NYC / NYS Congestion Pricing 3.0
NYS Senators Liz Krueger & Brad Hoylman Host Community Transit Discussion
It was a cool Thursday evening as I made my way to the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown. The CUNY Graduate Center is located on Fifth Avenue just north of 34th Street kiddy-corner from the Empire State Building.
I was headed to a community discussion about the public transit crisis facing NYC. I suppose, not surprising, was that one of the Congestion Pricing representatives, Alex Matthiessen, was there to present. Alex started out the conversation with a presentation of the new Congestion Pricing Plan, which is now called Fix NYC, telling us how this Congestion Pricing plan was different from the two prior ones floated by the Bloomberg Administration and by Mattheissen's Move NY group a few years back.
Click here to read our report about NYC Congestion Pricing posted in March 2016 when we took a pretty in-depth view at who has been pushing this plan [consultancies & businesses that will profit from the infrastructure build out], how much of the London implementation revenue went back into improvements in that city [about 50%], how congestion pricing didn't reduce traffic, but time shifted traffic in a New Jersey bridge / tunnel implementation [they had claimed emissions reductions and used a 'green' label to promote the last version of this plan], and other important things to consider regarding implementing a 'new and improved' congestion pricing system along the East River Bridges.
Matthiessen started by telling us things we all know, from firsthand use of the century-old subway system, that is the backbone of the NYC public transit system - namely that it's crowded and has been slowing down due to capacity constraints, maintenance and improvements like the installation of the new signaling system which should enable the MTA to insert more cars on the track.
He then switched to the tolling on the bridges used by private motorists, where he talked about the toll structure, which he characterized as 'unfair', telling us that the motorists who use the East River Bridges are getting a free ride. I couldn't help but think that many of the motorists, who generally work and / or live in the boroughs, pay pretty huge sums of money in property or business taxes and / or rent, so to characterize them as getting a free ride didn't seem to factor in the whole scenario.
He then showed us the 'Fix NYC' plan which would change these rates, raising them for the East River Bridges and for Manhattan riders south of 60th Street, while reducing them for the bridges heading to New Jersey or upstate New York. The last piece of his presentation included a timeline for the implementation of this plan, which included:
1) Identifying 'transit deserts' where public transit isn't that effective.
2) Imposing added fees on for hire vehicles like taxies, Uber and others operating in the south of 60th Street Manhattan zone.
3) Set up and begin operating tolls on all East River bridges, with some possible exceptions.
4) 'Lock boxing' the revenue so that it can't be used for other political agendas.
What I found interesting about the 'Fix NYC' plan versus the prior version, the 'Move NY' plan was:
1) That they weren't making the misleading claims previously proffered about saving the environment by reducing traffic.
2) They continued not to discuss the expense of the implementation and operation, nor about what percentage of the proceeds will actually make it to funding public transit improvements [not that I would necessarily believe the 'estimates', as in political implementations they are all too frequently underestimated on the cost side and overestimated on the revenue side].
3) And none of this really 'fixes' the public transit system, which Matthiessen originally highlighted in the beginning of the presentation - as the subways and buses - not so much the roads. I understand that the buses use the roads, but it's important to note that buses represent less than 25% of public transit rides.
So, while the 'Fix NYC' doesn't seem to really fix anything, it does appear to be a very expensive method of taxing people for something for which they are already paying in their state and local taxes. Matthiessen told us the plan would raise $1.5 billion, but did not present that as a 'net of costs' number. He compared it with other taxation methods like raising gas, sales, auto registration or millionaires' tax [proposed by Mayor de Blasio], which would cost very little to implement as the infrastructure and operating costs for collecting those taxes are already in place.
Following Matthiessen's presentation, a panel of speakers came onto the stage. Each then gave a short presentation of who they were and what they're working on related to NYC's transit problem.
First up was Polly Trottenberg who is the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. She began by telling us what public transit the city controls versus what is controlled by the state.
To be continued later tonight or tomorrow.
Which Queens 'Democratic' Pols Support $8 Tolls?
Currently NYS Senator Jose Peralta, Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin & CCM Van Bramer, Richards & Reynoso Publicly Support Installing $8 Tolls on Queensborough & Other East River Bridges to Raise Capital for the MTA
Queens Democratic Party Chairman Joe Crowley & NYS Governor Cuomo Supported Congestion Traffic Pricing in the Past
The new Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan has been making its way into the legislative process over the past year. Just last week NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat from Manhattan introduced the bill on March 23, 2016. The Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan is being sold into the legislature as a means to raise revenue to fund MTA Capital projects.
Governor Cuomo's Words
Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the Congestion Pricing Plan put forth years ago, which wasn't popular with many of the voters in Brooklyn & Queens. The two boroughs have a combined population which rounds to 5 million or 25% of the 20 million people who live in New York State.
Cuomo was quoted as making the following statement by the Observer in an article published a year ago on March 15, 2015,
“It’s not, ‘Can I support it?’ Will the people support it? Can you get it done? Can you get a congestion plan passed and we’ve gone through this a couple of times and it was an overwhelming ‘no’ and I haven’t seen anything happen that would change my opinion,”
The Governor has essentially been repeating this position publicly ever since.
Governor Cuomo's Staff Actions
But while the Governor is publicly distancing himself from the measure which is unpopular in Queens and Brooklyn, former NY City Councilmember Mark Weprin, who is now Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs, has supported the Move NY Plan.
Weprin vehemently oppposed Congestion Traffic Pricing in 2008 when he was a NY City Councilmember, but in 2015 Weprin began publicly supporting the revised Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as he transitioned from NY City Councilmember to becoming Cuomo's Deputy of Legislative Affairs. NYS Assemblyman David Weprin, Mark's brother, continues to publicly oppose the plan.
It's worth mentioning that the Weprins and the Cuomos have had close family political ties spanning two generations.
Congressman Crowley's Position Circa 2007
Democratic Party Chairman, U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley, supported the Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan backed by former Mayor Bloomberg, according to a June 11, 2007 report by the New York Times which quoted Crowley as saying,
“the overall  plan — and congestion pricing is just a part of it — will make this a more livable city and make it easier to attract the best and the brightest not only from around the country but from around the world.”
We've not yet seen any comments by Congressman Crowley on the current Move NY Plan which was recently introduced.
Move NY's 'New & Improved' Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan
We studied the Move NY Traffic Congestion Pricing proposal by first taking a closer look at what groups are pushing the plan [follow the money], researched the assumptions they used to create the estimates they provide in the plan, and looked at what happened in one of the other cities around the world that implemented the plan.
In essence the plan retrofits [re-prices] the fossil fuel infrastructure, by making a significant investment to install and operate tolling around the center of Manhattan. The remaining proceeds would then go to fund other MTA capital projects [in London this was about half the proceeds]. The pricing would require those who can't afford the $8 tolls [each way] to either use mass transit [recent NYC metro studies have shown this switching doesn't happen] or to cross the bridge at other times at which time the tolls would cost less. The proponents say this would enable those who can afford the tolls to cross the bridge and move around mid Manhattan more easily [less traffic congestion].
Previously MTA Invests Billion$ in New Subways Appearing to Accommodate Manhattan Developers & Now Pols Want Metro Residents & Employees To Fund MTA Capital Budget
The MTA during the Bloomberg (Republican) Administration made approximately $8 billion in MTA capital investments for about 30 to 40 blocks of Manhattan subway lines. One line travels from Times Square to the Javits Center [$2.4 billion mostly paid by city] and the other, which was strongly supported by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, is expected to travel along Second Avenue from about East 60th Street to about East 86th Street when it is completed [ran way past budget and time estimates - currently about $5.2 billion].
The latter subway line has been called the 'subway to nowhere', while the other isn't much different - as it terminates at the Javits Center and billionaire real estate developer Steven Ross' & Related Companies' new Hudson Yards development - without any other subway connections. Pundits have opined that one [new #7 Hudson Yards station] and possibly both of these multi-billion dollar investments were made to accommodate Manhattan real estate developers [such as Ross], more than to facilitate transit for commuters and residents of New York City.
When I confronted an MTA spokesperson with this perspective, they told me that the Q line extension would alleviate a considerable amount of the congestion on the north / south east side Manhattan subway line, but made no comment regarding the Hudson Yards station.
The photos above show no passengers on the Javits subway [at an admittedly random time and not long after it was installed], while the second photo shows the #6 subway along the Upper East Side, also at a random time [I have #7 photos that look the same, but didn't have time to find one]. The map to your right shows the new #7 subway line extension ending as an unconnected spur.
Perhaps if the MTA and the government officals who oversee MTA capital project spending were more judicious in their selection of multi-billion dollar projects and allocation of funds, they wouldn't need to charge taxpayers $8 tolls on the East River Bridges to develop and operate an expensive new tolling system [that aids the wealthy & economically discriminates against those who are not], so they can raise some extra revenue for transit that NYC commuters - not Manhattan real estate developers - really need.
Click here for the rest of our story about the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as we explore in greater detail a connected web of people, lobbyists and organizations behind Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan and their possible motivations. We critique the plan including a review of the assumptions, and a closer look at independent studies done with regard to motorists response to toll prices and changes.
Real Estate Development: Sunnyside Yards History & NYC Railroad History - Special Report Series
There's Been Talk of Developing the Real Estate of Sunnyside Yards NYC
The following is a series of reports we have run and continue to evolve to provide background and context for the residents and voters of Sunnyside, Long Island City, Astoria, Queens, and perhaps NYC, to use to evaluate the respective pros and cons of public policy with regard to the future development of Sunnyside Yards.
The first report is a brief history of Sunnyside Yards, most of which we picked up in a book presentation by historian / author Dave Morrison at the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
The second report provides a summary overview of the development of Queens in the 19th and 20th centuries. Showing how the development of transportation affected real estate development in Queens.
The third report takes a deeper dive into the 20th century development, exploring the same line of thought with regard to the interwoven importance of transportation and real estate development.
The fourth report is expected in late April, which will show the 20th century history of development - the specifics of which will be arriving shortly.
LaGuardia Airport - Airplane Noise
Jackson Heights, Corona & Queens Voice Concerns Regarding LGA Airplane Noise
FAA Considering Extension of LaGuardia Airport Hours & Other Changes
I attended a town hall meeting about the airplane noise coming from LaGuardia Airport at PS 69 in Jackson Heights. The town hall had been organized by NYS Senator Peralta’s office and the panel of speakers included local government officials and representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] and the New York New Jersey Port Authority [NYNJPA].
Standing Room Only at PS 69
The auditorium was packed and there were people lined up along the walls as well as standing in the back of the auditorium. Airplane noise has emerged as a big issue for Jackson Heights due to a couple of construction projects going on at the airport – both of which will be completed at the end of November.
Cynical Audience Member's Point of View
The timing of the town hall meeting, only six weeks before the construction was to end, led one of the local pundits to cynically suggest that this was merely political theater, rather than an effort to accomplish anything substantive.
There was an earlier town hall meeting organized about two years ago by NYC City Councilmember Dromm, to tackle the problem in its early stages, and while it was happening - not after it was all over - which is what we're close to today.
But that said, these town hall meetings are not just political theater, although inevitably that is some of it, which you will see in the video. And while the immediate problem will subside, we discovered that there a number of efforts either underway or in the planning stages, in which the community has a vested stake in the outcomes.
Not Said In Meeting: Federal Register States That Consideration Is Being Given To Extending LGA's Operational Hours & Slots
In doing follow up research I found a piece on the Federal Register government website that informed me that the FAA is considering changing the operational hours and slots for LaGuardia Airport. This was not discussed at the town hall [click into story for additional detail]. We also found other things that were either scarcely touched upon or not addressed, which we included in this report.
Click here to read the rest of this report about LaGuardia Airport & Airplane Noise in NYC. The report includes video presentations, including some audience interaction, and a photo slide show and other information about FAA air traffic changes, airplane noise and what you can do about it.
NYC Public Transit to and from LaGuardia Airport
Public Transit Between LGA & NYC - LaGuardia Airport to Manhattan
Victor Moore Terminal In Jackson Heights
The Victor Moore MTA Terminal is located in Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens NY and is the connection terminal for public transportation to and from LaGuardia Airport LGA & NYC Manhattan.
The Victor Moore Terminal is the second busiest MTA public transit terminal in Queens, with fast express #7 and E subway train connections to Manhattan / NYC within about twenty minutes.
Click here to find the public transit to & from LaGuardia Airport LGA & NYC Manhattan.
Public Transit To & From JFK Airport To Manhattan NYC
JFK Air Train, Subway & Buses Connect JFK Airport To NYC
Summer 2016 / Manhattan Luxury Hotels & Manhattan Historic Hotels / Bronx Buzz.
The Jamaica Train station is the LIRR hub and the busiest transportation complex in Queens.
The Jamaica Train station serves as the nexus for LIRR trains heading to / from New York City, to / from JFK airport via the new air train, and to / from all destinations on Long Island, save the Port Washington line.
Click here to read more about public transit to & from JFK Airport & Manhattan NYC. This brief provides some info, photos and a map showing the location of the complex.
Bronx Biking - Cyclists Rights, Biking Laws & Rules in the Bronx NYC
Knowing Your Rights & Responsibilities As An NYC Cyclist
The introduction to the Cyclists' Rights Forum was given by Christina Vassallo, Executive Director, Flux Factory. She told us that the event came about after she and a friend were stopped for cycling violations, which they thought were not illegal, or had erroneously been applied as violation points to their motor vehicle driver's license. As a result she saw the need for a forum to clarify laws, rights and proper procedures for cyclists to follow.
Click here to read our full report about NYC Bike Laws / Cyclists' Rights Forum in Queens at the Flux Factory in LIC.
East Side Access Project Moving Along
How Will This Project Affect Manhattan Real Estate?
Updated Summer 2016 / October 4, 2010 / Bronx Real Estate & Business / Gotham Buzz NYC.
Progress on the East Side Access Tunnel project has been visible in Queens since early Spring 2010. The MTA has been busy drilling a new tunnel under the East River from LIC / Astoria, using the Sunnyside Railway Yard as its staging grounds. The photo to your left shows the view of the new tunnel being built underneath the East River from an Astoria / LIC perspective. The tunnel connects into Manhattan around 63rd Street.
Meanwhile in the Sunnyside railway yards, many of the buildings that once dotted the landscape have been demolished. Thankfully this doesn't include an old train station which has been around for many years [see photos in rest of story / slide show]. They've also cleared away a number of old warehouse and garage like structures along 43rd Street between Northern Blvd and 39th Avenue.
Click here to get an update on the East Side Access Project impact on NYC real estate.
Bronx Public Transit - Biking Around Bronx, Bronx Subways & Roadways & LGA LaGuardia & JFK Airports - Bronx Mass Transit, MTA & Infrastructure - Bronx Related Info
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