have disputed the results. They have not disputed
that the London experience has reduced traffic,
but they have argued that it has hurt the economy
Just to cite a few statistics from
the London experience: 750 businesses closed
in one year; 84 percent of businesses experienced
a drop in sales; and 62 percent of businesses
reported a decline in the number of customers.
And the fees have gone up significantly. Some
people have talked about modest fees. In London,
they started at $8.75 and went to $14 for the
business district in less than three years,
and there's a proposal by the mayor to increase
the charge even higher. Some proposals range
from $17.50 a day to $48 a day.
If we were talking about that level
of fees, it would really burden those individuals
and commuters from the other-than-Manhattan
boroughs. I won't say "outer" boroughs
but the four boroughs out of Manhattan whose
residents really do rely on their cars for business.
There's another issue with driving. As I mentioned,
if congestion pricing is put into place, there
are people who will end up driving to other
parts of Queens, other parts of Brooklyn, and
then take public transportation. But I'm not
sure that those areas could accommodate the
additional congestion, both from the standpoint
of getting to those areas and the standpoint
of the parking situation. Finding parking is
already a problem in parts of Long Island City
and other parts of Brooklyn. Those problems
would be multiplied significantly.
Finally, it's nice to use the word
"fee." We do that in City Hall, as
well, when we don't want to talk about taxes.
But this is really an additional tax on individuals
who can't afford it. Those residents who live
in the outer boroughs-excuse me, the other-than-Manhattan
boroughs-are really middle-class people; whether
they're making $42,000 a year or $75,000 a year,
they're not wealthy individuals. In most cases,
they would not take their car if they didn't
feel the necessity to take their car. You're
also talking about a number of small businesses
that rely on their cars, and we don't want to
price small businesses out of the city.
MS. COHEN: Thank you all
for what was a very interesting and informative
discussion. There are a few issues that I thought
we could perhaps delve into further during the
Q&A. First is the question as to whether
congestion is a citywide problem, not just in
the Manhattan CBD. Second is parking and all
its implications. Finally, what about the burden
that would be placed on public transportation
if people do leave their cars due to congestion
pricing? We'll now open the floor to questions
from the audience.
WALTER McCAFFREY: I'm from
a group that has recently been formed called
Keep New York City Congestion-Tax Free. First,
in terms of the type of public support that's
out there: the Tri-State poll cited in the discussion
was based on the assumption that it was a $2
charge. Having been a council member for 16
years, I can tell you that politically when
it gets to be eight or ten times that amount,
the support will drop into the basement. Another
assumption that is out there is that there will
be sufficient funds generated to supply mass
transit improvements and that the funds generated
will go to mass transit and will not just end
up being treated as general revenue. Until people
can have some realistic discussion-not theoretical
never-never-land discussions, but real discussions
of the political and legal questions out there-how
can a proposal ever move forward?
MR. WEPRIN: Walter McCaffrey
raises a good point as far as the revenue portion.
It's been my experience, as head of the finance
committee for the last five years, that even
when agency heads generate their own income,
they cannot spend that income. There are a lot
of historical reasons for that, but the money
does end up going into the general fund, and
there's a whole list of various priorities.
The amounts of money we're talking
about, in my opinion, disproportionately affect
those commuters who rely on their cars. But
you make a good point, which I don't think was
raised before, that there's no guarantee that
the money will go into mass transportation,
affecting those individuals, certainly, who
really would need it.
How long did it take for the Second
Avenue subway to actually get going? I guess
we're getting close. That may help. But if you
were going to create a new subway system in
Queens, you're talking tens of billions of dollars
over a long period of time.
MR. SCHALLER: First, I'm
not sure about the Tri-State poll, but the amount
of money we were talking about in the focus
groups was comparable with what I talked about
in the presentation: $4 CBD fees and $4 entry/exit
fees during rush hour. Second, I know that many
city agencies collect money that's used only
for certain programs: their own programs. That's
a policy issue. It's not something that you
couldn't do, unless you just didn't want to.
MS. WYLDE: Walter is right
with respect to the use of tax revenues but
not with respect to user fees, which is what
we're talking about here. All the tolls for
the bridges are dedicated to pay for transportation,
for example. There's no precedent-breaking issue
here for user fees. You're confusing tolls with
general tax revenues.
MALE VOICE: It might not
be a bad idea to start off with, number one,
high-occupancy lanes, which are choices, and
then perhaps if you had a congestion fee, using
your congestion fee only as it relates to people
coming into the city in single-occupancy vehicles.
I think you'd learn pretty fast how quickly
that incentive changed behavior. It would also
answer Councilman Weprin's point that there
are a very large number of people who are outside
of the ability to get to public transportation,
because it would give them a way not to have
to pay any additional fee by doubling up with
MS. WYLDE: I think that 40
percent of the vehicles coming in are single-occupancy,
so that's a very good point.
MR. SCHWARTZ: In the studies
I've seen, the single-occupancy rate is 60 percent;
but even at 40 percent, if you doubled up those
people, you'd see the 15 percent reduction in
traffic that we're looking for. That is why
we singled out single-occupancy vehicles in
1980. The city did, in fact, pass that rule.
But, as you know, we were sued.
DICK ANDERSON: I'm with the
New York Building Congress. I think we all know
that many factors drive public policy. One of
those factors is crisis. Where's the crisis
that would bring us over the top with something
like this? The crisis I think that's coming,
maybe sooner rather than later, is lack of money
for the MTA. Have any of you thought about how
that real crisis, where the MTA is going to
be so starved for capital and operating funds,
would help in reaching a decision on this? We
need the money. It's not just that we have to
deal with congestion, but we need the money
for public transit.
MR. SCHWARTZ: I see a different
crisis, Dick, and it's here right now. I represent
lots of developers building all over New York
City. Every community and group where I go,
they say, what are you going to do about the
traffic? How can we add another million people?
That's going to affect the whole building industry,
our whole construction industry, our economic
engine. We have a crisis today on fitting this
additional million people in, unless we solve
our traffic problem.
STEVE STRAUSS: I'm with the
New York City Comptroller's Office. I think
it's interesting that the opponents of congestion
pricing always like to play off four boroughs
versus one borough. If you look at the cordon
counts, I believe that 37 or 38 percent of the
people coming into the central business district
are coming from north of 60th Street in Manhattan.
And then we have all these people from New Jersey.
So I'm not sure that the burden falls so much
on Brooklyn and Queens. Maybe Bruce or Sam could
talk a bit about the distribution of the people
who are coming into the Manhattan central business
district. How many are from northern Manhattan?
How many are from New Jersey?
MR. SCHWARTZ: I'd say four
and a half boroughs, other than the central
MR. SCHALLER: Yes, obviously,
Steve, they're coming in from all over the city,
from the north, as well as from the east and
west. It's unfortunate that this issue becomes
a Manhattan-versus-the-outer-boroughs issue.
It's unfortunate not just because of the way
it plays out politically but because it doesn't
solve the problem. The problem is congestion,
and the problem is citywide; we need citywide
solutions. That's what I've tried to lay out.
By making it into an issue of Manhattan versus
the outer boroughs, there's obviously a political
advantage but it doesn't well serve constituents
who are in Queens, Brooklyn, and other parts
of the city, who are experiencing congestion
where they live every day and would like to
In the Manhattan Institute study,
we saw very clearly that people are looking
at all the condos going up, which they see as
being a real problem. That's the crisis, if
you will, and people would like to see real
solutions. The solutions could be pricing and
non-pricing, not to distinguish and say either/or,
but to look at what combination of things makes
the most sense and will be the most effective.
The attraction to pricing is that it's clearly
the most effective. Enforcement by itself is
not going to get us there.
MS. WYLDE: And it raises
money for transit.
MR. SCHALLER: Yes, it raises
money for transit.
MILTON INGERMAN: I'm a private
practitioner of medicine in the city. I have
been here for many, many years. While I was
in the service down in Washington a number of
years ago, I noticed a system that I think should
be considered. At major intersections, the traffic
light would turn red for vehicular traffic in
all directions, thus giving the pedestrian an
opportunity to cross the street in all directions
for a particular period of time-90 seconds,
two minutes, whatever. After that, traffic would
resume and pedestrians could not cross at all
and the vehicular traffic would be free to go
in the appropriate direction. I think if we
brought this idea to New York, it would significantly
alleviate congestion. If anybody has driven
down Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, or Madison Avenue,
to make a turn is ridiculous, and it's dangerous
for the pedestrians, as well.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yes. And that
idea wasn't invented in Washington. It was invented
right here by Henry Barnes in the 1960s. The
traffic lights at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street,
Vanderbilt and 42nd Street, Broadway and Battery
Place, and about 17 other locations operate
in that fashion. The traffic department deemed
that there wasn't enough capacity on some of
the streets to have that additional phase for
pedestrians. If we introduce programs like congestion
pricing in our densest areas, I think we can
easily go back to programs like that, and I
think we can easily widen sidewalks and easily
plant more trees in our city.
CAROLYN KONHEIM: I'm from
Community Consulting Services, a Brooklyn-based
organization working with communities. In my
opinion, the most important principle that we
have to employ is equity: the equal tolling
of all crossings. It's the inequality between
toll prices that distorts traffic patterns and
causes the enormous congestion around Long Island
City, downtown Brooklyn, and everywhere that
people have a choice. We have to equalize the
MS. WYLDE: I agree. In a
sense, don't we already see some congestion
pricing at work by virtue of the fact that on
the East River crossings, some bridges have
a fee and some do not? And doesn't that affect
what people choose to do when they travel and
where they travel?
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yes. I agree
with Carolyn. This is an absurd system, where
you can shop for a bridge. We have sales on
our bridges. If you're a trucker, you have a
choice: stay on limited access highways where
you should and go out the Verrazano Bridge and
pay $40, or, we invite you to ride over the
Queensboro Bridge for free and out the Lincoln
Tunnel for free, so you can travel and tour
midtown Manhattan. It's an absurd system.
MR. WEPRIN: It's a different
system. I don't think it's an absurd system,
because I think you're giving consumers choices
in some ways. My constituents who drive, myself
included, make that decision each and every
day whether to take a free bridge or a toll
bridge, depending on where they're going.
I can't tell you how many times
my constituents have used the Queensboro Bridge
because it is free, even though they may be
closer to the Midtown Tunnel or closer to the
Triborough Bridge. But that's a decision you
make, and it's also based on how much time you
have to get there, whether you're going for
leisure purposes or whether you're late for
But it really is a consumer decision,
and my constituents and the constituents in
the four and a half boroughs make that decision.
In some ways, it is an economic decision. But
I'm a strong advocate for not tolling the free
bridges. So that's another fight.
The mayor actually brought that
idea up when we had a fiscal problem in 2002,
and he soon realized that public opinion was
not evenly divided; it was more like a 90/10
split at that point, with the majority of people
opposed to tolling the free bridges. We can
debate that back and forth, but I think if you
polled all 8.2 million residents in the city,
you'd see overwhelming opposition to tolling
the free bridges.
MS. COHEN: This issue of
choice between toll bridges and free bridges
is somewhat analogous to the idea of express
lanes that Bruce was talking about, in which
you have a choice between spending more time
and less money, or more money and less time.
MS. WYLDE: Yes. The Manhattan
Institute study showed that one way to increase
support for road pricing is to provide consumers
with choice. But I think what gets lost in this
discussion is that we're talking about a limited
public commodity that is being subsidized by
everybody. To talk about consumer choice in
that context is to rely on a false set of assumptions.
MR. SCHWARTZ: I want to explain
why I think the councilman's support of choice
between free and toll bridges is a bad choice
for New York City. The result is that the Queensboro
Bridge, which should be used by 110,000 vehicles
a day, is used by 150,000 vehicles a day, and
those additional vehicles come from the Midtown
Tunnel and from the Triborough Bridge, with
no revenue stream to fix the Queensboro Bridge.
It's been crumbling, and all our bridges have
been crumbling because there has been no revenue
base. So it's been bad for us to have those
extra 40,000 vehicles pounding the bridge with
no revenue stream to maintain the bridge.
RAMON CRUZ: I'm with Environmental
Defense. Something that doesn't often get mentioned
in debates like this as a compelling reason
for traffic reduction is the health effects
of congestion. For example, tailpipe pollution
is linked to asthma, cancer, heart disease,
and other respiratory illness. Over 80 percent
of the cancer risk from toxic chemicals in the
air that New Yorkers breathe comes from tailpipe
pollution. I live just a few blocks from downtown
Brooklyn, one of the asthma hot spots of New
York City. While I agree with many of the traffic
relief measures that council member Weprin mentioned,
we also need to get the 15 percent traffic reduction
that Ms. Wylde suggested that we need. So I
was wondering what other measures could result
in a 15 percent reduction that could help reduce
the health effects of traffic congestion.
MR. SCHALLER: There are a
lot of non-pricing things that need to be done;
we've talked about some in our report, and the
Partnership has as well. But none of them, to
my knowledge, come anywhere close to the 15
percent or more that you would get from pricing.
It's very clear that New Yorkers
do want something done about traffic congestion.
It's very clear that it is a problem for motorists
and for everybody else. But what are people
willing to accept? What should the program be?
That's what we're here to look at. I don't think
it's a viable argument that people are happy
with the way that things are now.
JOSHUA BEANSTALK: I'm with
the Queens Chamber of Commerce. The MTA recently
reported that ridership is up in New York City
36 percent over the last ten years, while the
number of cars entering the central business
district is relatively stable. It seems as though
the solution is staring us all in the face,
and we're not focusing on it. Councilman Weprin
pointed it out. If we improve mass transit in
those areas that are seriously under-serviced
right now, the people are going to come. They've
been coming over the last ten years. They have
been coming because the cost of gas has gone
up and the cost of maintaining cars has gone
up. But if we punish the drivers to achieve
the goal, who are the people going to be who
are the 30 percent who no longer drive into
Manhattan? Will it be the people driving their
limos, or will it be the average working person
who says that the $1,700 or more a year is just
too much for him to bear? Are we going to make
New York City even more elitist than it already
MR. WEPRIN: That's the argument
I was making: that the people who are driving
in-whether it's 40 percent or 60 percent from
Queens, and then from the other boroughs-are
not wealthy individuals. We're not talking about
people who are coming in limos. We're talking
about people who feel an obligation to get to
work and have to drive because they're not located
near public transportation.
There's no question that we need
to improve public transportation, and we hope
that the Second Avenue subway will help tremendously
in reducing some of the subway congestion. But
if we suddenly put all these people who drive
in on the subways, what is going to happen?
If you've taken the subway recently, you know
that it's very, very crowded, and you can't
get a seat, especially if you're coming from
Queens. You can't even get on a train, because
you have to pass three or four trains pass before
you can squeeze into one in most spots.
If you get on, say, in Forest Hills,
somebody drives you, which is the way we commute
in Queens; somebody drives you to the subway
station or you drive there yourself and park
your car. That's the only way to commute to
the subway in my area of Queens. When you're
getting on in Forest Hills, you have to let
four or five trains go by before you get on,
and then when you do get on, it's not always
the most pleasant experience, but people make
those choices. It may be quicker than driving,
but it may not be a very pleasant way to get
to work, and you may not want to start your
day after that experience.
MS. WYLDE: I think that makes
the point that takes us full circle. We all
know that our limitation on improving the public
transportation system is money. And to generate
the resources, we need to improve it-we have
to raise taxes or we have to figure out other
sources of revenue. So if we're going to improve
the transit system, how are we going to accomplish
that without congestion pricing?
STEVE HAMMER: I'm from Columbia
University. Fascinating studies have come out
recently, and one of the things I'm very interested
in is how they're going to link to other research
and reports, including the mayor's sustainability
plan that we expect to hear next week. London's
congestion plan has been referenced quite a
bit today. The London plan is part of a much
larger strategy that the mayor of London has
put into place to address the massive population
growth that they're expecting over the next
20 years. It includes a land-use strategy that
considers how people are going to move around
London over the next 20 years by ensuring that
people are located near the transit hub itself.
It tries to increase the population density
in areas near the transit hubs. Does Mayor Bloomberg's
forthcoming sustainability plan address those
types of issues?
MS. WYLDE: We have Ester
Fuchs from Columbia University in the audience.
She is working with the Bloomberg administration
on the sustainability plan. Ester, can you answer
ESTER FUCHS: Regarding the
sustainability plan, it will be a holistic plan
taking into account virtually every point that
you made. I think that the issue of congestion
pricing is hot, and it is going to be considered.
It's not resolved yet, in terms of what the
final plan will be.
In a week, there will be a speech
by the mayor, which will outline a framework,
and then the debate will continue, which it
should, because everybody needs to engage in
this debate. In the final plan, every single
issue that you mentioned will be addressed.
So you're absolutely right. I think that's an
MS. COHEN: Okay. That sounds
like a good place to end for today. Thank you
all for coming.