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Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Yorkers Save $19 Billion Annually


The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) released "New York City"s Green Dividend," a report enumerating the benefits of mass transit use and walking for New York City's economy and environment. CEO's for Cities, a national, non-profit organization of urban leaders, completed the report.

The report concluded that New Yorkers save $19 billion annually by driving less than other Americans. The report also states that $16 billion of that stays in the local economy. According to the NYCDOT commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, "Nineteen billion dollars is...a sustainable economic model for New York City that we can't take for granted. This report gives us our first look at the bottom-line benefit of mass transit and also reminds us what we stand to lose if we don't keep up our investment.

The report also found that only one-third of New Yorkers commute to work in their vehicles. This is the smallest percentage of any large-sized city in the nation. Additionally, New Yorkers own fewer cars per capita in caparison with the average American city. In fact, an increase of 4.5 million cars across the five boroughs would be needed to match the car ownership of the average American city. In order to accommodate those cars, the city would need to construct a parking lot larger than the island of Manhattan.

CEO's for Cities determined the $19 billion in annual savings by employing a simple mathematic equation. Estimated miles driven by New Yorkers (9 miles per day) X the national average cost of operating a vehicle (40 cents per mile). Then, they compared the total (how much New Yorkers spend on driving per capita) with the national average. They concluded the savings was $19 billion each year.

However, this may be a conservative answer. In study calculated the average VMT rates in New York City using the average daily distance driven across the city's entire metropolitan region. For example, it's not unreasonable to assume that city-based drivers use their cars less frequently and drive short distances than most Suffolk county residents. If that's the case, than the actual miles her day driven her city resident is less than 9 miles. Additionally, the cost of driving in New York City is higher than the national average. High costs of parking, insurance and gas also help increase the savings for New Yorkers.

In addition to illustrating the benefits of mass transit on New York City's economy and environment, the report highlights the need for continuing to develop and expand New York City's mass transit system. As the population of New York City continues to increase, increasing mass transit capacity and developing new transportation options will be imperative.

This report was released at a critical time. Currently, the effectiveness and growth of New York's mass transit system is in jeopardy. The MTA (which runs Manhattans subway and bus systems) is currently facing the largest service and budget cuts since the 1970s. In addition to the MTA's budget crisis, the federal government's transportation funding program expired in 2009. For the last 6 months it has been continued by a series of short term extensions. "Getting the economic development folks behind these policy arguments would greatly strengthen the green transportation coalition," said Julia Klaiber, director of external affairs for CEO's for Cities.

Whether you take the train, ride the bus, walk or bike to work you are helping to contribute to the avoidance of 23 million tons of carbon emissions each year by New Yorkers who use mass transit or other sustainable means of transportation.

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