Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Council Members, and especially Council Member Brewer, for inviting me to testify on Intro.199.
I am Hope Cohen, Deputy Director of the Center for Rethinking Development at the Manhattan Institute.
New York City has too much traffic. The Partnership for New York City’s recent report, Growth or Gridlock, blames "excess" traffic congestion for "at least $5 billion worth of lost time and productivity, $2 billion in wasted fuel and vehicle operating costs, at least $4.6 billion in lost business revenue and increased operating costs, and as many as 50,000 lost jobs" in the region. Reports by environmental and transportation groups highlight the effects of pollution on everything from stress to asthma rates to global warming.
And that’s now! If the streets are already choking on traffic, how can they possibly absorb the cars and trucks associated with the addition of one million people in the next generation?
Clearly, the City needs to take action to relieve traffic congestion. The problem is serious enough to have sparked public discussion of congestion fees and other pricing solutions. In fact, CRD contributed to this discussion with our study, Battling Traffic: What New Yorkers Think about Road Pricing. The report demonstrated that New Yorkers would be open to pricing solutions – but only if carefully targeted to specific traffic hotspots (places AND times) and combined with a mix of other remedies.
Enforcement of existing traffic regulations is vital. Various operational adjustments can be very effective. More and better public transporation, of course. And revoking the parking privileges that provide some commuters a market incentive to drive to work in the city.
But the fundamental philosophical shift needed first is for NYC’s Department of Transportation to broaden its perspective from facilitating automobile traffic to facilitating mobility throughout the city for all residents, workers, and visitors. And Intro.199 is a first step toward accomplishing that.
It is a basic fact that people (and organizations) apply their effort, resources, etc. to those areas that are watched, measured, rewarded. And quite simply, the rewards for DOT management have traditionally been on automotive throughput. Intro.199 requires that DOT be measured on reducing roadway emission and “increasing the proportion of walking, biking and the use of mass transit” – as well as increasing the efficient movement of traffic. Once DOT understands that its responsibilities are broader than creating good streets for cars and that its performance on the broader issues will be watched and reported on, it will apply its resources to those broader issues.
It’s a beginning.