U.S. Representative and NYC mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner was at the 42nd Street/Madison Avenue Commerce Bank this morning to discuss transportation as part of City Hall News‘ “On/Off the Record” interview series. While Weiner offered several smart ideas for reducing congestion, his comments on NYC’s proposed congestion pricing plan echoed the same unsubstantiated arguments brought up by other critics of the plan.
Chief among Weiner’s arguments was that, because tolls would be deducted from the $8 congestion fee, “people from the suburbs [would] pay nothing,” which would be unfair to NYC residents. This is an obvious inaccuracy–both suburban commuters and NYC residents would pay $8 to drive into Manhattan’s central business district, and suburban commuters are hardly the only people driving over NYC’s toll crossings.
Weiner did offer several ideas which transportation advocates can agree with. He praised New York’s efforts to increase cycling mode share and said a Paris-style bike sharing program “should not be dismissed out of hand.” (In earlier testimony before the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, Weiner said the city should aim for a 10% bike modal share by 2020.)
Weiner expressed his support for the cross-harbor rail freight tunnel, which has been championed by Rep. Jarrold Nadler and would connect NYC to the national rail freight network. He also suggested variable pricing for Midtown parking and variable truck tolls, but would not put truck tolls on the free East River bridges. This would likely shift some truck traffic to off-peak times, but would do nothing to deter truckers who detour through neighborhoods in order to use the free bridges.
Weiner has previously packaged these improvements as an “alternative” congestion pricing plan, but it’s doubtful that a plan which focuses primarily on combating truck traffic would result in anything close to the 6.3% reduction in vehicle-miles traveled that a plan approved by the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission must achieve. According to NYSDOT data from 2005, trucks make up less than 7 percent of traffic entering Manhattan on bridges and tunnels (see also MTR # 556).
In addition, it’s unlikely that variable parking pricing and truck tolls on their own would qualify New York to receive the $354.5 million awarded by USDOT to implement a congestion pricing program. None of the Urban Partner cities are implementing truck-only tolls, and variable parking pricing is not considered “congestion pricing” under the Urban Partnership program.