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Rethinking Development Report
No. 3  December 2006


Battling Traffic: What New Yorkers Think About Road Pricing

by Bruce Schaller, Principal Schaller Consultings

APPENDIX A. Methodology and Concept Statements Used in Focus Groups

This study is based on a review of the literature on road pricing and on focus groups of New Yorkers discussing three road pricing concepts.

The literature review covered road pricing in the New York area, nationally, and internationally. The literature review was used to help understand approaches to road pricing, the effectiveness of various forms of road pricing, and possible keys to public acceptability. Approximately seventy reports and studies were reviewed; the report highlights the most relevant findings from this review.

Eight focus groups were held: with New York City and suburban auto commuters; with New York City transit users; and with owners of restaurant, retail, and delivery businesses in and around Manhattan. All respondents live or work in the Manhattan Central Business District (CBD), defined as the area from 60th Street to the Battery. This research protocol was thus designed to capture the range of opinion that exists within the general public on the issues under consideration.

Specific focus group segmentation was:

  • Auto users—three focus groups:
    a) Auto users who live beyond walking distance of the subway (e.g., eastern Queens, southern Brooklyn, Staten Island, or Nassau and Westchester Counties)
    b) Auto users who have direct subway access to Manhattan
    c) Auto users who regularly drive to destinations west of 10th Avenue or east of 2nd Avenue, 14th Street to 60th Street, and thus lack convenient subway service to their Manhattan destinations
  • Transit users—two focus groups:
    a) Transit users who live in the city and commute from beyond walking distance of the subway. These groups included residents who take an express bus or bus and subway from eastern Queens, southern Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Staten Island
    b) Transit users who live in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, or Brooklyn within walking distance of the subway
  • Business owners and general managers—three groups:
    a) Retail establishments and restaurants located in the Manhattan CBD
    b) Retail establishments and restaurants located in Manhattan above 60th Street, in downtown Brooklyn and adjacent neighborhoods, Long Island City, and Astoria
    c) Delivery companies that make deliveries in the Manhattan CBD

All auto and transit-user respondents either live in the Manhattan CBD or travel into the CBD at least three times a week. Respondents also indicated a degree of civic engagement by voting within the last two years and having participated in activities such as: volunteering in a school, religious, social, or community organization; writing a letter to a public official; attending a political rally; and so forth.

Respondents included residents of all five boroughs and Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland Counties and included a mix of age, gender, income, and race/ethnicity. Most of the business owners and managers were from small businesses.

Respondents were asked to describe their feelings about the modes of transportation they currently use; their reaction to concept statements for congestion pricing, tolled express lanes on highways, and on-street parking fees; and their reaction to messages concerning pricing options. At the conclusion of each discussion, respondents were asked to put together a program that they would recommend to the mayor to improve transportation in New York City. See below in Appendix A for the concept statements used in the discussions.

Focus groups were held in September 2006 in midtown Manhattan. Discussions lasted about two hours. Discussions were captured on audiotape and reviewed in detail for the preparation of this report.

The concept statements discussed by focus groups were:

Congestion Pricing

As you may have heard, London adopted a program three years ago to reduce traffic congestion and raise funds for public transportation. Motorists in London are charged a fee for entering the central part of the city; the revenue is used to increase bus service. Since the charge started, traffic in the center of London has been reduced. Bus speeds have increased and buses arrive at stops more frequently.

A similar program could be implemented for the area of Manhattan below 60th Street. Cars and trucks driving below 60th Street during the day on weekdays would pay a fee. Money raised by this fee could be used to improve public transportation and repair highways and streets in the city.

The fee would be collected using E-ZPass. There would be an alternative to pay in cash such as by purchasing a disposable E-ZPass tag at a store. E-ZPass readers would be installed at various locations in Manhattan below 60th Street. Vehicles would not have to stop at a toll booth to pay the fee.

Express Lanes with Tolls

San Diego and Minneapolis have put “express lanes” on highways. These lanes are reserved for buses, cars carrying at least three people, and cars that pay a toll to use the lane. The toll is set high enough to prevent too many people from using the express lanes to ensure that buses and cars in the express lanes are not delayed by traffic congestion. Motorists pay the toll using transponders similar to E-ZPass.

A similar program could be implemented in New York City. For example, the current in-bound HOV lane on the Gowanus could be expanded into two lanes. Both lanes would be used by buses, HOV cars and single drivers paying a toll. That would leave two lanes for non-tolled traffic instead of three. It could also be implemented on the wider parts of the LIE

Money raised by the tolls could be used to improve public transportation and repair highways and streets in the city.

On-Street Parking Fees

Concept description used in the first three focus groups:

Currently, the cost of metered parking in New York City ranges from approximately 50 cents per hour to $2.50 per hour, depending on location. The cost of parking in a garage is generally much higher than parking at a meter. As a result, motorists often drive around looking for an open on-street parking spot, increasing congestion and pollution.

The cost of metered parking could be increased to make it easier to find an open space and encourage motorists to use off-street parking facilities. Enforcement of one-hour and two-hour time limits on parking could be increased as part of this program.

Money from the increased parking fees could be used to improve street conditions.

Concept description used in the last five focus groups:

Several years ago, Muni-Meters were installed at Midtown truck loading zones. Rates for commercial vehicles are $2 for one hour, $5 for two hours, and $9 for three hours of parking for loading and unloading. This program has reduced double parking and increased turnover by trucks and vans.

A similar program could be implemented for cars in areas such as downtown Brooklyn, Jamaica, Queens, and the Hub in the Bronx. Parking rates would escalate each hour to encourage long-term drivers to use off-street parking facilities and free up spaces for shoppers who need to park for only a short time.

Money from the increased parking fees could be used to improve street conditions.

APPENDIX B. Traffic Speed Maps

Figure 1. A.M. Peak (6–10 A.M.)

Source: Best Practices Model data provided by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, for base year 2002. Speeds have been calibrated with observed speeds and traffic volumes for major arterials and highways.

Figure 2. Midday (10 A.M.–4 P.M.)

Source: Best Practices Model data provided by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, for base year 2002. Speeds have been calibrated with observed speeds and traffic volumes for major arterials and highways.

Figure 3. P.M. Peak (48 P.M.)

Source: Best Practices Model data provided by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, for base year 2002. Speeds have been calibrated with observed speeds and traffic volumes for major arterials and highways.

 


 


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TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Executive Summary

About the Author

Introduction

The Costs of Congestion

Potential Benefits of Road Pricing

Road Pricing in New York

Road Pricing in Other Major Cities

Figure 1. The Different Types of Road Pricing

Road Pricing and Public Acceptability

Focus Group Results: Overall Reaction to Congestion Fees and Tolled Express Lanes

Factors Underlying Opinions on Congestion Pricing and Tolled Express Lanes

Figure 2. Summary of Factors Underlying Opinions on Congestion Pricing and Tolled Express Lanes

Figure 3. Desired Transportation Improvements

Pricing of On-Street Parking

Response to Messages about Road Pricing

Conclusion

Recommended Design of a Pricing Plan

Figure 4. Examples of the Effects of Midday, A.M., and P.M. Cordon fees

Developing a Road Pricing Program

Appendix A. Methodology and concept Statements used in focus groups

Appendix B. Traffic Speed Maps

Endnotes

 

 


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