Weiner, Fidler, AAA Alternatives to Congestion Pricing Fail Reality Test, Transportation Expert Analysis Shows

December 5, 2007

Michael Replogle, mreplogle@environmentaldefense.org, 301-529-0351
Neil Giacobbi, neilgiacobbi@gmail.com, 202-572-3331
(New York, NY – December 5, 2007) – Alternative traffic relief proposals to PlaNYC congestion pricing by Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner, Brooklyn Councilman Lew Fidler and The Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free Plan fail the reality test for timeliness, ability to cut traffic and ability to fund mass transit.
That’s the conclusion of a detailed, side-by-side analysis comparing the three alternative plans to PlaNYC congestion pricing. The report by Environmental Defense and The Pratt Center for Community Development in Brooklyn, is entitled: “Does the Rubber Meet the Road? Investigating the Alternatives to Congestion Pricing.”  
“The rubber does not meet the road with the Weiner, Fidler and The Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free Coalition plans,” said Michael Replogle, transportation director for Environmental Defense and the primary author of the report who has advised the Federal Highway Administration, World Bank, Congress, and governments world-wide over 30 years. “Unlike congestion pricing, these alternatives would encourage driving - not discourage it - and as a result attract more traffic in the long term. They also fail to match the criteria required by the federal grant, by state law, and the reality test for effectiveness, timeliness and revenue potential.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation has offered $354 million in funding for transit and congestion relief initiatives to New York City if the State Legislature adopts an effective congestion pricing implementation plan meeting specific performance objectives by March 31.
“Congestion pricing would provide a new revenue stream to help pay for the transit improvements that the city and region desperately need,” said Joan Byron, Director of the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Initiative of The Pratt Center for Community Development. “Alternative proposals to fund mass transit through broad income and payroll tax increases are like taking a sledgehammer to a nail because they place special burdens on low and middle income residents. In contrast, a congestion pricing plan benefits lower-income folks most and burdens them least since the vast majority of them rely on public transportation, and do not drive into Manhattan’s zone.”
Listed below are some of the problems with specific alternative proposals to congestion pricing.
•           Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner’s Plan: “Reducing Traffic and Improving Our Environment: An Alternative to the Car Tax”
Many aspects of this proposal are similar to the PlaNYC’s original congestion pricing scheme. However, Congressman Weiner would limit congestion pricing to trucks only and would take a series of steps to open up more existing road space for faster-moving traffic, such as reducing alternate side street parking, and increasing traffic law enforcement, that would attract more traffic in the long run. He also suggests large-scale, long-term capital investments, such as building a Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel, that while essential for long-term regional planning, cannot address traffic with the immediacy and revenue-generating capacity of congestion pricing. 
•           Brooklyn New York City Councilman Lew Fidler’s Plan: “The 9 Carat Stone Plan”
This plan to fund long term transportation projects, including three major tunnels requiring massive capital investment, essentially levies a regional payroll tax that would support the state’s general fund and not be dedicated to transportation investment, unlike tolls. Councilman Fidler proposes hydrogen powered cars, which automakers and scientists agree are many years and breakthroughs away from being practical and commercially viable. He supplements these ideas with short term measures such as increased truck loading zones and enforcement of traffic laws that, while perhaps good to speed traffic flow and ensure better safety, are not likely to achieve significant reductions in traffic volumes. Other elements of Councilman Fidler’s plan, such as moving government offices from Manhattan to the other boroughs, would simply displace current traffic to new locations, and to the extent that those locations are less centrally-located in the transit system, there would likely be a net increase in traffic overall.
•           The Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free Plan: “Alternative Approaches to Traffic Congestion Mitigation in the Manhattan Central Business District”
This plan, primarily supported by AAA, the Metropolitan Parking Association and the Queens Civic Congress, among others, combines several separate measures that collectively claim to meet and exceed the 6.3% vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction of the mayor’s plan. In fact, many will simply make driving easier in the Central Business District, thus probably attracting more drivers over time. Furthermore, the report’s additive approach for totaling VMT reduction overstates the results dramatically, double-counting many overlapping traffic reduction measures.