Millman Gives Testimony to Traffic Mitigation Commission

January 25, 2008
Brooklyn – This week Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman submitted testimony regarding the Interim Report to the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission. The Commission has one week to select a single plan to submit first to the Mayor, then the New York City Council and finally to the New York State legislature for approval. Assemblywoman Millman’s testimony can be found below.

Six public meetings were held all on the same night, only one week before the final report is due to the Mayor. The scheduling of these meetings did not give sufficient time for review of public input nor did it allow members of the Commission to attend multiple meetings.

“It is unclear if the objective of the traffic mitigation plan is to reduce traffic or to raise revenue,” stated Millman. “I also am disappointed that a Residential Permit Parking Plan was not fully reviewed. Furthermore, the proposed plans all fail to address making our public transportation system more accessible to physically disabled individuals. All told, I have many reservations about the proposed plans and the process of the Commission in creating these proposals.”

Testimony Presented to:
New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission

Submitted By:
Joan L. Millman
Member of Assembly, 52nd Assembly District

Re: Interim Report to the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Interim Report to the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission. As the Assemblymember for the 52nd District, representing Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, and Park Slope, I represent a district that will be directly impacted by any traffic congestion mitigation plan.

While I applaud the Commission for their dedication to public service, I am disappointed by the manner in which the public has been treated in this process. To hold six scheduled public meetings on the same night, just one week before the final report is due to the Mayor, is disingenuous.

I supported and voted for the creation of this Commission to be an important safeguard against the implementation of a hasty and poorly-planned traffic mitigation plan. Unfortunately, my hopes for this Commission appear to be dashed. It is obvious from reading the Interim Report that the Alternative Congestion Pricing Plan will be recommended by the Commission to the Mayor, City Council and State Legislature for approval.

There is, though, one basic question that the Commission has failed to answer in its report: What is the primary goal of any traffic congestion mitigation plan- generate revenue or reduce traffic congestion?

If the goal is to generate revenue, then the Mayor’s Plan, the Alternative Plan and the Toll Plan are the obvious choices. However, there are two critical flaws with those plans. The first lies in the projected revenue. For example, in the Mayor’s Plan, the Interim Report projected annual revenues of $420 million. This differs from the plan introduced by the Mayor last year and some reports have even projected annual revenue to be as low as $70 million. It seems as if numbers are being irresponsibly plucked out of thin air. Several members of this Commission have even complained about the “distortions and misinformation” regarding the data they were given. How was this figure arrived at?

The second flaw lies in the projected costs of any congestion pricing or toll plan. Whichever pricing plan is approved, the plan is scheduled to sunset after three years. Why must hundreds of millions of dollars be spent to build a revenue collecting infrastructure for a plan that might last only three years?

If the goal is to generate revenue then there are quicker and more efficient ways to accomplish this such as reintroducing the commuter tax. The Interim Report states that the commuter tax can generate up to $867 million dollars annually. The Alternative Congestion Pricing Plan is only expected to generate $520 million annually, but that is before the cost of building and operating a system to collect those fees are considered.

So I ask again: What is the primary goal of a traffic congestion mitigation plan?

The primary goal of a traffic congestion mitigation plan should be just that- reduce the economically-crippling congestion in the city and decrease our carbon footprint by reducing emissions from vehicles. There are many ways to accomplish this goal before implementing a costly congestion pricing plan.

In the Interim Report, the reduction of VMT, vehicle miles traveled, appears to be the benchmark to judge a plan’s feasibility. I recommended to this Commission in November that a three-person HOV should be implemented. The Interim Report even stated that the reduction in VMT from an HOV strategy is “expected to be significant.” Why was this option dismissed so quickly?

I am also disappointed that a Residential Permit Parking Plan was not fully reviewed. RPP is a way to both encourage more people to use mass transit and to generate revenue to ensure mass transit is properly funded. The New York City Department of Transportation is actively studying this option in several parts of my district. I cannot understand why their work was not incorporated into the Interim Report. The fee charged for permits and the summonses issued for violators will dissuade non-residents from driving and parking in the Zone or Adjacent Zones which will both reduce traffic and generate revenue that can be used for mass transit.

The Interim Report fails to adequately examine three key components that must be included in any plan:

  1. 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. This will also provide a quick and efficient public transportation option to reach JFK Airport.
  2. GREATER 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.
  3. THE WORST OFFENDERS: The greatest contributor to zone congestion is the cruising of taxis and the black for-hire town cars.

Lastly, I am frustrated that none of the plans 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 even partially accessible to the disabled community. Too often, elevators and escalators at many of those stations are out of service. There are also less than 90 out of over 13,000 taxis that are wheelchair-accessible so many people who use wheelchairs rely on mass transit. It is unacceptable to continuously ignore people with disabilities.

I implored this Commission to act in the best interest of our city by creating the most efficient and effective traffic congestion mitigation plan. In reading the Interim Report, I am disheartened to see that more viable and cost-efficient options were brushed aside. It seems clear that the Commission is intent on selecting a modified version of the Mayor’s original plan, without openly and honestly examining other options.

All of the proposed plans in the Interim Report have glaring shortcomings. The Commission needs to properly explain why a pricing plan is the best plan, notwithstanding federal funding.

This Commission has a great deal of work ahead of itself in the next seven days. I understand there is a time constraint but we need this Commission to examine every possible option. New York deserves the best plan.

Thank you.