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PCAC Testimony – June 8, 2007 – Congestion Pricing

Testimony of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Before the Assembly Standing Committee on Ways and Means, Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation, Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Assembly Standing Committee on Energy, Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, and Assembly Standing Committee on Cities on New York City’s Sustainability Proposal
Friday, June 8, 2007

Good Morning. My name is William Henderson. I am the Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC) to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The PCAC is the coordinating body for the three legislatively mandated commuter councils: the Long Island Rail Road Commuter’s Council, the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council and the New York City Transit Riders Council. The volunteer members are appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of local elected officials to represent the interests of the users of MTA services.

I thank you for inviting the PCAC to testify at this hearing. As strong advocates for public transportation, the members of the PCAC have a profound belief in the potential of transit to contribute to the sustainability of our City and State. The facts support this belief – public transportation produces about half as much carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) per passenger mile as private vehicles, and currently U.S. public transportation saves 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline every year. This is equivalent of 300,000 cars filling up every day.

PCAC members are dedicated users of public transportation and seek to encourage others to make use of public transportation as well. For this reason we enthusiastically support the concept of congestion pricing for the improvement of transportation within the New York metropolitan region. While until recently it has been a relatively unfamiliar concept in our State, the use of congestion pricing has produced substantial public benefits in London, Singapore, and Stockholm.

We have identified four important conditions that the PCAC members believe must be part of any congestion pricing proposal if it is to be successful:

The expenditure of funds generated through congestion pricing must be restricted to public transportation uses only. In popular terms, the net revenue
from congestion pricing must be placed in a “lock box,” where it can be made available only for maintenance and enhancement of public transportation
operations, facilities and equipment.
The authority to select and prioritize projects to be funded must reside with the agencies responsible for providing public transportation service. As the primary provider of public transportation to those traveling to, from, and within the core of New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) must have a substantial role in the selection and prioritization of projects upon which these funds are spent, in accordance with its normal capital programming processes and existing governmental oversight and approval procedures. The MTA’s influence in the allocation of funds from the “lock box” should be proportional to its importance as a provider of public transportation to, from, and within any zone where congestion charges are applied.
The funds generated through congestion pricing must not be used to replace or offset City and State contributions to the capital programs of public transportation operators that benefit from these funds. In order for it to be successful, congestion pricing must generate a substantial net increase in capital funding for public transportation providers directly and indirectly serving the congestion pricing zone. Congestion pricing revenues must be available to meet new needs created by growing demand, as well as to correct declines or shortfalls in capital funding necessary to meet longstanding needs. In addition to new congestion pricing revenues, traditional patterns of public transportation funding by the City and State must be maintained, if not enhanced.
The additional capacity and infrastructure sufficient to serve new users attracted to public transportation as a result of congestion pricing must be in place prior to the implementation of any congestion charges. Moreover, this additional capacity must be in place far enough in advance of congestion pricing to enable new public transportation users to determine and establish their travel patterns before congestion charges begin.
The membership of the PCAC feels that this is a particularly opportune time to pursue congestion pricing in New York City. The increasing cost of operating private vehicles and worsening congestion on many roadways are causing many commuters to consider taking advantage of the benefits of public transportation. Awareness of and concern with the environmental impacts of private vehicle use is at an all time high. In addition, the City is among the finalists to receive a substantial share of $1.1 billion in federal money available to help reduce traffic in major urban areas. As the legislatively mandated representatives of public transportation users in the MTA region, we call upon you to work in partnership with the City of New York by authorizing the City to implement an equitable and effective program of public transportation improvements and congestion pricing.