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Amy Traub

Congestion Pricing: Good Policy for New York’s Middle Class

It might not be obvious at first glance, but congestion pricing is an excellent policy for New York's current and aspiring middle class.

The fact is, middle-class New Yorkers -- and those trying to work their way into the middle class -- are already paying a heavy price for traffic congestion with poor health, time wasted in gridlock, environmental damage, lower quality of life, and less economic growth. Yet while middle-class New Yorkers pay these costs, very few actually drive to work in Manhattan below 86th street. Overall, just 5.2% of working New Yorkers do. That means most current and aspiring middle-class New Yorkers will not pay congestion charges under the plan, but they will benefit from the policy.

From reducing street noise in middle-class neighborhoods to cutting commuting time,
DMI's newly released talking points explain in detail how congestion pricing would benefit the middle class. Some excerpts below:

** Getting cars off the streets will improve the health of middle-class New Yorkers. Today New York has some of the most polluted air in the nation, and everyone who lives or works in the city suffers the consequences. New York City's children are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma as the average American child, and neighborhoods of people trying to work their way into the middle class are among those hardest hit by asthma. Meanwhile vehicle emissions boost breast and lung cancer rates among adults. In London, congestion pricing helped to produce a 12% drop in hazardous particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, while cutting carbon dioxide emissions by a fifth. By taking more than 100,000 cars off New York's streets every day, congestion pricing will help New York to achieve the cleanest air of any big city in the U.S. -- and the health benefits that flow from it.
** Congestion pricing will funnel hundreds of millions of dollars per year to transit improvements in the neighborhoods of New York's current and aspiring middle class. Congestion pricing is estimated to raise nearly half a billion dollars a year that will be earmarked for transit improvements in the five boroughs, improving transit quality and access for millions of current and aspiring middle-class New Yorkers. Co-op City residents will benefit from Metro North access directly to Penn Station; residents of Sheepshead Bay, Flatlands and Flatbush will enjoy bus service that is 20% faster due to a new bus rapid transit route along Nostrand Avenue; the Long Island Railroad's East Side Access project will substantially reduce travel times to Manhattan for people living in Kew Gardens, Woodside, Sunnyside, and Bayside, Queens; just to name a few of the planned improvements. Raising funds to achieve a state of good repair on all of the city's public transit will benefit transit riders throughout the city with fewer delays, faster travel, and safer equipment. These improvements are especially critical to New Yorkers trying to work their way into the middle class, who have no choice but to take mass transit, no matter how poor the quality. Without the revenue from congestion pricing, these projects may not get funded.
** Middle-class New Yorkers are invested in the long-term health of the city -- and the planet -- and so recognize that we must take action to reduce global warming. Scientists predict that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the present rate, New York City could experience 60 days a year with temperatures above 90 degrees, and 25 days a year with temperatures over 100, by the end of the century. At the same time, climate change increases the likelihood of a devastating hurricane flooding low-lying areas like Staten Island, the Rockaways, Southern Brooklyn, Long Island City and Astoria. Already, homeowners in some flood-prone areas are finding it harder to get insurance. The good news is that massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions may be able to slow or halt global warming. Since car trips release about twice as much greenhouse gas as transit rides, congestion pricing's predicted effect of removing 110,000 vehicles from city streets and increasing transit ridership by 94,000 people will make a real impact, contributing to the city's overall efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6.1 million metric tons.

To read more of DMI's new release "Congestion Pricing: Good Policy for New York's Middle Class" click here

Amy Traub: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 10:50 AM, Jun 07, 2007 in Cities | Environmental Justice | Middle-class squeeze | New York | Transportation
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