New York State Commission Approves Historic Congestion Pricing Plan to Cut Traffic, Improve Health by Reducing Transportation Emissions

January 31, 2008
Contact: 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Contact: Evan Thies, 917 715 9265, Evan@berlinrosen.com

(New York City - January 31, 2008) A New York state commission of elected officials,  environmental and planning experts charged with solving New York City’s traffic crisis voted today to approve a historic plan to protect New Yorkers’ health by implementing a congestion pricing proposal and other measures that will cut car and truck emissions.

“Today's vote for congestion pricing is a historic opportunity to solve New York's growing traffic and air quality crises,” said commission member Andy Darrell, who is the regional director of Environmental Defense, a national non-profit organization headquartered in New York City. “We may never again have a chance to address our congestion and pollution problems so effectively.”

Even though only five percent of commuters into Manhattan’s central business district (CBD) drive to work, New York City is suffering from some of the worst traffic congestion rates in the country, costing workers and businesses billions a year in lost time and heavily contributing to New York’s nearly worst-in-the-nation air quality.  In the face of adding an additional one million residents by 2030, the state charged the commission with developing solutions to protect New Yorkers from this transportation crisis—one in eight of whom are already suffering from asthma.

 New York City is growing by a million people, the transit system already has a $30 billion investment backlog, and our bad air quality is harming our children’s health,” said Darrell, who also is the director of the Living Cities program at Environmental Defense. “Today's commission vote offers America's largest city a blueprint for growth based on clean, healthy transportation.”

Today’s approved plan included the following elements:

1) A congestion pricing system for New York’s Central Business District (CBD) from 60th street to the southern tip of Manhattan, with a charge in effect only during the peak traffic times (6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday).  The plan will cut traffic in the CBD and outside of the CBD by reducing through traffic destined for the CBD from Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and northern Manhattan areas with the city’s highest asthma rates.

2) A guarantee that about $500 million in annual revenue will be invested in transit expansion to help cut a $30 billion backlog in capital investment needs for major projects such as a Second Avenue subway line and bus rapid transit service in neighborhoods that lack transit options now.

3) A much simpler, less expensive system than London's congestion pricing model with far fewer cameras and operational complexity, saving about $100 million annually from earlier estimates.

4) Recommended solutions to key concerns such as:

·        A transit “lockbox” that guarantees revenue to new transit expansion

·        Short-term transit improvements prior to the program’s start

·        Residential parking permits and ongoing monitoring and mitigation efforts to reduce traffic and parking in surrounding neighborhoods

·        A sound legal framework for environmental review

·        Cutting cameras from 340 down to 25 (93% reduction) and putting strict limits on storing personal information to ensure privacy

·        Increased enforcement of existing traffic laws and a crackdown on placards

·        Tax relief for low income drivers with no transit alternative (who are fewer than 1% of all commuters to the CBD)

 “The best way to keep New York the great city that it is today, is to invest now in the transit system of tomorrow,” Darrell added.  “That's how we keep Manhattan accessible to people of all income levels, cut pollution, support healthy growth and cut global warming pollution. Congestion pricing is the key to clean air and better transit.”