Millman Gives Testimony to New York City Traffic Mitigation Commission

November 2, 2007
Brooklyn – On Thursday, November 1st, Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman delivered oral testimony at New York City Traffic Mitigation Commission public hearing held at New York City Tech Klitgord Auditorium.

The 17-member Commission was created to develop a plan to reduce traffic congestion which must be approved by Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council and the State Legislature by March 31, 2008. Seven public hearings were designed for the Commission to receive testimony from members of the public. These hearings will be held in each of the city’s five boroughs, as well as one each in Westchester County and on Long Island.

Assemblywoman Millman’s testimony focused on the need to improve mass transit and she provided eight traffic mitigation alternatives to the Mayor’s congestion pricing proposal. In addition, she cited the importance of making existing mass transit more accessible for physically disabled riders. An excerpt of her testimony can be found below.

Testimony Presented to:
New York City Traffic Mitigation Commission

I want to praise Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership in addressing the problems that New York City will confront in the decades ahead. He has served the city well by raising these issues and reminding us of our responsibility as citizens of this planet. I also applaud PlaNYC 2030’s comprehensive and multifaceted approach to accommodate the expected population growth of New York City while protecting our local environment and reducing our city’s overall impact on air quality and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

That being said, I am deeply disappointed in the Mayor and the City because they seem so intent on implementing their congestion pricing plan that they are blind to its true impact. This necessary review process has already been poisoned with politics and wordsmithing.

We need a plan that will ensure New York City remains the greatest city in the world and one that both promotes economic growth and protects the environment. Beyond congestion pricing, I also believe that it is the government’s role to create incentives to improve alternative and more energy efficient modes of transportation.

I have many concerns and questions about the Mayor’s currently proposed plan.

My first concern is the haste in which this plan has been created. As you may recall, considerable pressure was placed on the Legislature to pass a congestion pricing bill by July 16th or, we were told, New York City would lose out on up to $500 million in federal funding. That argument made by the Mayor and congestion pricing proponents appears to be false. Congestion pricing was not passed, yet, federal funding is still available to the City.

It also appears that the Mayor’s plan is, in reality, a poorly-disguised plan to place tolls on the East River Bridges and punish hard-working New Yorkers who live in the outer boroughs.

Before any congestion pricing scheme can be implemented, our regional transportation system must be upgraded to handle the additional demands that will be placed on it. Howard Roberts Jr., President of NYC Transit, has stated that the subway lines are often overcrowded and are not adequate for the City’s projected growth. In addition, the Lord Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, who is a leading supporter of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, has said that, “In London, as will be the case in New York or any other city, an enhanced public transportation system was critical.”

Our mass transit system is also unable to properly address the needs of people with disabilities. People with disabilities must be given fair and adequate access to the city’s public transit system. The MTA has only 59 stations out of 488 in the city that are at least partially accessible to the disabled community. Elevators and escalators at many of those stations are too often out of service. We have short-changed these residents and that needs to be remedied.

I am concerned that the start-up and operating costs are too high in relation to the revenue projected to be generated. There is too much trust in untested technology and too many assumptions in both anticipated costs and potential revenue. I also question the need for the creation of a new agency to manage this program. A new and untested agency does not seem to be the most efficient manner to implement a complicated and challenging plan.

I propose the following alternative ways to reduce traffic in the city:

  1. 3-Person HOV Zone for Manhattan Below 60th Street: A 3-Person HOV Zone on all roadways leading into Manhattan below 60th Street should be created. This is not without precedent as the city implemented a similar plan during the transit strike of 2005 and in the months following 9/11.
  2. Residential Parking Permits: In the HOV Zone and all adjacent zones, including outer borough neighborhoods such as Downtown Brooklyn, there should be fee-based residential permit parking, similar to Boston and Washington, DC.
  3. Expand Ferry Service: The city should greatly expand ferry and water taxi service from the outer boroughs.
  4. Expand Commuter Rail: The MTA needs to complete the Third Branch of the LIRR and build the East River Tunnel to complete the JFK-Lower Manhattan link, which will improve service for Long Island and Brooklyn residents.
  5. Enforcement of Traffic Laws: The city needs to increase enforcement of traffic laws because too often congestion is caused by violators blocking the box, double parking, parking in bus stops, driving in bus lanes, and blocking bike lanes.
  6. Stop Issuing Parking Placards: A 2006 Transportation Alternatives study estimated that over 150,000 city, state and federal parking placards have been issued, not to mention countless bogus or invalid ones. This practice must be stopped.
  7. Greater Use of Hybrid And Low-Emission Vehicles: All city and state vehicles, all buses and taxis, including all “for-hire” vehicles, should be environmentally-friendly hybrid or low-emission vehicles.
  8. Reduce Truck Congestion: Truck congestion will be partly reduced by greater enforcement of traffic laws and the revoking of parking placards, as many of these vehicles illegally park in loading zones and force trucks to double park. Additionally, there should be incentives to encourage businesses to receive deliveries during non-business hours.

There are also other methods to reduce vehicle traffic, such as expanding Bus Rapid Transit, making New York more accommodating to bicycles and pedestrians and even building light rail lines on major avenues and cross-streets.

I supported and voted for the creation of the Commission to be an important safeguard against the implementation of a hasty and poorly-planned traffic mitigation plan. I challenge the Commission to take the community input from these public hearings seriously and truly act in the best interest of our city. I trust the Commission will create a plan that will keep New York City an economical and environmental world leader.