Tri-State Campaign’s Response to Assemblyman Rory Lancman's Six Alternatives
July 10, 2007

Assemblymember Lancman’s alternatives to congestion pricing will not dent NYC traffic congestion or offer cleaner air. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign asks the Assembly to consider the data below.

Experience from other states proves that carpooling and telecommuting tax credits, two of Lancman’s alternatives, will do little to change travel behavior in NYC. Despite tax credits and other incentives Maryland, Washington, Oregon, and many other states, the share of commuters carpooling to work nationwide dropped from almost 20% in 1980 to 12% in 2000, a decline of 38%.  In New Jersey, which began offering employers a generous tax credit for supporting ridesharing programs in 1994, the share of commuters carpooling to work fell from 12.4% in 1990 to 10.6% in 2000.

Likewise, telecommuting is unlikely to significantly reduce driving to work.  Telecommuting as a share of work trips has grown from only 2.3% in 1980 to 3.3% in 2000.  However, even with technological advances that have made it possible to work from just about anywhere, the share of people working from home has dropped by 55% since 1960.  Lancman’s proposal specifically mentions Connecticut’s telecommuting incentive program, perhaps the best in the country. But even there, telecommuting accounts for only 3.1% of all work trips.

It’s important to note that there is no bigger carrot than the billions spent improving our transit system since 1980, but that investment has not decreased Manhattan traffic congestion.

On the other hand, congestion pricing has succeeded where others strategies have failed. London’s pricing program resulted in a significant reduction in auto use, while raising desperately needed money for transit service and speeding commutes by an average of 37%. That is because congestion pricing is economics 101. Pricing roadways forces people to think twice about their travel choices, making them more likely to get out of their cars and choose transit.

The most effective congestion reduction provisions of Lancman’s bill are stolen directly from Mayor Bloomberg’s plan. Like PlaNYC, Lancman’s bill would offer millions towards expanded transit service in the outer boroughs—but Lancman offers no explanation of where the money would come from.  Presumably it would come from the state, at the expense of other state projects. On the other hand, Bloomberg’s plan, if approved by Monday, would tap into $500 million from the federal government and allow the purchase of nearly 400 buses, along with other necessary transportation initiatives. PlaNYC, like Lancman’s bill, would allow traffic enforcement agents to ticket cars which ‘block the box.’  Currently this violation can be enforced only by specialized enforcement agents and police.

It’s plain and simple: PlaNYC, not other alternatives, is the ticket to cleaner air, lower asthma rates, speedier commutes, and more stable transit fares.

Lancman’s bill is a distraction and a vote for the status quo: congested streets with little improvement in air quality or transit service. It should be treated as such by his fellow Assemblymembers.