Janette Sadik-Kahn, former NYCDOT Commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg is back on the NYC media circuit, this time promoting her new book, Street Fight: A Handbook for an Urban Renewal (Viking Press, 2016), co-authored by Seth Solomonow. Perhaps best known for redesigning Times Square with public plazas, Sadik-Kahn’s work is synonymous with people-oriented cityscapes and the City’s bicycling renaissance — the DOT met its strategic goal of doubling bicycle commuting a year early than planned under her leadership.
During an interview this week with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Sadik-Kahn was asked what was the biggest thing she hadn’t accomplished as commissioner. Without hesitation, she answered, “congestion pricing,” citing the ever-increasing congestion problems and the funding woes of the MTA’s capital plan:
“Whether it’s this program [the Bloomberg proposal of 2007] or whether it’s the Move NY program that Sam Schwartz has proposed, it’s a matter of when, not if, when it comes to congestion pricing.”
While there are many differences between the two plans, Sadik-Kahn highlighted the one that has gotten the public most excited about Move NY:
“The idea of lowering tolls on crossings in communities that don’t have good transit is a good one.”
“Gridlock” Sam Schwartz and the Move NY team developed a tolling system based on leveling the playing field: lower tolls on the bridges that outer borough drivers are paying through the nose to cross (and have but few transit options), and put tolls on the crossings that others have been taking for free for over a century (and have the most transit options). Called the “Toll Swap,” tolls on the Triboro, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Verrazano, Gil Hodges, Cross-Bay, and Henry Hudson will drop by up to 48%, and the crossings into Manhattan’s Central Business District will equal the tolls of the Brooklyn Battery and Queens-Midtown Tunnels.
The shout-out from Sadik-Kahn comes at a time when state legislators and transit advocates are ringing the alarm bill on MTA funding. Although the State and City agreed to fully fund (a slenderized version) of the agency’s 5-year capital plan, just how the $9.8 billion is going to magically appear is still anyone’s guess. (The Move NY Fair Plan would cover the State’s $7.3 billion commitment and generate an additional $4.5 billion for a Transit Gap Investment Fund.)
The former commissioner raised her own concerns in an interview with Nathan Tempey of the Gothamist this week:
“We need to figure out ways to finance our major transit investments, and our road investments, and our bridge investments. I mean, we really need to identify the funding sources to be able to get that done.
I think we really need to really focus on the future of this region, and that does mean investing in rail tunnels and that means expanding transportation options, and I think that’s gonna be key … I think that you have to give people choices, and I think everybody agrees that the status quo doesn’t work. And we have to do something about it.”
We couldn’t have said it better.
Sadik-Kahn works as Principal at Bloomberg Associates, where she shares her sustainable transportation expertise with cities around the globe.