StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Congestion Pricing

We testified at yesterday's New York City Council Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure oversight hearing on congestion pricing, urging the Council to push City Hall to make upgrades to bus service and biking infrastructure in advance of the launch of central business district tolling next year. We also called on the Council to pass pending bills that will help smooth the implementation of congestion pricing, and to take a stand against tolling exemptions that aren't already in the law. Our full testimony follows below.

With New York City’s congestion pricing program having received final approval from the Federal Highway Administration in June, the MTA could begin tolling as early as spring of next year. The effort is essential to reducing traffic congestion within Manhattan’s central business district, which by some estimates cost the city’s economy $15 billion a year, and to providing revenue critical to the MTA’s capital budget.

The Traffic Mobility Review Board is in the process of making final determinations on the tolling schedule, and the MTA is beginning to install tolling infrastructure. Congestion pricing, which we have supported for many years, is happening.

However, New York City has been mostly AWOL in preparing for congestion pricing. In other cities that have implemented congestion charges, notably Stockholm and London, significant improvements to transit service and cycling infrastructure were put in place to help encourage and ease the transition from private vehicles to more sustainable modes of transportation. It’s especially important to make meaningful investments in transit in parts of the city that are poorly served by the existing system.

The City Council can help by pushing the Adams Administration to accelerate upgrades to bus service, especially the rollout of new protected bus-lane mileage mandated by the Streets Plan, rather than contributing to the gumming up of important projects like the Fordham Road busway. London added four new high-capacity bus routes into its congestion zone before activating its tolling program, leading to a large increase in bus ridership. Stockholm acted similarly. The Council should be demanding comparable plans from City Hall.

Expanding and improving the city’s bike network should also be a priority as the launch of congestion pricing nears. On the streets of the City of London, bikes now outnumber cars during peak times, a result of a significant investment in and commitment to cycling infrastructure. Here in New York, many of the bike lanes within the central business district are already heavily used, and taking advantage of reduced car and truck traffic to widen bike lanes on 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 8th Avenues and improving crosstown bike routes, as Bike New York suggests, would be a smart step.

The Council should also advocate for significant enhancements to the bike network in neighborhoods that are adjacent to or near the tolling zone, such as Downtown Brooklyn, western Queens, the Upper East and Upper West Sides, and Harlem, which will help promote safe and seamless bike commutes.

The same is true, perhaps even more so, for the East River bridges. These crossings are heavily used today and will become even more popular when congestion pricing is implemented. It’s imperative that the South Outer Roadway of the Queensboro Bridge be converted, finally, to a pedestrian path, so the currently shared path on the north side can be devoted exclusively to cycling.

It's also time to alleviate crowding on the Manhattan Bridge’s cycling and pedestrian paths by converting a portion of the main roadway to use by people biking and walking. It’s also clear that the Brooklyn Bridge bikeway is already at capacity, and the city should replicate it on the Brooklyn-bound side.

The City Council can also help smooth the implementation of congestion pricing by passing pending legislation that will help reduce illegal parking, such as Intro 501-A, and bills that will help combat the proliferation of fake and obscured license plates, such as Intros 987 and 988.

Finally, it’s essential that Congestion Pricing be implemented with no additional carveouts. The existing law provides reasonable and necessary exemptions, and any additional watering down of the program will mean higher tolls across the board. The Council should urge the TMRB to reject any new exemptions.

If you'd like to join us in advocating for these common-sense steps, please contact your Council Member. You can find your Council Member, and send them an email, here.

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published this page in News 2023-08-18 13:50:00 -0400
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