Yesterday, TSTC board member Charles Komanoff presented the newest version of his masterpiece Balanced Transportation Analyzer (BTA) to a packed room at the Manhattan headquarters of Sam Schwartz Engineering. The Analyzer estimates how different tolls and transit fare incentives would influence commuter behavior in NYC, and calculates the resulting travel speeds, revenues, and other benefits. Charlie and his team spent much of the last year perfecting the massive spreadsheet, which includes 40 or so individual tables, and hundreds of inputs.
Charlie and his collaborator, longtime labor mediator and transit advocate Ted Kheel, have applied the BTA to what’s been dubbed the Kheel-Komanoff Plan. Under that plan, variable tolls would be applied on the East River bridges and the northern boundary of the Manhattan central business district, a taxi surcharge would be implemented, and, critically, subway fares would be halved (and made time variable) with bus fares eliminated outright.
The Kheel-Komanoff Plan would also cut traffic in the Manhattan CBD dramatically and raise travel speeds significantly.
Several years ago, Tri-State staff visited NYMTC’s 55 Water Street offices and were shown the “nerve center” of a dozen or so computers running the agency’s much-criticized but widely-utilized Best Practice Model. That model is the typical “black box” planning model which only highly-trained agency staff can operate.
In contrast, the BTA allows anyone with a cursory understanding of spreadsheets to view and adjust assumptions and variables to test various policy alternatives. And it’s available online for all to use. Beyond its use in demonstrating the value of the Kheel-Komanoff Plan, the BTA should become a benchmark for transparency when it comes to future transportation planning models.