• NYC MTA Congestion Pricing Effects on NYCT, NJT, MNRR, and LIRR

  • This forum will be for issues that don't belong specifically to one NYC area transit agency, but several. For instance, intra-MTA proposals or MTA-wide issues, which may involve both Metro-North Railroad (MNRR) and the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). Other intra-agency examples: through running such as the now discontinued MNRR-NJT Meadowlands special. Topics which only concern one operating agency should remain in their respective forums.
This forum will be for issues that don't belong specifically to one NYC area transit agency, but several. For instance, intra-MTA proposals or MTA-wide issues, which may involve both Metro-North Railroad (MNRR) and the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). Other intra-agency examples: through running such as the now discontinued MNRR-NJT Meadowlands special. Topics which only concern one operating agency should remain in their respective forums.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

  by finsuburbia
JCGUY wrote:My narrow point on the mayor's plan is that by it's own terms, assuming it's aspirations come to full fruition, it achieves a very small reduction in driving, while instituting a rather large tax, the proceeds of which do very little to fund the yawning gap in transit needs. I understand full well that Hong Kong and New York are different, but that does not mean a public-private partnership can't work to fund an infrastructure project. You want the government to do it -- fine, it is taking generations and generations for the government to accomplish anything. A public-private partnership in some form, any form, could possibly actually build a project in some practical time-frame. Maybe that is possible, maybe not, but I think the notion should be explored. Riding the Lex line is a brutal commuting experience, and waiting for what amounts to governmental charity to get a line built while I'm still breathing has been a fairly dispiriting slog.
Public/private partnerships have their place and should be evaluated to see if the cost/benefit of raising capital through the private sector is appropriate.

I said specifically why New York and Hong Kong are different for a reason. You implied that Hong Kong is a reason that a private subway could work. I pointed out that the low cost of driving compared to transit in NYC vs. HK is precisely the reason why it would not work. To use Hong Kong is a red herring.
I don't believe in charging more for driving, that's correct. I drove from Jersey City to Long Island recently. I traveled with children and made multiple stops along the way -- this was a trip that would occur via a car or would simply not occur at all. I paid over $10 in tolls and probably another couple bucks in gas taxes for the 50 mile round trip. In part those taxes subsidize . . . me. I take the PATH line for $1.50, $1.20 when bought in bulk, then purchased with pre-tax dollars via my employer -- maybe 75 cents a ride. For a typical middle class person with a job in Manhattan that's getting close to essentially free. I pay for my "free" ride by enduring infrastructure that desperately needs capacity enhancements and isn't getting them. I'd rather pay the full freight for my subway rides, have the government subsidize directly riders that need it, not all of us regardless of need, and get required capacity enhancements actually built. Some trips are best done by rail, some by car, if you believe in forcing the middle class onto trains for it's own sake, that's one thing. I believe in enhanced mobility, which means sometimes better trains and sometimes -gasp!- enhanced road capacity. It does not mean beating people about the head to make them travel in some way that I believe best (or not travel at all) due to my own personal preferences.
Lets see, lets look at driving subsidies.

- Local roadways paid out of property taxes, not user fees (6,400 miles in NYC).
- Gas tax paid into sinking funds (NJ's Transporation Trust Fund and theFederal Highway Trust Fund) that will never get paid off.
- Little to no property taxes on parking (except some places, like Manhattan)
- Street cleaning paid out of property taxes
- Policing, paid out of property taxes

Once motorists pay for all of these things out of user fees, we can talk about the mass transit subsidy.

You want to talk about the private sector? The private sector cannot be viable in mass transit as long as driving is subsidized. There is no reason why the marginal cost of driving should be less than the marginal cost of transit. In fact, it is bad public policy to do so.

As far as roadway capacity is concerned: You can't build your way out of congestion. Any capacity enhancements you make will (especially in the NYC metro area) be immediately eaten up by induced demand. In fact, by adding more capacity in one part of the road network, you make the traffic worse elsewhere. To add enough capacity to (temporarily) get ahead of demand in this area, the cost would make the Second Avenue Subway look like pocket change.

Some reading for you to do:

  by JCGUY
Induced demand. This is living proof that if elites repeat an argument enough times it becomes accepted truth no matter how silly it would sound when placed in any other context. If you believe that adding capacity to a system is futile, because it merely increases the desirability of the system, thereby leading to an equally congested expanded system, then why on earth would you be in favor of adding a 2nd avenue subway or THE Tunnel? Won't those systems simply induce demand and wind up equally congested. Extending PATH platforms would simply 'induce demand' leading to longer, equally crowded trains. Right? In fact we could cut down the Lex line to a single track shared by each direction, with occasional sidings, since after all having a 2 track, local, express configuration merely induces demand leading to intolerable conditions. Or something. If your schools are overcrowded, you need more classrooms, if your supermarket is overcrowded, you can use another across town, when the 727 is full up, use a 747, if your trains are overcrowded you need more transit capacity, and when you haven't added road capacity in two generations to a dispersed metro area extending from the Poconos to the Hamptons, with millions upon millions joining a mobile middle class, maybe you just might need some more lanes.

Here's some material for you:

http://www.amazon.com/Sprawl-Compact-Hi ... 0226076903

  by finsuburbia
Yes, induced demand does exist in public transportation as well. The point is, however, that using the argument that we need to expand road capacity to reduce congestion is asinine because all the capacity will immediately be eaten up by induced demand and cause more congestion elsewhere.

Moreover, there are several huge differences between expanding road capacity and building the second avenue subway or THE Tunnel. First is the incremental capacity gained from enhancing public transportation systems vs. roadway capacity. An average highway lane can carry about 1500 cars per hour. Adding two lanes (one in each direction) and multiplying it by the average passengers per car (I believe it is 1.3) gives you 3900 passengers/hour.

Trains on the northeast corridor, on the other hand, carry up to 1,000 people each. With the current 23 trains per hour, they can carry a maximum of 23,000 per hour. With THE Tunnel enhancements, they can carry 48,000 passengers/hour in one direction, 96,000 for both.

Not to say that demand on THE Tunnel will never catch up with supply, but the incremental capacity gained from adding THE Tunnel will put it far above existing demand whereas adding roadway capacity will not make an significant gain.

More importantly, however, the negative externalities from adding car capacity don't exist from adding public transit capacity. Having more people enter a city core like Manhattan means more foot traffic which equals more business. Cars don't do that. When people enter with public transit, they don't bring 1 1/2 to 3 tones of their personal property that they have to store somewhere. With the electric rail transit that exists in New York you don't have increases in particulate emissions that have negative effects on health.

In addition public transit users will not use schedule delay as often as car users to avoid congestion so there is less demand that would just be shifted to a different time of the day if capacity is enhanced.

I don't know much about Robert Bruegmann. The Reason Foundation is a libertarian think tank that shills for corporate interests. According to SourceWatch here
are some of Reason's Funders.

American Petroleum Institute
Chevron Corporation
DaimlerChrysler Corp.
ExxonMobil Corporation
Ford Motor Company
General Motors Corporation
Shell Oil Co.
Western States Petroleum Association

Conflict of interest much?

  by JCGUY
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. You and I will likely never agree on transportation policy, and its likely fruitless to try and convince each other. Just a couple points: The Reason Foundation is no more a shill for anything than any other think tank. Reason supports markets, not businesses. For evil-sounding corporation you can name that supports Reason, I can tally interest groups with concerns that are far more parochial touting transit use. There is a wide constituency in favor of transit, or opposed to road building, and I'm sure the Bombadiers of the world have lobbyists all their own, to say nothing of the vast power that public employee unions have in northeast state capitols, and a media that recycles transit-advocacy groups' press releases and packages them as "news". Anti-road activists have written the laws to stop road building, and have succeeded. The notion that there is some sort of powerful road lobby in this area is undercut by the simple fact that no road building is going on in this area in spite of obvious need. Reason's critique of transit-oriented planning is a lonely voice out there, and one that I think does a good job of explaining where we are in terms of mobility.

Over my lifetime I have seen not an iota of new road capacity in NYC and the immediately surrounding area. I take the train to work and for many errands, but it is not a solution to every travel need I have. I need the road network to see my family in different suburbs, to go hiking, to visit friends, to shop, to go out. I don't take to the roads in search of filthy lucre, I'm doing it to visit my family and friends. I have seen traffic deteriorate year by year, I know from visiting nycroads.com and other sites of the road projects that have not been built and I can see the consequences. I know why I can't easily travel to Connecticut, to Philadelphia, to Albany, to Long Island. The consequences include me not seeing people in certain areas as much as I'd like. During this time, traffic increases year-by-year, and yet we are told that this is good because it will get us out of our cars. First of all: this is not happening. People are driving more, not less. The burdens on roads are increasing, not decreasing. All this lack of road building has done is reduce our quality of life. Second: I don't want out of my car. No device I have ever owned has provided me with the richness of experience that my car has. No device has allowed me to visit more places, visit more people, comparison shop, travel without extensive planning, handle emergencies, carry stuff, multi-task, than my car. People name their cars. There is no device that provides a person of average means with more freedom and pleasure than a car. The desire for automobility is not sinister. It is universal, and fulfilling that desire is a social positive. There is an element of the surreal on this board sometimes when people, who I would bet anything own cars and use them on a regular basis, in spite of the ability one has by living in this region to arrange one's life so that one need not own a car, pretend as if they need to be convinced that the auto has any place in modern life.

I have also seen in my lifetime that the rail network in this area needs vast improvement. The PATH system is ancient. The PA does a great job maintaining what they have, but there is a crying need for added capacity, new routes and modern facilities. The Lex line is burdened beyond civility. The 7 Train is slow and overcrowded. Clearly, entire new routes are needed. This board has been a great source of insight on planning for the future and for explanations of why things are the way they are now.

There is an expression to the effect of "When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail." My personal philosophy is that this region has shortchanged capacity in all areas of mobility through my entire lifetime. That includes rail for sure. But it goes beyond rail to airports, ports, roads and rail freight. We are a region living off the sweat and investment of prior generations, unable to find the will to make the difficult choices to update and expand the facilities we need to get around. That includes roads -- not everything is a nail.

  by CComMack
Sorry, JCGUY, but I have to jump in. "Induced demand" is neither a canard nor a conspiracy. It's very basic economics. When supply goes up, consumption goes up.

The problem with transportation, i.e. why there has not been enough investment, is that the roads in this country are socialist. The government fixes the price of using them at zero[1], and does not allow the price to rise (or fall) with demand. As such, nobody can recover the cost of a capital investment either in roads or in competitive modes, so there is no investment, even when such would be an unquestionably good idea. What results is a shortage, and consumers (drivers) must line up and wait to consume the road space they want.

Why, may I ask, are the traffic jams in America in 2007 any more ridiculous than the lines for bread, toothpaste or batteries in Eastern Europe in 1987? They are the identical results of the same cause: prices artificially set lower than the market level by politicians who fear the political consequences of allowing the price to rise. The fundamental idiocy is not significantly altered by the fact that the socialists in this country were elected and often Republicans; it merely redistributes the blame.

Unfortunately, we lack the knowledge and the technology to convert our current road setup to anything like a market-based system (imagine, if you will, each of the lanes on the George Washington Bridge being sold to one of 14 different operators, and the inherent difficulties in genuine privatization should become obvious.) Surface transportation is has too many technical barriers to entry and too much market power in the hands of even the most granular entity (especially if we hold to sane arrangements, like one bridge=one operator!). Any partial privatization is anathema; it brings with it all the problems of socialism while enabling the 'successful' to enrich themselves from the public purse. No, now that the government is meddling, it is stuck meddling, for now.

The best option that we have at this point is for the government to attempt to act in such a way as to most closely imitate the price which the market would have set had it been allowed to act. That involves raising the price of road space wherever that road space is popular enough to have a queue waiting to use it on a regular basis. By this metric, Mayor Bloomberg's proposed congestion charge is most reasonable; the only remaining quibble might be over the exact price point, but the way to determine that is through empirical data.

I thoroughly dislike it when people who ought to know better, like the Reason Foundation, argue for roads in the name of the free market, when America's roads are the very antithesis of a functioning free market. I identify as small-l libertarian, and that kind of doublethink just gives us a bad name.

[1] Yes, there are toll roads and bridges in America, but they are by far the exception; there are 6,400 miles of local streets in New York City alone; I would be surprised if there were that many route-miles of toll road in the entire country. The federal and state gas taxes are also an attempt to make the price of driving non-zero, but they do not adjust with demand, and are vanishingly small (pennies per mile), so they have a negligible effect in communicating price.

  by acs85
Beyond the argument of induced demand, there's another reason why increased mass transit should be preferred over more roads - where in the metro area would you put them? And where could you add more bridges or auto tunnels into Manhattan? This is far and away the most densely populated area of the country, and almost entirely built-out. Land acquisition costs alone would be enormous, not to mention both cities and suburbs that don't want their communities bulldozed to make room for asphalt. Many have already been seriously damaged by road-building.

And there's certainly no room in NYC itself for any kind of road alternative to mass transit, unless you want to be 400-foot high viaducts.

If you're going to do anything to increase transportation capacity, rail is by far the superior option. A 12-car Arrow III has approximately 1380 seats; a "solid-set" of 12 Comet V coaches can carry approx. 1539 miles; a set of 12 bilevel coaches even more. A 10-car set of M7's holds close to 1100 people. You get a lot more bang for your buck with rail. And getting people (yes, even the middle class) on trains & buses for their own sake is a legitimate goal.

  by acs85
And to address the actual question of this thread:

We can use the congestion charge revenue to extend platforms and update signaling, but outside of the 2nd ave subway, where would you put them?

  by paulb
? Continue the Houston St. line under the East River, through W'sburg and then into eastern Queens, possibly via Metropolitan Ave. and Union Turnpike.

  by CComMack
Platform extensions? I'd look at taking the BMT Eastern Division to full 10-car lengths. Perhaps not all of it, but at least the Canarsie Line. Beyond that, I don't really see much point. Signals won't get upgraded until CBTC, which will in turn only happen when we're sure it's ready. Better to spend the money on major capital projects like Second Avenue, East Side Access, THE Tunnel, or on the $767 million in capacity increases the MTA says it will need to handle congestion pricing.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/08/nyreg ... ngest.html

I personally think the MTA, despite what looks like sneaking the Staten Island bus depot on to the list of congestion charge projects, is lowballing the potential ridership gains, but IANA Transportation Professional.
  by Jeff Smith
Here's how New York City is planning to spend $15 billion raised from a new congestion pricing toll
: CNBC.com

Besides state of good repair, and debt service, I could see several projects funded which have been on the MTA's list for a while:

1. Full 2nd Avenue Subway (SAS) in Manhattan including 125th Street extension to West side and provisions for extension to Bronx.
2. Penn Station Access
3. LaGuardia Access (I would think this is a PA issue, but still)
4. Bay Ridge Branch, Queenslink/Queensway, Triboro RX, Rockaway Beach Branch
5. Utica Avenue Extension
6. 7 Subway to Secaucus
The toll may produce up to $15 billion for investment within the aging MTA system. Much of the cash will go toward the MTA's 2020-24 Capital Program. For example, some of the proceeds will finance four new Metro-North stations for communities in the Bronx.

"Expansion tends to be the sexy and fun thing, which we've done. But the kind of stuff that our customers don't see is power upgrades, track upgrades and signal upgrades," said Richard Davey, President of New York City's Transit Authority.