The area around Ground Zero is going to be ground zero in the battle over congestion pricing exemptions.
Buried in the MTA’s environmental assessment for congestion pricing is this startling fact: a small slice of Lower Manhattan is circling the field when it comes to people driving to work. And these people are, surprise!, mostly police officers.
According to the EA’s “Economic Conditions” chapter, Census Tract 29 has the highest number of car commuters in Manhattan’s central business district of any census tract in the CBD – and among those car commuters , a plurality of them are in the “protection service” employment sector. The leaflet will also surely be the epicenter of the fight against congestion pricing exemptions, as any exemption granted to people driving and parking in this slice of lower Manhattan could eviscerate the entire program.
“By far the greatest number of car commuters to Manhattan’s central business district commute to jobs in Census Tract 29 in Lower Manhattan,” the agency wrote in the EA. “Of the estimated 16,453 workers commuting to jobs in Census Tract 29 from outside the Manhattan CBD, approximately 6,832 workers (over 40%) drive to work. … About 40% of people working in Census Tract 29 are employed in protective service occupations, a category that includes NYPD officers. In the entire Manhattan CBD, only 2.5% of jobs fall into this occupational category.
The census tract in question is home to a number of law enforcement and government buildings, including One Police Plaza, Manhattan Criminal Court, New York Supreme Court, New York County Supreme Courthouse, Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse, One Center Street and of course, Town Hall.
The large number of NYPD and other law enforcement officials traveling to lower Manhattan could come into play when the Traffic Mobility Review Board, the committee responsible for recommending pricing and exemption policies for the congestion pricing, will begin to consider the various exemption cries. PBA President Pat Lynch demanded an exclusion for the cops, asking for one almost immediately after state lawmakers authorized the toll.
Whether lobbying works is an open question. The six members of the TMRB have remained silent on the issue of exemptions and credits since their appointment in July – with the exception of Partnership for the City of New York President Kathryn Wylde, who has emphatically insisted on the lack of credits or exemptions when road pricing is implemented.
“Anything that reduces the impact of the congestion pricing zone is going to make it less efficient and less attractive,” Wylde told Streetsblog in September. “It’s not just about raising more money. It’s about people seeing real improvement in the city through the reduction of excessive congestion.
Other officials have at least signaled some openness to exemptions or credits, though those discussions have focused more on taxi drivers and other potentially disadvantaged groups and not on government employees or the security machine. the state. Mayor Adams, himself a former police officer, also said he was open to certain exemptions as a candidate and as mayor, but mostly talked about theoretical chemotherapy patients and other people for whom he thinks , driving is not “a luxury”.
The EA also points to an important reason why lower Manhattan, with its many subway connections, is such a rich vein of drive-time radio listeners: parking signs.
“The higher rate of car trips to these census tracts and the high volume of car trips to Census Tract 29 are likely due to the availability of free parking and/or parking plates for some employees of public administration,” wrote the authors of the assessment. (A census of Streetsblog signs earlier this year certainly confirmed this.)
NYPD officers have the ability to park on Park Row, which has been closed to civilian vehicle traffic since the 9/11 attacks, and they do.
NYPD officers, at the very least, have less of an excuse to insist on driving to work because they can get a free ride on public transit if they want. According to the MTA, the agency distributed 36,681 MetroCards to NYPD members.
But they, along with their siblings in the Federal Building and the Court Officers’ Services, are also going wild with signs all over lower Manhattan, especially on the blocks just outside Census Tract 29. As the Streetsblog Placard Census shows, almost every car parked within the 30-block radius of Canal, Lafayette and Chambers Streets and West Broadway and Varick Street had either a real or fake placard, or some other chalkboard emblem. board that passes for a free parking sticker here.
Riders Alliance’s Danny Pearlstein thinks the quest for exemptions is absurd.
“Special interest exemptions for privileged groups of drivers would be a disaster for the millions of commuters who rely on congestion pricing to fix the subway,” he said. “A Swiss cheese policy that distributes favors will prove to undermine trust in government at the worst possible time.”