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“Move NY Fair Plan” Ready for Prime Time

For immediate release: February 17, 2015                                                                                                                                                                           For more information, contact: Bart Robbett, 203-571-8502 or bart@robbett.com 

“Move NY Fair Plan” Ready for Prime Time: Innovative Plan Would Cut Traffic, Expand Transit and Fix Crumbling Roads and Bridges

 Business, Labor, Environmental and Transit Leaders Urge Albany to Use Proposal to Fill $15.2 Billion MTA Capital Shortfall and Create 30,000 New Jobs

 Lowered Tolls on Seven MTA Crossings in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx Would End Crushing Financial Burden for Millions of New Yorkers

(New York, NY) A coalition of business groups, unions, environmental justice supporters, transit advocates and environmental organizations unveiled the final version of the Move NY plan today, heralding it as a multi-faceted solution to the New York City region’s transportation crisis.

The plan, which the Move NY team spent more than four years developing, would ease traffic congestion and generate $1.5 billion a year in new dedicated funding to maintain and modernize New York’s roads, bridges and transit system – all while making tolls fairer and subway, bus and rail fares more affordable.

Move NY Campaign Director Alex Matthiessen

Move NY Campaign Director Alex Matthiessen

“The Move NY Fair Plan reflects the input of literally hundreds of elected officials and stakeholders across the region and is the only comprehensive plan that would solve the MTA’s fiscal crisis, relieve gridlock and make New York City’s streets substantially safer,” said campaign director Alex Matthiessen at a news conference at the offices of Natural Resources Defense Council, a Move NY coalition partner.

The Move NY team released an earlier version of its plan in March 2014, before completing the final leg of a four-year listening tour designed to solicit the views of elected officials, civic and community leaders, transportation experts and the public at large. The group said it paid particular attention to the views of opponents of earlier funding and traffic pricing proposals with the aim of squarely addressing each of the central concerns that were raised.

“While there is no such thing as a perfect plan, we believe the Move NY proposal reflects the best thinking of the region’s leading stakeholders,” said Matthiessen. “One major change to the plan: We’ve strengthened the provisions that ensure the new tolling revenue goes where it belongs – the city’s transportation infrastructure, where investments will benefit not only the region’s transit riders and drivers but the New York State economy.”

A “fair shake” on the roads and bridges

The centerpiece of the Move NY Fair Plan is a “toll swap,” whereby long suffering and overcharged drivers of the city’s outer bridges – the Verrazano, the Throgs Neck and the MTA’s five other bridges – receive substantial toll relief while drivers who make the roughly 1.1 million daily trips into and out of the city’s Central Business District (Manhattan south of 60th Street) are asked to pay their fair share, thus smoothing out traffic across the region.

"Gridlock" Sam Schwartz

“Gridlock Sam” Schwartz

“I’ve observed traffic in NYC for nearly a half-century starting as a cab driver in the late 1960’s, then working for the Traffic and Transportation departments through the 70’s and 80’s and for the past 25 years as a consultant and traffic columnist for the Daily News,” said Samuel Schwartz, who helped develop the toll swap plan. Also known as “Gridlock Sam,” Schwartz is President and CEO of his own engineering firm and a former City of New York Traffic Commissioner. “I know we can do better — better with traffic flow, reducing traffic crashes and fatalities, and being fairer to drivers, especially in the outer parts of the city. Move NY does all that and provides a substantial boost in funding for roads, bridges and the biggest gridlock-busting tool of all — the city’s transit system.”

The revenue generated from the toll swap would be used to maintain and modernize the region’s transportation system, including its buses, trains, road and bridges, creating 30,000 recurring annual jobs in the process – jobs that can’t be outsourced to another state or country.

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NYC Councilman Mark Weprin

“Move NY does what every other funding or tolling plan has failed to do – offer my constituents and other outer borough residents a fair deal,” said New York City council member Mark Weprin of the 23rd District in Queens. “By dramatically lowering tolls in the outer parts of the city and using the money to fill transit gaps and fix our roads and bridges, we finally have a plan that my constituents can get behind. New Yorkers just want to be treated fairly. As long as we get a fair slice of the benefits, we’re willing to pay our fair share to support investments in our vital transportation infrastructure,” he stated.

The Move NY plan (see full plan here) includes:

  • Reduced tolls on all seven MTA bridges – by between 39%-48% (E-ZPass), 18%-31% (“cash”);
  • Traffic speed increases of 15-20% within the CBD and up to 6% in areas outside of it;
  • Reduced truck and auto traffic on densely populated city streets – particularly in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan that host traffic from the currently free East River Bridges – which for those communities will mean fewer asthma attacks and vehicle crashes that cause injuries and sometimes death;
  • $1.5 billion per year in new dedicated funding to maintain, expand and modernize the region’s underfunded transit system and maintain and improve the city’s neglected roads and bridges;
  • An emphasis on new transit service in underserved neighborhoods throughout the city, much of which would be deployed before the new and reduced tolls take effect;
  • Money to fund Mayor de Blasio’s 20 new BRT/SBS routes citywide;
  • $1 off all Express Buses; steep discounts on intracity commuter rail (i.e., City Ticket”) extended from two to seven days a week;
  • A 1X/per day cap on CBD tolls for all commercial vehicles;
  • Electronic, gateless tolling on all MTA crossings;
  • Substantial investments in transportation infrastructure on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, including revenue to expand service on LIRR and Metro North and the county bus systems in Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester and Rockland Counties, as well as expanded commuter rail parking capacity for those communities that want it.
  • The creation of a financing authority together with bonding of the new revenue, including a “maintenance of effort” provision, will ensure that the new revenue, as well as existing “dedicated” sources, are protected against diversion.

Meanwhile, tolls would be restored on East River bridge crossings (all of which were built with tolls) and introduced along 60th Street in Manhattan. The tolls will be pegged to the current cost of MTA crossings into Manhattan, thus “harmonizing” all CBD tolls and eliminating “toll shopping.” Moreover, the new ratio of lowered outer bridge tolls and inner CBD tolls will be fixed so that the relative fare discounts for the outer crossings are preserved over time.

Support from across the region

“In my stints as head of the MTA and City DOT, I know that you neglect infrastructure needs at your own peril,” said Lee Sander, president and CEO of HAKS Group and chairman of the Regional Plan Association. “The beauty of the Move NY plan is that it will bring fairness to a fragmented tolling system while also funding essential bridge, road and transit upgrades.”

New supporters of the Move NY proposal include the state’s major trucking advocates, AAA-NY and the city’s biggest transit workers union.

“Congestion is the enemy of the trucking industry,” said Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association, which represents more than 800 trucking companies. “Congested roads are far less safe and far more costly to the trucking industry, which is why we’re glad to partner with Move NY in their plan to reduce congestion and increase the safety of the city’s streets.”

Transport Workers Union Local 100, the region’s largest transit union representing 38,000 active employees, recently voted to endorse the plan. “Whether you’re riding the B train or driving the B39 bus, an underfunded system means trouble, which is why a steady flow of transit dollars is essential,” said TWU president John Samuelsen. “We voted to support the Move NY plan because other options – like borrowing billions of dollars backed by higher fares and tolls – would hurt working families,” Samuelsen added.

According to an independent analysis by HR&A Advisors, the Move NY Fair Plan would create more than 30,000 recurring, annual jobs throughout the New York region.

UPROSE Executive Director Elizabeth Yeampierre

UPROSE Executive Director Elizabeth Yeampierre

“It’s a simple calculation: Communities of color and low income people need affordable, reliable and accessible transit – and that’s what the Move NY proposal would help bring to our city,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, who added she believes “affordable mass transit is the heart of making communities sustainable. The only alternatives – underfunding mass transit or issuing yet more toll and fare-backed bonds – would crush New York’s working and middle class people with spiraling fare hikes imposed on people who already can’t afford them,” Yeampierre said.

“Sensible and fair toll reform under the Move NY plan would play a fundamental role in reducing dangerous, chaotic truck traffic and improving street safety in my Lower Manhattan district,” said New York City Council Member Margaret Chin. “I pledge to continue supporting and working with the Move NY team to help make fair tolling a reality.”

“Staten Island and the other outer boroughs are too often left behind when it comes to getting their fair share of transit options,” said Linda Baran, President and CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. “Instead of imposing high tolls for some and none for others, the Move NY plan would level the playing field on tolls and make sure long overdue projects like the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit and West Shore Light Rail move forward,” she added.

“New York has fallen behind other big cities around the world in investing in transportation infrastructure and managing traffic congestion,” said Tom Wright, President, Regional Plan Association. “This plan allows us to start making much-needed improvements to our roads, bridges, subways and buses in a way that is both sensible and equitable. It also will make a big difference to our communities that for too long have endured car and truck traffic that belongs on highways, not local streets.”

The battle now goes to Albany, where Move NY’s supporters hope lawmakers will embrace the plan as a way of bridging the MTA’s capital program shortfall and providing the New York City portion of a statewide transportation funding program to finance the state’s transit, roads and bridges.

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New York Building Council President Richard Anderson

“For the first time, Albany legislators have a well-considered proposal that addresses many regional goals at once,” said Richard T. Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress.” This is a unique opportunity to rationalize traffic flows into Manhattan, finance long-term transportation needs, and generate up to 30,000 new jobs. Our economy and quality of life depend on meaningful action this year.”

“You can’t run or fix the subways and buses without money, no matter who you are,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “The Move NY plan provides the dedicated revenue stream our region’s transit system desperately needs, and in a way that’s far more equitable than borrowing against the fare.”

NYPIRG's Straphangers Campaign Senior Attorney Gene Russianoff

NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign Senior Attorney Gene Russianoff

Move NY leaders said the time is ripe to bring traffic pricing – widely viewed as an inevitability – to New York City, thus making the city the first in the nation to embrace this innovative and fast spreading solution to the twin problems of rampant gridlock and underfunded mass transit.

“While the plan reflects a near consensus on the best way to solve myriad problems facing our city and region, it is merely a framework, albeit one with considerable thought and detail,” said Matthiessen. “Now we look to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to take the plan and make it their own. We are confident that if they embrace it, the region’s major stakeholders from nearly every sector will line up behind them. Now is the time for bold action – for our lawmakers to set an example for the rest of the nation on how states can find innovative solutions to America’s growing infrastructure crisis.”

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