Skip to main content

Congestion pricing re-emerges on the public agenda

One solution to the inevitable and so far unmitigatible traffic problems in Downtown Brooklyn and environs might be congestion pricing, which would cause those driving to Manhattan via Brooklyn to think twice if they had to pay for the privilege.

BrooklynSpeaks says that the Atlantic Yards proposal “offers no real plan to avoid gridlock or improve subway and bus service” and recommends, among other things, that the developer and the city “implement roadway pricing to relieve traffic congestion in and around downtown Brooklyn.” The Empire State Development Corporation says that’s not on the agenda as of now--but it might emerge.

Indeed, both business groups and transportation progressives have begun to push for congestion pricing. In an article yesterday headlined Bigger Push for Charging Drivers Who Use the Busiest Streets, the New York Times reported how the Partnership for New York City, which includes major businesses, is bouncing back from an effort a year ago, in which a congestion pricing proposal was floated, then blasted by City Hall. According to the Times:
“We were premature in terms of talking about the problem and potential solutions without thinking about how those might be implemented here in the metropolitan region and what that would take,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the group. “It takes a lot of public buy-in, building consensus.”

Indeed, Wylde said this spring that it would be a challenge to sell it to the public, noting that p.r. firms recommended the term “value pricing” to dissociate the policy from a new tax. Depending on how you establish the baseline, it could be considered a tax; on the other hand, current policies could be considered a subsidy for car owners.

New studies coming

The Partnership never released its study last year, but is expected to issue a revision within a few weeks, estimating the costs of congestion at $12 billion to $15 billion per year. Another study from the national group Environmental Defense will address the environmental and health costs of too much traffic. The conservative Manhattan Institute has its own report in the works.

And to show they’re really serious, Environmental Defense has hired the p.r. firm Dan Klores Communications to help market congestion pricing to the public. The firm also works on the Atlantic Yards project, among many others.

Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives told the Times that any congestion pricing program would have to be combined with — or preferably preceded by — other measures like improving bus service and smoothing traffic flow. Will that be enough to get support from City Council members from more suburban parts of the city, where driving is more common? Unclear.

But Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff is preparing a long-term strategic plan for the city, and he’s been closemouthed about its contents. Should the outside groups begin the bandwagon, Doctoroff just may join in.

Congestion pricing dissed in FEIS

Chapter 24 of the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement, which includes responses to comments, acknowledges congestion pricing, but punts on the larger issue. Below are the relevant comments, and responses.

Comment 12-27: Two-way tolls should be implemented on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Tolling of the East River Bridges should be implemented to ease congestion.

Response 12-27: Implementation of new tolls on the East River Bridges and changes in the current toll system at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are beyond the scope of this project. Any implementation of new tolls would be subject to an independent environmental review.

But that’s also because the state wouldn’t listen to many requests to include the East River crossings in the scope of review.

Comment 12-79: A comprehensive transportation plan should include congestion pricing and improved transit capacity and access. The failure to consider congestion charging in the vicinity of Atlantic, Flatbush, and 4th Avenues and the Downtown Brooklyn core, as a serious measure to address traffic load, is a clear shortcoming of the DEIS.

Response 12-79: The proposed project includes a major new on-site entrance and internal circulation improvements at the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station complex. In addition, the traffic mitigation plan proposed in the FEIS incorporates a comprehensive package of travel demand management strategies for arena trips that include a free-fare transit incentive program and free charter bus service from park & ride facilities on Staten Island, and a high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) restriction of three or more occupants per car would be enforced for onsite arena parking in order to discourage single and two-person auto trips. In addition, congestion pricing has also been incorporated in the proposed mitigation plan in the form of a surcharge that would be imposed for on-site arena parking on game days.

This would be congestion pricing and traffic mitigation just for basketball games. The rest of the project, as well as certain arena events, also would generate much traffic.

Comment 13-48: The DEIS has incorporated several elements into the plan that will encourage use of transit for trips to and from the arena. However, the real mitigations for the impact of this and other developments in the Downtown Brooklyn regional area can only be carried out by the state and the city. These would include improvements to the capacity of Atlantic Avenue subway (and overall transit improvements to the station), roadway/congestion pricing, traffic calming in surrounding neighborhoods, residential parking permits and other measures beyond the scope of the developer to implement.

Response 13-48: The proposed project does include a major new on-site entrance and internal circulation improvements that would increase the capacity of the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street station complex. However, as noted in the comment, measures such as congestion pricing and implementation of traffic calming and residential parking permit programs in surrounding neighborhoods are beyond the scope of this project.

Whether or not Atlantic Yards gets built, the case for congestion pricing will be made. Atlantic Yards would make it even more urgent to find solutions.


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…