The Plan

Transportation: In the past fifty years, New York City has neglected investment in its transportation network. PlanNYC proposes comprehensive reforms that will improve travel times and improve funding to meet the city’s needs in 2030. The reforms plan to improve New York City’s transit network and reduce gridlock with enhanced road management and congestion pricing. The program hopes to introduce a new entity, called the Smart Financing Authority that would provide grants for funding critical transit expansions.

Transportation initiatives include the following:

• Increase capacity on key congested routes
• Provide new commuter rail access to Manhattan
• Expand transit access to underserved areas
• Improve and expand bus service
• Improve local commuter rail service (seek to make better local use of metro-north and LIRR stations)
• Promote cycling
• Strengthen enforcement of traffic violations

Key Initiative: Pilot Congestion Pricing

In the past thirty years, significant and comprehensive improvements in NYC’s subway system have yet to change the way New York’s travel to Manhattan. Despite improvements in safety, efficiency, and aesthetics, the amount of drivers traveling to Manhattan has been virtually unchanged.
A common strategy that has arisen around the world is congestion pricing. This system is a tactic for combating gridlock by charging drivers a fee for entering the city’s center. It is interesting to note that London, Stockholm, and Singapore all employ congestion pricing.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has encouraged cities to undertake congestion reduction initiatives. In nearly every case where it has been implemented, PlanNYC argues, “congestion pricing has been successful at reducing traffic both within the ‘congestion zone’ and outside it, speeding bus service, decreasing delivery times, improving air quality, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, with no material impact on the economy, including retail activity in the zone in which the charge applies.”
PlanNYC claims that in order to gain support for congestion pricing, it must be emphasized that it is only one part of a greater plan to improve transportation conditions in NYC.
The Meta group plans to compare this system of congestion pricing to that of used in other cities, such as Mexico City and Tokyo. Using the PlanNYC bulletin posted on its website, along with other relevant data, we can compared the efficacies of New York’s reform plans and those of other cities around the globe.

Emissions from Different Transportation

Carbon dioxide emissions could be cut in half if drivers took the train, and cut even more so by riding the bus. The most efficient and prosperous way to bring New York City towards sustainability is probably through improving public transportation Increases in accessibility and reliability, which includes more frequent and timely service, would attract new passengers. Investments in more advanced technology would also increase efficiency.

Congestion in Manhattan

Congestion, measured by the time spent waiting in traffic, is an enormous problem in many major metropolitan areas. New York is no exception. One of the major areas of congestion in New York City is the Central Business District. Commuter congestion costs New York City an estimated $13 billion annually based on factors such as lost time,lost business revenue, and operating costs. In 1990, the New York region had only seven hours of heavy congestion daily during peak rush hours. By 2030, it is estimated that this number will increase to twelve.

By removing gridlock from the streets, you decrease the amount of cars on the road, as well as the span of time they are there. Traffic would decrease by 6.3%, and speeds are expected to increase by 7.2%. This means that, by removing gridlock from the streets, you decrease the amount of cars on the road, as well as the duration of time they are there. Studies have shown that idling cars stuck in traffic release greater amounts of certain pollutants into the air than cars in continuous motion.

For example, cars moving at 10 miles per hour release more volatile organic compounds into the air than cars moving at 40 miles per hour. These volatile organic compounds are made of greenhouse gases that ultimately contribute to global warming.

Congestion Pricing

Congestion pricing, as described in PlaNYC, is “a carefully designed charge for drivers in part of Manhattan during business hours.” Congestion pricing will have three main goals:

1) Reduce congestion and improve travel times
2) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
3) Generate revenue

The plan would charge drivers a daily fee when entering the CBD (Central Business District) of Manhattan from 6 am to 6 pm on weekdays. The hope is that drivers will not want to pay the fee, and will instead opt to commute via public transportation. This will ultimately decrease congestion in not only the CBD zone, but in the neighborhoods that border the zone and areas where key thoroughfares lead to bridges into Manhattan.

Congestion pricing has been proven as an effective technique at minimizing street overcrowding. Although a controversial program, it has been effectively implemented in a few cities round the world, particularly London and Stockholm:

London experienced a number of benefits from the congestion-pricing program:

– 30% average drop in congestion.

– 37% average increase in traffic speed.

– 20% reduction in fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

– More than $360 million has been used toward expansion and enhancement of mass transit networks.
– 30% increase in bus readership during peak hours

Stockholm, like London, experienced a number benefits from their congestion-pricing program: (

– 22% average drop in congestion.

– 2-3% reduction in CO2 emissions in Stockholm County, 14% reduction in the inner city.

Smart planning facilitated the success of these two congestion-pricing plans. In the case of London, the government focused on increasing transit capacity, particularly on bus service via new routes, more frequent service and larger vehicles. Also, a residential parking permit was enacted to discourage people from parking in areas adjacent to the congestion zone. Likewise, the government in Stockholm eased the switch from automobiles by improving the public transportation network. The train system was improved with larger trains and more frequent departures. Bus service improved via the introduction of nearly 200 new buses.

Wiley Norvell, Communications Director at Transportation Alternatives, says that New York City “can’t fund transit expansion without” congestion pricing.


Expansion and Green Solutions

It is also important tounderstand that revenue raised from congestion pricing would be used to expand an already overcrowded subway system. By 2030,there will be an expected 1 million residents joining New York City, so the expansion of the subway system will be crucial to accommodate the growing demand for public transportation. An estimated $491 million will be raised annually, all of which can be used to cover MTA expansion. Of the City’s 26 subway lines, 11 are at peak congestion today. These include:

– The 4-5-6 Lexington Avenue line

– The L line

– The E-F line

The 4 and the 5 lines are 110% and 108% capacity, the 2 and the 3 lines are at 106% and 101% capacity, the 6 is at 98% capacity, and the 1, A and C lines are operating between 84% and 87% capacity. The problem with promoting mass transit occurs when the mass transit system is at, or nearing, its limit. The solution is clearly expansion, and the revenue for that expansion is expected to come from tolls collected from congestion pricing.

This is very important for several reasons. First, congestion pricing is estimated to bring 78,000 new riders to the mass transit system. This increase would come on top of other increases. For example, citywide ridership has increased 17% since 1999 and ridership on the 1 line has grown an astonishing 30% since 1999. Now many will argue that overcrowding shouldn’t be a worry because straphangers will choose different lines to tavel on. These statistics, however, point to the possibility that certain lines might be more affected than others. Ultimately, the only solution will have to be system-wide expansion and the revenue will have to come from congestion pricing.

(Source: The Interim Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Sustainability and the MTA)

Subway ridership has gone about 19% since 1999. Some lines, like the 1 line that goes through Manhattan have experienced even faster growth. Thus, many subway lines that currently exist in areas that are already at or above capacity will only get worse, especially since the population of New York City is expected to increase by 1 million in 2030.200px-2nd_ave_subwaysvg

As a means of easing subway congestion, PlaNYC aims to complete building the Second Avenue Subway line. The project has been started before but has been hindered by the lack of funds. They need at least $50 billion to execute their plans, and have already secured $13.4 million for the line. The plan also relies heavily on congestion pricing as a source of funding. If congestion pricing becomes a reality, funding will ultimately help the MTA expand the transit network. Congestion pricing would result in $380 million in net revenue in its first year and increase to over $900 million by 2030.

The MTA also has plans to implement certain sustainable technologies in subway stations. Two such examples are regenerative braking and “humped” tracks. With regenerative braking, kinetic energy used for braking is stored later for acceler

ation of the train. Regenerative braking is already in use in certain subway cars, but the MTA hopes to expand this. “Humped” tracks on the other hand is still a future plan. It involves the use of tracks which are slightly raised or “humped” at subway stations. These tracks will slow down the train when they approach a station and place them at the top of the “hump”. Thus when it is time to leave the station, the gravitational pull will aid in the acceleration, thus reducing the amount of energy used. This technology can reduce energy use by 12%.

The MTA recently voted to enact the “Doomsday” plan, which means that New Yorkers will have to deal with massive service cuts and fair hikes. Single subway or bus rides are going to jump from $2 to $2.50 and 30-day unlimited metrocards are going to jump from $81 to $103.

The W and Z lines are being eliminated altogether, and the G and M lines are being shortened. As a result, there willbe approximately 18 more people per subway car. Without a bailout plan from Albany, these measures will come into effect in the coming months (fares increase May 31). This plan is counterintuitive. You can’t promote mass transit while raising fares and cutting services.

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