New Ad Campaign Urges Commuters to Speak Out For Mass Transit Improvements and Congestion Pricing

Print ads to appear through March in region?s buses, subways and commuter rail lines; Television ads start today

February 25, 2008
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(NEW YORK, NY) February 25, 2008 – Two diverse coalitions – comprised of civic, environmental, public health, labor, community and business organizations – today kicked off an advertising campaign urging subway, bus and commuter train riders to support implementation of a congestion pricing plan to improve mass transit and reduce traffic.

The print campaign urges New Yorkers to visit www.BetterTransit.org to learn how metropolitan subways, buses and commuter rail lines will benefit from congestion pricing by reducing traffic and raising new transit funds. The campaign was unveiled at Grand Central Station by members of the Campaign for New York's Future (CNYF) and the Empire State Transportation Alliance (ESTA) the same week the MTA is expected to unveil its capital plan and less than five weeks before the deadline for the State Legislature to approve a congestion pricing plan that would qualify New York City for $354 million in immediate federal transit aid and generate $500 million annually to improve transit.

"These ads have a powerful message for riders: Speak up for congestion pricing now or pay later, with more delays, crumbling subway stations and decaying transit infrastructure," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

The print ads feature three different messages, including one depicting a pair of sneakers with the caption, "When this mode of transportation is faster than the bus, you know it's time to fix the city's traffic problem." A second print ad shows multiple pairs of hands gripping a subway pole and asks, "All in favor of less crowded trains, raise your hands." The third print ad depicts a subway car sign that reads, "Occupancy by more than 180 persons is dangerous and unlawful" with the following caption underneath, "Makes you wonder why they don't have rules like this for rush-hour subway cars." The subway and bus "raise your hands" and "sneakers" ads will also run in Spanish. The print campaign will be seen in 4,000 subway cars, 4,518 buses and 870 commuter trains throughout the MTA transit system until the end of March

A 30-second television ad also began airing today on local stations, sponsored by Environmental Defense, an environmental non-profit group with more than 50,000 members in New York City. The ad speaks of the rise in New York City's population growth and its consequence for clean air and transit overcrowding. The ad's voiceover asks, in part: "What if congestion pricing prepared us for that future and started reducing overcrowding now? What if every penny went to public transportation, create new bus and subway lines? What if this bold plan meant less traffic, cleaner air and a healthier environment in all five boroughs? What if New York lets this chance pass us by?" The ad, and information about the environmental benefits of congestion pricing, can be viewed at www.ed.org/traffic.

"Congestion pricing is the best way to prepare this growing, dynamic city for a future with a million more people by 2030," said Ramon Cruz of Environmental Defense. "By offering every New Yorker a fast, environmentally sound commute, we can tackle the twin challenges of climate change and economic justice. With our city's population growing and our streets and subways already overcrowded, now is the time act."

"Polls show that a majority of New Yorkers in each borough support congestion pricing if the funds are use to improve transit," said Robert Yaro, President of the Regional Plan Association. "That's because riders everyday experience the need for a wide range of transit improvements, from new subway cars and buses to rehabbed stations to more and better service."

"Straphangers in the Bronx have suffered long enough," said Yolanda Gonzales, Executive Director of Nos Quedamos, Inc. in the Bronx. "We must seize this opportunity to use congestion pricing to improve our mass transit system."

"In board rooms and hearing rooms across the state, the congestion pricing debate has raged on," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "Now, with these powerful new ads, the issue enters the forum that matters most: our grossly underfunded trains and buses."

"It's time to stop treating transit service like the weather, something out of our control that doesn't always cooperate," said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "These ads help New Yorkers understand that they have a say right now- by voicing support for congestion pricing they will help secure better transit service and faster commutes."

 

"Now is the time for transit riders to clearly communicate that congestion pricing will improve our quality of life, by reducing traffic, shortening commute times, and at last funding needed transit investments," said Peter H. Kostmayer, President Citizens Committee for New York City. "Now is the time for legislators to listen to the needs of their transit rider constituents, who are the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers after all."

"We believe riders will respond strongly to the message and speak up for funding better transit," said Chris Ward, President of the General Contractors Association of New York.

"We need to continue to invest in our transit system if we want to maintain the economic vitality and quality of life of our region," said Dr. Jim Melius from the New York State Laborer's Union.

"Better transit equals better quality of life for those residents most dependent on the city's buses and trains," said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Inc. "These ads let New Yorkers know that congestion pricing isn't just about reducing traffic; it's also about generating revenue to make transit faster and healthier. This will benefit all New Yorkers, and especially those suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses."

"Clean, efficient transportation for all is a matter of survival for New Yorkers," said Christine Berthet, co-founder of CHEKPEDS, a Westside pedestrian advocacy group. "These ads will encourage them to speak up in favor of a city where you can commute and breathe at the same time."

"In their daily struggle to get to work riders often question who can do something to make it better," said Kevin Corbett, Co-Chair of the Council on Transportation. "These ads will remind them they can – by taking action now."

"Anyone who is concerned about congestion pricing, or transportation in general, as an economic justice issue should be looking at how to provide every New Yorker with equal access to a decent, fast, car-free commute," said Anne Pope of Sustainable Flatbush in Brooklyn. "Obviously, such a huge expansion and upgrade of the mass transit system will require a massive amount of funding, and congestion pricing is one of the few proposals capable of bringing that money into the system."

"Congestion pricing is good for commuters in Queens, despite what many Queens politicians would have you believe," said Mike Heffron, a Queens resident and member of Transportation Alternatives. "Hopefully these ads will bring this message past the anti-congestion pricing lobby and directly to the people of Queens who are waiting to cram onto their bus or train."

"As the Bronx and other outer-borough communities of New York realize the need for expanded and improved transit networks in their neighborhoods, these new ads will surely bring the message home and show all New Yorkers we do have options in improving our daily commutes," said Walter C. Houston, Chief Executive Officer of the Local Development Corporation of West Bronx.

"The vast majority of Bronxites take the subway, express bus or Metro-north when they travel into midtown Manhattan," said Rich Gans, chair of the Transportation Alternatives Bronx Chapter. "After seeing these ads, I hope they speak up for congestion pricing and transit improvements, so we finally get treated fairly, especially since transit riders don't clog our streets and pollute our air. It just makes sense."

"We've heard it time and time again: there's too much traffic, commute times are too long and the mass transit system is falling short," said Michael O'Loughlin, Director of the Campaign for New York's Future. "New Yorkers deserve better and we're giving them a voice to demand a solution from our elected officials. We need transportation improvements today and the best people to demand those improvements are the people who will benefit the most. Subway, bus and commuter train riders can no longer be silent on this issue, so we're asking them to speak out to support better transit today and for our future."

On January 31, the New York City Traffic Mitigation Commission recommended a congestion pricing plan that, if approved by the City Council and State Legislature by March 30, would qualify New York City for $354 million in federal transit aid to fund innovative programs like a Bus Rapid Transit system as well as the addition of more buses and subway cars on the busiest routes in the city. The congestion pricing plan would also raise $491 million in net revenues on an annual basis that would go to continued mass transit improvements throughout the system.

The City and MTA have proposed a series of major short- and long-term transit improvements before and after the plan would go into effect. In the short-term, these improvements include: 367 new buses; eight new local routes; new bus-only lanes on the Manhattan and Williamsburg; several Bus Rapid Transit lines; 46 subway cars; station renovations; and suburban park and ride facilities.

In the long-term, congestion pricing and other increased government aid is projected to raise $30 billion over 25 years. These funds could help pay for: the MTA's program to bring the subways to a "state of good repair," including renovating stations, buying more rail cars and buses; and repairing transit infrastructure. Long-term pricing dollars could also help fund the building of the Second Avenue subway; connecting the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal; and Metro North access to Penn Station.

In addition to today's ad campaign launch, last week Transportation Alternatives and Citizens Committee also began a similar print advertising campaign in community newspapers throughout the City, highlighting the specific traffic reductions and transit improvements congestion pricing will bring to local neighborhoods throughout the city. These ads are scheduled to run through the end of March.

The advertising efforts are funded by groups active in ESTA and CNYF, which together represent more than 160 organizations across the city. Together, they raised more than $500,000 for ads in the transit system as part of a campaign engage the region's 8.9 million daily riders in speaking up for congestion pricing and the much-needed transit enhancements congestion pricing will make possible. The print ads were created by Bart Robbett and Rob Rosenthal of Robbett Advocacy Media based in Westport, Conn.

For more information about the benefits of congestion pricing or to view the print and television ads, please visit www.BetterTransit.org and www.ed.org/traffic.

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Gene Russianoff
NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign
(917) 575-9434
 
Neysa Pranger
Regional Plan Association/ESTA
(917) 532-0567
 
Virginia Lam or Bud Perrone
Campaign for New York's Future
(Rubenstein Communications)
(212) 843-8342; vlam@rubenstein.com
(212) 843-8068; bperrone@rubenstein.com
 
Evan Thies
Environmental Defense
(BerlinRosen Public Affairs)
(917) 715-9265

The Campaign for New York's Future (CNYF) is an unprecedented coalition of more than 150 environmental, public health, civic, labor, community and business organizations that have joined in support of PlaNYC. For more information about the Campaign, please visit: www.CampaignForNewYork.org

The Empire State Transportation Alliance (ESTA) is a coalition of business, civic, labor and environmental organizations that seek to build consensus for expanded resources for New York State transportation. Through research, public outreach and advocacy, ESTA advocates for ambitious spending plans that continue the progress made in restoring New York's mobility infrastructure. Since 1999, ESTA has identified potential investment scenarios and crafted effective education and outreach campaigns that increase public understanding of the urgent capital program needs facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York State Department of Transportation.

Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. www.environmentaldefense.org

 

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