5 thoughts on “New York’s Subway System Could Be a Force for Equity and Sustainability

  1. Jarrett, there are many reasons to be grateful for this superb piece, but none more than for defining the fault line between old-line “progressives” like Bill de Blasio and transportation advocates whose view of transportation is more holistic and, ultimately, more inclusive and truly progressive.

    You did this by offering up Mayor de Blasio’s Aug. 15 exhortation to pass his millionaire’s tax to fund transit improvements:

    “We need a millionaire’s tax so that New Yorkers who typically travel in first class pay their fair share so the rest of us can get around, so the rest of us can get to work, so the rest of us can live our lives here in this city.”

    The mayor evidently divides New Yorkers between a 1 percent who travel first class, whatever that is, and a 99 percent who “get around” some other way. Congestion-charging proponents divide New Yorkers going to Manhattan’s Central Business District — the zone we would charge drivers to enter — into the 20 percent who use motor vehicles and the 80 percent who use subways and other forms of transit. We would rewrite his statement thus:

    “We need a congestion charge so that New Yorkers who typically travel first class — in motor vehicles — pay their fair share to enter the CBD and give the subways the funding they need so the rest of us can get around, so the rest of us can get to work, so the rest of us can live our lives here in this city.”

    Note that my 20/80 split is actually 15/85, since a quarter of the 20% arriving by vehicle already pay a toll to enter via the tunnels under the Hudson and East Rivers (and will not pay an additional entry toll). So in effect, congestion pricing proposals such as the Move NY plan are asking merely that the 15% of CBD “arrivals” do what the other 85% already do: pay a charge.

    It’s stunning that de Blasio denies this frame. In doing so, he is casting his lot with 600,000 individuals who pay nothing to drive into or through the heart of Manhattan, compounding traffic gridlock and waste, and feeding the 3 million who arrive by transit an outmoded, faux populism that can’t deliver the equitable and sustainable subways you and the rest of us long for.

    There’s more to be said, including the fact that the Move NY plan would generate twice as many dollars for transportation as de Blasio’s tax, while also delivering double-digit improvements in street travel times by discouraging some non-essential auto trips. Indeed, it’s the potential to solve transit and traffic in one bold stroke that makes us hopeful that Gov. Cuomo’s forthcoming congestion pricing plan will build on Move NY’s structure.

    As you say, “The moment demands a vision for the progressive force mass transit can be.” Let’s hope your terrific piece inspires Mayor de Blasio to join with the governor and seize the moment.

  2. It is ridiculous that Governor Andrew Cuomo insisted on passing legislation that allows almost 2 billion dollars to build a LIRR Third Track in the middle of nowhere. The Governor is demanding that a LIRR Third Track be built between Floral Park and Hicksville where it is not needed at all. And yet he lets the NYC subway system with signals from the 1930’s fall into more and more disrepair every single day. Stop playing with your muscle cars, Andrew, and help fix the subway system. You are in charge of the MTA after all.

  3. Pingback: New York’s Subway System Could Be a Force for Equity and Sustainability | City Limits | Staten Island Mobility Solutions

  4. It is simple common sense that if it costs $2.75 to get over a bridge or through a tunnel on the subway, then drivers should pay the same, and more during peak periods to reduce congestion and encourage non-peak driving.

  5. I have my doubts about all of these congestion pricing schemes. But I can see that with new cashless tolling technologies tolls can be added to the East River crossings. MTA cashless tolling seems to be working well on the Verrazano and other crossings. But I think that tolling within the Manhattan CBD is a bad idea if only for the fact that toll gantries are unattractive and best suited to highways. The MoveNY plan looks better and better to me but as a Staten Islander I don’t trust some of the groups behind it.


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