Queens Chamber Continues Campaign Against Congestion Pricing


Foes of congestion pricing marshalled by the Queens Chamber of Commerce held a press conference yesterday at which several politicians from the borough took a stand against the mayor’s plan. According to a press release provided by the chamber, City Council Finance Chair David Weprin called the proposal unnecessary: "I don’t think City Hall understands that another unfair tax which would hurt working class people is not only uncalled for, but also unnecessary to reduce traffic. Before we tax people more we should first consider trying some simple traffic mitigation alternatives to reduce congestion."

The release also quoted Councilmember Tony Avella: "Until the City provides adequate mass transportation services, congestion pricing is just another tax on working and middle class families and small business. Everyone agrees that we need to address traffic congestion problems throughout the city, but the first step has to be improving mass transit."

Of course, Bloomberg himself, in the Sunday speech the Queens Chamber was protesting, said that mass transit in the outer boroughs would have to be improved before congestion pricing went into effect. In that speech, he clearly stated: "We know that service to many areas is not what it should be. That’s why, before implementing congestion pricing we’ll implement a range of mass transit improvements to our least-served neighborhoods."

The Queens Chamber has been in the forefront of the anti-congestion-pricing battle for some time now, releasing a study in March 2006 called "A Cure Worse than the Disease? How London’s ‘Congestion Pricing’ System Could Hurt New York City’s Economy." A group called the Citywide Coalition for Traffic Relief, including the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives and the Citizens Committee for New York City, has released "Debunking the Attack on Congestion Pricing," an analysis of the Queens Chamber’s report that refutes its major points (download it here):

The attempt to disregard congestion pricing as a potentially viable traffic mitigation measure is based on a study commissioned last year by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, performed by Appleseed Consulting. Even a cursory examination of this study finds it to be biased and deeply flawed.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce study erects a draconian "straw man" congestion charging scenario that is neither based on London’s system nor on any scenario that has been proposed for New York City…. In supporting its spurious claim that congestion pricing will result in a net negative impact on the City’s economy, the study relies, among other things, on assumptions about how this policy will impact vehicle and person trips into the relevant parts of Manhattan.

Here are the basic points in the Coalition’s dissection of the study:

  • The most fundamental assertion in the study — that 1 in 7 people who would not drive under congestion pricing would choose not to visit New York City at all — is unfounded.
  • The study’s fundamental figures are misleading and incorrect.
  • The study is allegedly based on London’s experience, but the numbers it uses are inaccurate.
  • The study erroneously assumes a congestion fee is imposed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • The study ignores the fact that 30% of all vehicle traffic in the CBD is through traffic, which has no economic benefit to the CBD.
  • The study assumes that business and leisure travelers — who currently spend hundreds of dollars on each visit — are deterred by a congestion charge that is less than the cost of one hour of parking in most Manhattan garages.
  • The study considers reduced spending on tolls, parking and other activities as losses to the economy without considering the economic benefit of what the congestion charge could be used for (i.e., transit improvements).
  • The study relies on national averages, without correction for local conditions.
  • The study tallies benefits of congestion pricing even less effectively than costs.

Photo: Sarah Goodyear

9 thoughts on Queens Chamber Continues Campaign Against Congestion Pricing

  1. Nothing this firm Appleseed/ Hugh O’Neill does stands up to any scrutiny. The parking garage guys hired him to gin up some total crap when the city’s SOV ban was in place after 911. Truly lame garbage. Appleseed=C-Rap.


    Hugh O’Neill is president and founder of Appleseed, Incorporated, a New York City based consulting firm that works with nonprofit organizations and institutions, corporations and governments helping to promote economic growth and opportunity. Before starting the firm, Mr. O’Neill worked as Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services, Director of the State’s Office of Development Planning, and Assistant Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

  2. Queens is SUV-land. More than any other borough, Queens is built around the car – big, gas-hogging “lifestyle” cars.

    Someone should go through DOT records and count the number of Hummers by borough. I bet Queens comes out tops.

  3. Methinks Queens doth protesteth too much. Funny, when the two fare zones were ended a decade ago Queens didn”t even notice that they were big beneficiaries. Immediately they went out and demanded more service because people filled up the empty bus space to take advantage of the free transfer. They have conveniently forgotten that history now. No big deal. The real question would be if and when the MTA does increase their mass transit handle. What will the neighbors do then. They will demand parking in the dedicated bus lanes, they will oppose any expansion of rail lines and they will demand that no road space be given over to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Fortunately, Queens, by intself, doesn”t run the city either.

  4. I beg to differ, Dormer. Old neighborhoods like Astoria, Sunnyside and Forest Hills were built around elevated trains and trolleys. Sure, if you go out to Fresh Meadows or Bayside you’ll find plenty of big SUVs, but Queens is not monolithic.

    Nicolo, in terms of the power Queens is not monolithic either. Avella, Weiner and friends represent the more suburban eastern wing of the Democratic machine, but it’s controlled by Joe Crowley, who represents the slightly-less-suburban west-central wing.

    If you look at a map you’ll also see that the assembly districts for more liberal Sunnyside and Woodside are all gerrymandered together with more conservative Ridgewood and Maspeth, and the assembly members are from the more conservative neighborhoods.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people in Western Queens (especially the middle-class ones who become politicians) seem to identify with and emulate their more suburban eastern neighbors.

    However, I think your point about Metrocard ending the two-fare zones is a good point, and one that should be raised when people demand transit improvements as a precondition for implementing congestion pricing.


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    featuring Chris Balish and Charles Gandy

    “Exploring Alternative Transportation –
    It’s Not Just for Tree-huggers Anymore.”

    Monday, April 30,
    5:30 p.m. reception
    6:30 p.m. presentations
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    Free parking in the garage under the Ponitz Center but everyone is encouraged to walk, bike, carpool or ride the bus to the event.
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  6. Before any congestion charges have been applied the respective roads designers should at least give the travelling public a system that allows the roads infrastructure to work smoothly and effectively without causing jams and gridlock.

    We have achieved this with innovative and logical designs that do just that.

    Whether in a bus, car, truck or van the journey time can be significantly reduced by a road system that allows all commuters to reach their destination without stopping.

    When you have a crucial bridge or bottleneck to negotiate this becomes even more important.
    Furthermore in the event of a blockage on any road, and this goes against all current politically correct thinking, if the blockage is screened off correctly the vehicles passing that blockage should go past it faster not slower!
    If you have two lanes reduced to one then the traffic has to travel past the restriction at twice the speed to maintain vehicle flow rates.

    Go fast to go slow and go slow to go fast?

    No this is not a puzzle. But when you get in a car and drive it helps if you do not have to stop till you get were you want to be!

    The major problem is the roads infrastructure is designed to slow you down. This is called world’s best practice and it has been wrong for over 80 years.

    Our intersections are designed to keep you driving safely without stopping.

    If the road infrastructure cannot achieve free and uninterrupted vehicle flows no technology will help!

    The solution to traffic jams is not the size of the road but the ability of an intersection to work correctly.

    Traffic lights just stop traffic, roundabouts are for light traffic and freeway intersections are fundamentally flawed. They fail under heavy traffic as they also only work with light traffic. Why do you ask? Because you enter and exit all traffic from one lane.

    At http://www.ubtsc.com.au we have models of intersections that work at 100 percent efficiency.

    They allow all vehicles entering an intersection to exit that intersection left, right or ahead without stopping all day every day without fail. Yes even during the worst peak traffic you can imagine.

    It’s called Liquid Flow and its only limitation is the maximum speed a road can be traversed safely.

    Although it is not shown on our website pedestrian and bicycle crossings are built into the Turnabouts to separate the Pedestrian and the cyclist from the road traffic.

    None of this is worth anything if government at all levels dismisses it as too expensive! It isn’t.

    Think outside the square for solutions and look for the positives of what this means.

    Imagine being able to cross town in peak hour traffic without stopping at a single intersection.

    Jozef Goj CEO UBTSC Pty Ltd

  7. Jozef Goj wrote:

    “Before any congestion charges have been applied the respective roads designers should at least give the travelling public a system that allows the roads infrastructure to work smoothly and effectively without causing jams and gridlock.”

    That assumes that your only goal is to reduce congestion, which is as bad as the guy who assumed that the only goal was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Your traffic circles won’t significantly reduce those, or oil consumption, or sprawl. From your description, they don’t sound very pedestrian friendly either.

  8. I have lived in Flushing and Jackson Heights in Queens for 40 years.

    The outrage that many Queens residents feel towards congestion pricing doesn’t have so much to do with wanting drive SUV’s into the city. Rather it is that this is yet another example of our being screwed for the benefit of the rich and powerful in Manhattan.

    Consider this:
    Manhattan already has the highest density of subways. Yet instead of expanding the subway lines in the outer boroughs, instead of encouraging businesses and people to leave Manhattan (since after all it is so crowded) we’re encouraging development.

    Some examples: we’re building a 2nd Avenue subway; we’re building an extension of the number 7 train so as to develop the West Side; we’re rebuilding the World Trade Center;
    there is a building boom in luxury housing.
    On top of that, not long ago, there were plans to build a train to take the Wall Street crowd to JFK.

    You start to connect the dots, and it is clear
    that congestion is OK as long as it is people with enough money to afford to pay $8/day.

  9. Thanks for explaining your feelings, Chris. I can understand them, but I think in this case they’re misdirected. Queens residents are not being screwed by this plan. Less than ten percent of us drive to Manhattan on weekdays. Most of us take the subway or bus, and we’ll see significant improvements in service.

    More importantly, we’ve been screwed for the past fifty or so years by being “the gateway to Long Island,” and having lots of cars and trucks drive through our neighborhoods on their way to and from eastern Queens and Long Island. This congestion pricing plan would reduce that traffic considerably.

    But I guess it doesn’t feel like being screwed if it’s Al D’Amato and Craig Johnson doing the screwing?

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