Staten Islanders Keeping an Open Mind on Congestion Pricing

"Walking is Transportation" blogger Dan Icolari has extensive coverage of last night's seventh and final Traffic Mitigation Commission hearing on Staten Island. He reports "a notable unanimity" among Staten Island's elected representatives. "Even South Shore Republican Councilman Vincent Ignizio -- a reliable foe of government whose salary is paid by government -- said that despite great skepticism, he was determined to keep an open mind."

All elected officials who attended (Borough President James Molinaro sent a representative) declared their support for some sort of congestion mitigation program––but only if Staten Island's share of the dollars on offer from the Feds were made commensurate with the problems of a borough whose average commute is acknowledged to be the longest in the entire country.

Staten Island may be New York City's most car-oriented borough, but Icolari notes that many of those who testified at last night's hearing advocated for improving mass transit:

Patrick Hyland of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce expressed his organization's support for Congestion Pricing, provided five thoughtful recommendations that address a range of transit-related problems experienced island-wide are implemented. Significantly, every recommendation involves mass transit.

•Reinstitution of rail service (roadbeds are deteriorated but right-of-way is intact)
•Increase in the number of Bus Rapid Transit routes (the first and so far the only such route was instituted earlier this year; ridership was surprisingly strong from the beginning and continues to grow)
•Fast ferry service to and from the South Shore--the most remote and least well served by mass transit of the island's three community board areas
•Full extension of the currently limited-distance express bus lane on the Staten Island Expressway, and
•A fourth bus depot (the third, already in the MTA capital budget, has already been outpaced by demand for express bus service)

The hearing, amazingly, adjourned 10 minutes early, at 8:50 pm. Icolari writes:

I took the bus home. No one else from the hearing joined me. We've obviously got a lot of work to do on Staten Island. But the (very) conditional willingness of many Staten Islanders to at least consider some sort of pricing scheme to reduce traffic and improve local mass transit services was encouraging.