2015/12 – Green Pass

Chairman Degnan. Director Foye. Commissioners.

Apropos of the UN Climate Summit underway in Paris, I would reference the Port Authority’s Environmental Sustainability Policy from 2008:

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, if not reduced by substantial levels, are expected to cause irreversible harm around the world, especially to areas with significant low-lying coastal regions, including the Port District.

The Port Authority will continue to use its best efforts to reduce all GHG emissions related to its facilities, including tenants and customers, by 80% from 2006 levels, by 2050.  Wherever possible, the Port Authority will seek out innovative mechanisms and partnerships through which the region’s overall GHG footprint may be reduced on a much shorter timeline than would be possible by focusing solely on improvements within the organization.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 3.23.16 PMMap of Port District facilities.

One example, your Green Pass program, discounts tolls for vehicles achieving 45 miles to the gallon, about twice the efficiency of a regular car.  But while motivating purchase of green vehicles is laudable, expanding cycling capacity on the GWB would be more cost-effective and productive in reducing greenhouse emissions.

Currently a half-a-million bicycle trips are made across the GWB each year. If the Port Authority accorded those trips the same subsidies as Green Pass vehicles, it would total $2.9 million.

Actually, two Green Pass trips are needed offset a regular car’s emissions, whereas one bike trip directly offsets one car. That means current bicycle travel on the GWB annually offsets $5.8 million worth of CO2 emissions.1

And that’s just on the existing single 7′ wide path you have now. Imagine the offsets that would result from having an AASHTO-compliant facility that increased cycling capacity ten-fold.2

Lest that sound extreme, bear in mind that NYC Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents Washington Heights and supports the GWB’s widening, has also called for enhancements to the NYC bike grid to encourage and support eight times current travel by 2030.

Further, that bike travel across the GWB has in recent years been growing 50% faster than the city overall.3

In short, a fully widened GWB would precipitate an immediate increase in non-emitting trips and that throughput would continue to grow through till 2050, without any need for further construction or costly subsidies.

Thank you.

Neile Weissman, 2015


[1] From Port Authority’s 2014 bicycle-pedestrian traffic count:

40% of east-bound bike trips happened during peak periods.  60% off-peak.

500,000 bike trips * 40% peak * $2.75 Green Pass discount = $550,000

500,000 bike trips * 60% off peak * $7.75 Green Pass discount = $2,325,000

$550,000 + $2,325,000 = $2,875,000

$2,875,000 * 2 Green Pass trips for each bike trip = $5,750,000

[2] FHWA grading for Cyclists’ Proposal for GWB paths 2014-2034:Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.09.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 10.21.14 AMCyclists’ ProposalTwo (2) 10′ paths for cyclists plus two (2) 6.75′ paths for pedestrians-runners.  9′ high anti-suicide barrier.  Rendering by Joseph Lertola.

[3] In 2010, Port Authority reported that bike travel across the GWB averaged 9,020 cyclists per week. In 2014, the PA reported an average 11,900 cyclists per week.  An increase of 7.2% per year — or a doubling every ten years.

By comparison, NYC DOT’s In-Season Cycling Indicator shows bike travel across NYC grew from 17,491 per day to 21,112 in over the same 2010-2014 period.  That’s 4.8% annual growth — or a doubling every 15 years.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 7.49.45 PMNYCDOT’s In-Season Cycling Indicator, 1980-2014.