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Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission Recommends Congestion Pricing Plan for New York City

31 January 2008

Tcmc
The TCMC plan institutes a congestion charge zone south of 60th Street in Manhattan. Click to enlarge.

The independent New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission (TCMC) has recommended an alternative congestion pricing plan that, according to its research, will reduce traffic levels in all five boroughs while raising nearly half a billion dollars per year in net revenue for transit improvements and service expansion across the city and the region.

New York’s Governor and State Legislature created the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission in 2007 and charged it with developing a solution to the severe traffic congestion problem in New York City’s central business district (CBD). The legislation establishing the Commission required it to study and evaluate different approaches to reducing congestion in the CBD, including the congestion pricing plan forwarded by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in April, 2007 (earlier post), and to recommend a comprehensive traffic congestion mitigation plan to the City and the State by January 31, 2008.

The Commission was required to set forth an implementation plan that achieves at least a 6.3% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in Manhattan south of 86th Street—the estimated level of VMT reduction of the Mayor’s plan.

Under the original Bloomberg plan, passenger vehicles entering or leaving Manhattan below 86th Street during the business day (weekdays 6 am to 6 pm)—with the exception of the FDR Drive, the West Side Highway, and West Street—would pay an $8 daily fee. Trucks would pay $21. Autos that drive only within the Congestion Zone would pay half price. The charge would apply to all vehicles, except emergency vehicles, those with handicapped license plates, taxis, and for-hire vehicles (radio cars.

The TCMC plan pushes the northern boundary of the congestion zone south to 60th Street. Cars would be charged an $8 fee for inbound trips only on weekdays between 6am and 6pm. Trucks would pay $21, except for low-emission trucks, which would pay $7.

Drivers would pay once upon entering the charging zone and would be able to make additional trips in and out of the zone at no additional cost. For E-ZPass users, the value of all tolls paid on MTA or Port Authority bridges and tunnels would be deducted from the fee up to $8.

The TCMC plan would use an electronic fee collection system based on E-ZPass and license plate cameras. Non-E-ZPass users would be subject to a $1 surcharge to encourage E-ZPass use and to cover the additional cost of processing license plate image transactions. In addition, the Commission’s plan includes a package of parking and taxi policies designed to further discourage driving within the zone, including a $1 surcharge on taxi, black car, and car service trips that start and/or end within the zone during congestion pricing hours, increased on-street parking meter rates within the zone, and elimination of the resident parking tax exemption for off-street parking garages and lots within the zone.

The TCMC calculated that its plan will reduce VMT in the area of Manhattan south of 86th Street by 6.8 percent, exceeding the requirement in the legislation establishing the Commission. The plan will also reduce traffic across the City and region.

The plan, according to TCMC, will also generate $491 million a year in net revenues for transit investment. The plan’s design will result in significantly lower capital and operating costs than the Mayor’s plan.

The plan—which now goes to the legislature for consideration—met with the approval of The Campaign for New York’s Future—a broad citywide coalition comprising more than 150 civic, labor, community, environmental, public health and business organizations.

After months of deliberation and more than 50 hours of public hearings, the Commission has proposed a traffic relief plan that will also deliver mass transit expansion and improvements across the New York City region. This is exactly what voters have asked for in polls and public hearings, and it’s what we need to improve our quality of life today and ensure New York remains a great place to live as we add one million more residents in the coming years.”

— Michael O’Loughlin, Director of the Campaign for New York’s Future

Today’s vote for congestion pricing is a historic moment: the launch of a real solution to New York’s traffic and air-quality crises. The commission has designed a congestion pricing system that delivers cleaner air on day one and guarantees transit expansion in all five boroughs and the suburbs. Now the legislature must act. We may never again have a chance to address our congestion and pollution problems so effectively.

—Andy Darrell, Regional Director of Environmental Defense

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January 31, 2008 in Emissions, Fuel Efficiency, Policy | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)

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congestion price is really good. Using that money to subsidize public transportation is really bad. User fees for every transit system should be sufficient to completely cover the cost of that transit system. my reasoning behind this position is simply that cross system subsidies distort users perceptions of the cost and value of system. whether it be bus, light rail, subway, or automobile, every single system should pay for its own infrastructure, operational, carbon generation, and collateral damage (i.e. accidents, injury etc.). This is the only fair way to compare the costs of each system.

I guesss that should also apply to wars, bit of mercenary activity on the side. If not already.
How pray tell do we pay politicians wages, or police?

A friend pointed out thew london charge worked for him... bcause hus company scrapped a plan to invest in london based on the increased wages they would have to pay. I realy cant wait to see the carnage as the econ implodes and all these megacities fall under the weight of thoer own massive upkeep costs.

Yeah that'd be good we might all move up your way hey summer,

More bureaucracy to become corrupt. If it's truly congestion they're after - require deliveries and pickups made in off business hours. As for the fees generated - they'll rapidly disappear into the MTA sinkhole with little visible effect.

Anyone falling for the eco-collapse yarn is in the wrong sim.

@country mouse

How do you account for "all" the true costs of a trasportation system? How much is the real cost of using petrol fuels? is it really some $$ per gallon? And how do you factor in the costs given by pollution, accidents, congestions...

Mass transit/public transport is the only solution to all these problem and its use must be subsidised if you want a big share of commuters to stop using cars. This should be a dogma

When a resource - e.g. space on city streets - becomes scarce, you either have to charge for it or else ration it somehow. Needless to say, officials prefer to charge because it increases their revenue. By introducing city access tolls, New York is simply following in the footsteps of Singapore, Oslo, London and Milan (though these cities maintain a range of pricing structures and rationales).

The TCMC plan strikes me as much simpler to administer than the mayor's original proposal and therefore preferable. However, I would suggest reserving one lane on most streets - especially the thoroughfares - for high occupancy vehicles, meaning commercial buses, taxis, sharecabs plus private vehicles with at least two occupants. By now, there are systems based on video cameras and software that can identify the number of passengers in a given car.

User fees for every transit system should be sufficient to completely cover the cost of that transit system.

I generally agree with that opinion, but to balance the picture: the car is subsidized too.

Not directly by the government, but in a more invisible way, by society. I'll give two examples:

1. Free parking.

In their battle for the customer, shopping centres are virtually obliged to provide free parking. This parking space costs the shopping centre money of course. This cost is reflected in the rent that shop owners pay. And they in their turn pay for the higher rent by upping the prices. In the end of course the customer does pay for his parking space, however the customer that arrived by public transport pays just as much as the car owner. In effect, you could consider this a subsidy by the user of public transport to the motorist.

2. Residential area infrastructure

Most infrastructure in residential areas was paid for by the home owners. A carless home owner is forced to pay for all this car infrastructure he is hardly going to use.

Main problem for carless people in both cases is that it is virtually inescapable. Because of the dominance of the car, you can not buy a house in neighbourhoods especially designed for people that do not own a car. These simply don't exist. Same goes for shopping centers that do not provide free parking.

"When a resource - e.g. space on city streets - becomes scarce, you either have to charge for it or else ration it somehow."

so basically no poor people are allowed into the city centre? this is the first step to ghettoisation. a rich ghetto in the centre surrounded by poor suburbs, the French can tell you how well that works out, riots etc.

how about EXPANDING the resource? ever thought of that?

how about EXPANDING the resource?

In what direction?

So poor people are the ones who are driving cars into lower Manhattan? I never would have guessed that! In fact I would have expected them to be more likely to walk or take the subway than anyone else, especially considering the fact that you can't insure an automobile in NYC for less than $2000/yr and gas ain't exactly cheap in the Big Apple, either. In fact, most of the cars I've seen driving around lower Manhattan are late model luxury sedans and suvs. But then again maybe your definition of 'poor' is different than mine.

Certainly in London most cars you see in the CC zone are luxury cars.

However, most of the vehicles are buses, taxis and delivery or light commercial vehicles, so the CC has done about as much as it can.

It did pay for lots of buses, and I don't think the business impact has been as great as feared. Parking was already a prohibitive deterrent to driving into the zone.

The inherent problem with automobiles is that when people are deciding to make a trip, they are only looking at the variable costs, if that. They are not considering sunk costs like insurance and the purchase price of the automobile. So, in comparing costs, they are comparing the lower variable costs of the automobile versus the price of public transit, also taking into account other factors like convenience and environmental considerations.

Therefore, from a cost standpoint, it is difficult for public transit to compete if subsidies don't make up the difference between the fully allocated costs of the transit system vs the short term variable costs of the automobile.

And this does not even consider the external costs like air pollution, health costs, and congestion costs generated by having too many cars on the road. Throw in policing costs and subsidies for street construction and maintence and you really have a distorted price picture facing the individual consumer.

These congestion fares go part of the way to addressing the distorted price structure between the auto and other ways of getting around. It is appropriate that the fees go towards public transit.

While, in theory, it might be appropriate to take the position that each mode should pay its own way, this doesn't necessarily lead to the conclusion that this policy is flawed.

"While, in theory, it might be appropriate to take the position that each mode should pay its own way, this doesn't necessarily lead to the conclusion that this policy is flawed."

I've come to always assume that economic "theory" and reality can be quite different things.

@ Eric -

are you going to tell me the Harlem, the Bronx and Manhattan all feature similar average income levels? And that there have never been riots in the poorer sections of the city (e.g. 1977)? C'mon.

As for EXPANDING the resource of city street area, there is no room for that, as Anne points out. The third dimension would be the only way to go, at stupendous expense and severe consequences for a variety of quality-of-life indicators. A much cheaper way is to promote solutions that increase the number of passengers per vehicle, as I have suggested.

In addition, a safe and clean subway system removes a lot of traffic from the surface and represents affordable rapid transit for the poor. NYC may want to put some of the revenue raised by the congestion charge toward new rolling stock and additional traffic police patrolling its subways. The goal would be to make them more attractive for middle-income residents who would otherwise drive or take a taxi.

RS

The rich, of whom there are many in New York, will not blink an eyelash at these rather modest tolls. So, I am not sure how successful this policy will be in Manhattan. In that sense, there is no getting around the fact that tolls of this nature are discriminatory. That doesn't necessarily argue against their use, it just means they need to go into this with their eyes open.

We should be concerned, however, if the policy turns out to be both discriminatory and unsuccessful because of the number of people who will just pay the fee, in which case the policy will just be a revenue raiser -- also, not necessarily a bad thing.

In any event, especially for cities like New York, I would favor an announced scheduling closing of certain lanes and streets so that Manhattan, at least becomes mostly walkable and car free.

However, we will continue,at best, with schemes like this, under the pretense that it is about congestion, resource pricing, and the free market.

Politicians ALWAYS need an excuse to raise MORE taxes. Now the politiicans can sound sanctimonious about how they are taxing, (ie stealing) money for altruistic reasons.

It will effect congestion not at all; but merely force up the price of ocmpetition for businesses doing anything in the taxed jursidiction. Eventually many will leave,as htey were doing in several previous decades.

Its very interesting how the folks who live in NYC are more than happy to tax the s**t out of everyone to pay for their stuff.

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