NYC’s small businesses want congestion pricing

Most people following New York City’s traffic and transit problems understand that more traffic and congestion is bad for air quality and commute times. And they know that the city’s buses and subway system need significant improvements to get people from here to there faster.

The impact of New York City’s traffic and transit woes on small businesses, however, is often overlooked. New York City is teeming with small businesses that depend on quick, smooth and reliable transit for their employees and customers. The harder the commute, the more likely an employee will be late, or the easier it is for a customer to say “not today.”

That’s why small business owners are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of congestion pricing.

Congestion pricing is a simple concept: cars would be charged a fee once per day for traveling into the most trafficked parts of Manhattan. This would achieve two things. First, it would incentivize other transit options, like buses and the subway, and reduce overall street traffic. Second, the fee would generate more than a billion dollars a year that would be used to improve the city’s transit system.

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Environmental Defense Fund and other organizations are participating in the Fix Our Transit campaign to spotlight the benefits congestion pricing would bring to the city. As part of the effort, we shot several videos featuring local small business owners who – in their own words – explain how their businesses depend on good transit and how congestion pricing would help them, their employees and their customers.

The videos feature:

• Kate Davies, owner of YO BK yoga studio. Like many small businesses, Davies’ studios depend on reliable transit during off hours – before and after the traditional work day and on weekends. Today, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) runs less off-peak service than it did a decade ago even though more people are riding during those hours. “Small businesses are one of the big reasons people like to live in New York. So prioritizing the way people are able to get to us actually impacts the whole city. The more great small businesses are in a neighborhood, the more valuable that neighborhood is.”

• Natasha Saunders, owner of The Ritz Cleaning & Concierge and a real estate agent at the Oxford Property Group. Saunders’ businesses rely on her employees and subcontractors using public transportation throughout the day. She noted how she had to change her strategic planning because of traffic. “We need to plan our business a little bit differently because we have to compensate for the time it’s going to take us to get to clients – the above-normal time it’s going to take us.”

• Dudley Stewart, owner of The Queensboro restaurant in Jackson Heights. Most of Stewart’s customers arrive by bus, and bus routes and efficiency would benefit from the reduced traffic and increased transit funding congestion pricing would create. “We need to understand that people traveling by car and creating traffic and congestion is the exact opposite of what small business want. Congestion pricing is definitely one of the things we need to try. I’m a small business owner, and I love congestion pricing. That’s as simple as it is.”

• Dominic Stiller, owner of Dutch Kills Centraal restaurant. Stiller explains how transit delays cost his employees time and his business money. Employees are often late, which means he has to schedule more hours. Congestion pricing would mean “the city moves quicker, the delivery of goods moves quicker. I’m itching for it to happen.”

• Shunan Teng, owner of Tea Drunk in the East Village. Teng’s customers often tell her about their subway frustrations, and she worries that the subway system’s woes will hurt her business. She looks forward to the funding that congestion pricing will bring to the subway system and the reduced street traffic. “I think it will make everyone’s life easier.”

There are many benefits to congestion pricing. Less traffic and pollution. More transit funding. Better commute times. But it’s important to remember that the small businesses we all love and depend on can’t succeed if our city doesn’t run smoothly.

Congestion pricing is a smart, strategic solution that all New Yorkers should be excited about.

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