The New York Traffic Mitigation Commission today released five proposals aimed at mitigating traffic in Manhattan’s central business district today.
The 17-member commission must choose one of the plans by the end of the month to submit to the Legislature, governor, mayor, and City Council. Four of the five plans, which were released as part of a report, would generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually which proponents expect would be used to help finance the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital plan. Commission members said that discussions on the mechanism that would direct money toward transit projects, and whether or not bonding would be involved, are in early stages.
The proposals include Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s original congestion pricing which would charge a fee to vehicles traveling within or into Manhattan south of 86th Street from 6 a.m to 6 p.m. This plan would raise $420 million net revenue annually and would reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) — a metric for measuring congestion — by 6.7% according the report. Proposals are required to reduce VMT by 6.3% to qualify for federal aid.
Another proposal would modify Bloomberg’s plan by eliminating a charge travel within the congestion pricing zone, reducing the size of the zone but would charge drivers on the periphery on Manhattan which Bloomberg’s does not. This plan would have lower operating costs and would generate $520 million net revenue annually and reduce VMT by 6.8%.
The greatest projected annual revenue would come from tolling traffic on the East River and Harlem River bridges. This plan would generate $859 million net annual revenue and reduce VMT by 7%.
A more novel approach was a rationing plan that would prohibit vehicles licensed in the tri-state area from entering the central business district on certain days depending on where the vehicles owner lived. This plan would not generate any revenue but would reduce VMT by 10.3%.
The fifth plan would increase parking taxes in the central business district, increase parking meter fees, reduce the amount of free or reduced price parking available to city employees, and add an $8 surcharge on taxi trips that start or end below 86th Street in Manhattan.
The issue of how the revenue generated by the plans would be controlled and doled out was discussed, but not at length.
Committee chairman Marc Shaw said a “lockbox” should be created to make sure the money was dedicated to fund the MTA capital plan.
Committee member and MTA executive director Elliot Sander suggested that the money could be ultimately be controlled by the MTA Capital Program Review Board, a body with members from the Assembly, Senate, governor, and New York City.
“There are sufficient mechanisms created by state law to oversee and allocate funds to the MTA,” Sander said. “I certainly agree with the point chairman Shaw made that we may want to look at a lockbox.”
Committee member Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester, said he was skeptical that the Legislature would go for creating a revenue source in New York City without also getting something for upstate.
“There are no lock boxes,” Brodsky said. “Anyone who thinks they can assure that the money will go to mass transit just doesn’t understand how laws are passed. The last time we tried to do that [former] Gov. [George] Pataki undid it a heartbeat.”
The Legislature must approve a traffic mitigation program by the end of March to qualify for a $354.5 million federal grant to New York City and New York State conditionally awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation in August.