We’re based in Long Island, and a large portion of our work involves driving into Manhattan to make deliveries and provide services in the busiest part of the city. We even like to guarantee same-day delivery.
Recently, it’s gotten increasingly difficult to fulfill that guarantee. That's because traffic in the city is worse than ever. New York City is the third most congested city in the entire world and second only to Los Angeles in the United States.
On average, vehicles move at 7.1 mph south of 60th street – a greater than 20 percent drop since 2012. In midtown Manhattan, average speeds hover around 5 mph. At that rate, my team could almost walk faster.
This problem isn’t going to fix itself, especially with a growing population. Today it’s nearly 9 million people, up by a half-million since 2010. That’s not to mention the hordes of tourists that descend upon the streets every year.
In 2018, New York City received a record 65.2 million visitors, marking the ninth year in a row for record-breaking tourism.
By clogging the streets and slowing everyone down, congestion is hurting my team, countless businesses like mine and the overall health of the city’s economy. In fact, experts estimate that gridlock is costing the New York economy $20 billion each year.
We need a proactive approach to slashing traffic and getting city streets moving again. A well-designed congestion pricing plan can do just this.
By charging drivers entering or leaving the Central Business District during rush hour, congestion pricing will encourage people to take public transit and help spread the flow of cars to less-trafficked times of day.
Other cities have demonstrated the approach’s success. In the years after Singapore introduced congestion pricing, a U.S. Department of Transportation report concluded traffic in the delineated zone “was virtually eliminated” and speeds “increased by 20 percent or more.”
The same report found that traffic was down 15 percent during rush hour in the first year after London implemented congestion charging, and “travel speeds increased by 30 percent in the zone.”
Yes, there will be new charges for my team to drive into the city center. But the benefits of speedier deliveries and an improved ability to plan our days – with less threat of getting stuck in gridlock – will be well worth it. Plus, our trucks will spend less time idling and wasting fuel.
Other traffic management tools like the “Don’t Block the Box” initiative will help, too. But to enable businesses like mine to succeed, congestion pricing can deliver the big change in traffic relief and transit improvement the region so desperately needs.
Moreover, cutting congestion is not just about companies that rely on driving into the city, there's no question the economic success and vitality of the outer boroughs depends on transit.
People in Queens don’t stay in Queens all day, every day. We need transportation policies that move both goods and people in a timely and efficient manner, which means reducing congestion and prioritizing transit. Congestion pricing can and will do both.
In addition to cutting traffic, the money raised will provide a steady revenue stream for much-needed improvements and upgrades for public transit. This funding could help get the Long Island Railroad’s (LIRR) modernization plan off the ground.
Although there will be some upfront costs to companies like mine that service and deliver to the Central Business District, the overall benefits for everyone – including those of us outside of Manhattan – will be worth it.
Tim Gomes is CEO of Topaz Lighting in Holtsville.