Compromise “Ruled the Day” at Congestion Pricing Hearings

Support congestion pricing as proposed by Mayor Bloomberg in April 2007 PlaNYC proposal
Support the concept of pricing, have concerns and recommend changes/additions to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal
Express serious concerns with the current proposal and offer suggestions for improvement
Oppose congestion pricing, suggest other strategies for alleviating traffic
Do not address congestion pricing

Source: Environmental Defense

Just before Thanksgiving, Environmental Defense tallied up all of the public testimony delivered to the Traffic Mitigation Commission and found that 57 percent of the witnesses who testified "support the concept of congestion pricing." Based on the analysis, ED’s Neil Giacobbi concluded:

The public hearings show that New Yorkers do in fact support the concept of congestion pricing, although they may want to see the original proposal tweaked and they want to see the revenues spent on transit improvements. Polls showing majority opposition to the original congestion pricing plan don’t take these facts into account.

John DeSio sees it otherwise. DeSio (who readers may recall as the messenger for Jeffrey Dinowitz’s angry response to a Streetsblog item in September), writes in the Village Voice:

The same survey also paints a grim picture of the state of civic engagement in this City, illustrating what could be described as a disturbing lack of interest on the part of the general public when it comes to voicing their opinions on a plan that would radically change the urban landscape. Just 149 individuals testified at the seven total hearings. When you subtract elected officials, civic organizations and other interested parties, you are left with just 28 percent, 42 total regular people, who felt the need to testify.

While Giacobbi agrees that the Commission’s accelerated timeline has not been ideal for gathering public input, he believes that the hearings were productive, noting, "compromise, not blind support or opposition, ruled the day during the seven commission hearings." ED’s analysis found that 26 percent of people testified both for and against congestion pricing, but even more speakers, 40 percent, offered suggestions to improve the policy.

Giacobbi said there are great lessons to be learned in studying the responses of the accumulated testimony, that the support for congestion pricing is not as cut and dry as polls might make it seem. "We’re trying to do anything we can to demonstrate that there is more flexibility on this issue than people might believe," said Giacobbi. When people are given more than a yes or no option, he said, they tend to offer their support for congestion pricing, albeit with their own unique changes.

"Most people haven’t thought about this critically," said Giacobbi. "Once you get into the details of the plan, they come around to it." Transit improvements have to come from somewhere, he added, and congestion pricing is the best way to pump that money into the system. The sooner people realize that the better off commuters will be, said Giacobbi.

"The poll says that New Yorkers do not fundamentally understand congestion pricing," he said. "If they did understand it, they would support it."