StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Addressing Traffic Congestion

StreetsPAC presented the following testimony earlier this week to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation, at its oversight hearing on addressing traffic congestion:

Today’s oversight hearing is critical in light of the failure of the Governor and State Legislature to take meaningful action on congestion in the budget process just concluded. While the surcharge on ride-hailing vehicles and taxis will generate a fair amount of revenue, such a limited first-stab at dealing with congestion will have minimal effect on actually solving the problem.

Albany is not alone in deserving criticism, however. Mayor de Blasio, who for months has repeated, without foundation, that a congestion charge is somehow “regressive,” has done much to provide opponents of a comprehensive congestion-reduction effort with political cover. While his Millionaire’s Tax isn’t a bad idea for helping to fund and fix the MTA, it does nothing to address the twin crisis of crippling traffic.

Additionally, while the Congestion Action Plan the Mayor announced in October includes some good and sensible ideas, it amounts to tinkering around the edges. Cracking down on blocking the box and keeping curbs and travel lanes clear during peak hours are useful steps, but the program’s reliance on human enforcement guarantees that it will have limited effect.

What we really need is bold action, on a large scale and with an unwavering commitment to fixing the problem. Here are a half-dozen steps the Council can take to break gridlock’s hold on New York City.

First, we urge the Council to pass a home rule message in support of the Fix NYC panel’s congestion-pricing recommendations. Passing a home rule message now will send a strong signal to Albany that it must act before the end of the current term to at least fund the infrastructure necessary to create a cordoned tolling zone.

In addition, this committee heard last June from experts who contend that the city can implement congestion pricing on its own; if Albany is unwilling to act to address congestion, we urge the Council to take the initiative and pass legislation authorizing congestion pricing.

Secondly, the city should act to significantly reduce the number of parking placards it issues. The more than 100,000 placards in circulation are a major contributor to congestion, exacerbated by an unknown number of fake placards and other paraphernalia that somehow earn abusers a free pass. Cutting the number of placards, coupled with real enforcement, could keep tens of thousands of cars out of Manhattan.

Thirdly, the city should take a very hard look at reforming parking policies. In too many places, we charge too little for parking, which encourages more driving. The Department of Transportation should expand the PARK Smart program, which increases meter rates when demand is highest, and should follow through on its promise for “a more comprehensive management plan for the metered parking environment,” which it indicated was coming more than two years ago. The city should at the very least be testing dynamic curbside pricing using the mobile parking app that it introduced last year.

Fourth, the city should follow up immediately on the citywide transit plan for which it held public workshops early last year, by prioritizing bus service on city streets. Far too many buses move far too slowly, which is a key factor in the large drop in bus ridership we’ve seen over the past few years. DOT released its New York City Mobility Report a year and a half ago, and should now be introducing fixes to speed up buses, like implementing signal priority, and building more bus-only and queue-jump lanes, as well as boarding islands.

Fifth, in the absence of any meaningful action on congestion pricing, the city should consider implementing rush-hour HOV restrictions on the free East River bridges. While the city has only enacted HOV restrictions in extraordinary situations in the past, our current congestion crisis is an emergency, and will only be exacerbated by the looming L train shutdown.

Lastly, the city should consider requiring off-hour deliveries in the city’s most congested areas, implement more dedicated loading zones, and encourage the use of smaller, more nimble vehicles for the last mile of delivery trips.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment

StreetsPAC supports candidates for public office who will champion Safe, Complete and Livable Streets.