Q&A: New York Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff
Even Broadway isn't broad enough for the cars expected to pour into New York City in the coming years. In response to the growing problem, Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week proposed charging drivers $8 to enter most of Manhattan during weekdays. London and Stockholm have already experimented with tolling zones of their cities, but the technique has never been tried in America. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who spearheaded work on the congestion plan, spoke to U.S. News about persuading city residents and the state Legislature to get onboard.
Mayor Bloomberg had previously suggested that a congestion charge was a political nonstarter. What caused the change?
Well, because now it's part of a much broader approach to dealing with transportation, and that's itself part of a much broader approach to dealing with the issues of air quality and global warming.
How many cars are projected to be taken off the road daily through the charge?
It's about 110,000 per day, so it is a lot of air pollutants. It is a lot of carbon dioxide. It's a lot of time for a lot of people.
What effect is that expected to have on congestion?
You can look at the experience of London. They did fairly extensive studies of the impact on congestion, and it tends to be a reduction in congestion of somewhere between 17 and 26 percent. We are not modeling that great an impact, though we think in the congestion zone during the period that the charge would apply, it will be in the 15 percent range or so.
How much revenue is the tolling expected to generate?
On a net basis, we believe in the first year, this is after the expenses of operating the system, we believe it will be $380 million, all of which, significantly, we are guaranteeing will be reinvested in our mass transit system, in addition to a $200 million contribution that the city would make that we're asking to be matched by the state.
Are you worried that the plan will cause conflict between Manhattan and the outer boroughs?
I don't think so. What we found, somewhat surprisingly, is if you look in some of the other boroughs, one of the major sources of traffic are people who today are searching for a free crossing into Manhattan and have to travel over more streets in order to get there. By evening out the cost of coming into Manhattan, we eliminate that and believe that we will relieve congestion significantly and improve travel speed throughout all five boroughs.
Critics have also suggested that this is a regressive tax.
I don't think it is that at all. Everybody is always very surprised to learn that if you look at everybody who lives in New York City, and look at how they actually commute to work, only 5 percent of them actually drive into Manhattan for work. And since we're piling all of this money into making everybody's commute better with major transportation projects, virtually everybody is going to see their travel times improved. The congestion we have today hits all of us in terms of higher prices for freight deliveries, or construction costs that are higher because the cement truck can only make two deliveries per day versus three, or the cost we all bear, especially in our poorer communities, because of the air pollution we have. So I would argue that it is not at all regressive, that in many ways it's the people in some of our poorer communities who will benefit the most.