Remember the Kheel plan, a Ted Kheel-funded study by Charles Komanoff and other transit experts? In it, the study’s creators proposed a way to fund the MTA via a steep congestion fee while keeping transit free. While it’s a very revolutionary plan, it hasn’t been embraced politically.
Well, as Ben Fried at Streetsblog reported this morning, Kheel is unveiling a new version of the plan. Kheel apparently doesn’t like the Ravitch plan. He calls it an immobility tax and doesn’t think it addresses the problems of congestion and car overuse that plague New York.
“The Ravitch Immobility Tax is a 1970’s-era plan that disconnects transit and traffic, making no real impact on the congestion problem that chokes our regional economy,” Kheel said in a press release. “The Ravitch Plan ignores the staggering social cost to the city of automobile traffic, leaving drivers to pay little for mass transit, and imposing the burden instead on vulnerable segments of our society that can ill afford it in these times. Instead of taxing jobs during the largest period of unemployment in recent history, we need an innovative plan that fuels economic growth, fixes traffic, and provides long-term benefit for working New Yorkers.”
Rather, Kheel proposes free subways except at rush hour and higher tolls for all. Kheel’s new plan, according to Fried, includes the following:
- A dramatic cut in subway fares (75 percent on average), including a complete fare elimination on weekends and holidays, overnight and mid-day,
- A variable fare during the weekday peak periods that’s lower than the current fare;
- Complete fare elimination on all NYC Transit buses at all times;
- Congestion pricing on car and truck traffic into the Manhattan Central Business District (CBD), with tolls varying sharply by time of day and averaging $16 per trip;
- A 46% surcharge on medallion taxi fares (note that medallion taxis, and no other vehicles, would be exempt from the congestion pricing charge);
- 25% higher tolls on MTA bridges that don’t directly access the Manhattan CBD.
Using their comprehensive proprietary model of the city’s transit system and road network, Kheel’s team concluded that the plan would:
- Yield over $1 billion in net revenue — sufficient to wipe out more than three-fourths of the MTA’s projected FY-2009 deficit;
- Increase overall subway ridership by 12% even as use of the system shrinks by 6% in the morning peak hour (8-9 a.m.) and 10% in the evening peak hour (5-6 p.m.);
- Raise traffic speeds in the chronically gridlocked CBD by one-third during the day and one-quarter overall, while also boosting travel speeds throughout the City.
I want to like this plan, and I want to support. But something gnaws at me. Maybe it’s the fact that Ravitch’s plan generates more than the MTA needs so they can help fund the capital campaign. Maybe it’s the fact that Kheel’s plan is just too far out there for most New Yorkers to appreciate. Sadly, I think Kheel’s plan will forever remain a good idea in principle but will never be a New York reality.