2013/09 – Motive, Means and Responsibility

Address to Port Authority, September 2013

Chairman Samson. Commissioners.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

In 2010, the Authority approved a Bicycle Master Plan to encourage tenants; coordinate with regional planners; as well as to obligate itself to upgrade surface facilities … in order to accommodate a doubling of bike use every five years.

Indeed, former Secretary LaHood, Mayor Bloomberg and others have set targets of 5-6% by 2020.  Ten times what we see today.

Towards that goal, North Jersey and NYC MPOs project billions in new bike-ped construction.  Newark and Hoboken are implementing comprehensive bike plans.  NYC mandates workplace bike parking.  The success of Citi Bike.  Etc.  So, it is entirely credible, even conservative, to project that bike use at Authority facilities will reach those targets in the decades ahead.

In 2008, the Authority issued a Sustainability Policy, which calls for an agency-wide reduction of greenhouse emissions of 80% by 2050.   Therein, “attracted travel” on bridges-tunnels was identified as contributing at 30% of its Scope 3 emissions … second only to aviation.

If the Authority upgraded a surface transport facility, like the GWB, to accommodate a 10% mix of non-motorized travel, it effectively reduces the emissions profile of ALL travel on that facility by 10%.  That being the case, why shouldn’t such an upgrade qualify for a line item on the “greenhouse” budget?  One-time expenditure, amortized over the life of the facility.

But while reducing cost compliance is itself valid, I submit that the greater value of a new bike path on the high visibility GWB would be to evidence Authority leadership on climate change.   To leverage its stature in the region, with the nation, and via the American Association of Port Authorities, to similarly affected facilities throughout the hemisphere.

This past May, the world maintained 400 parts per million CO2 over 24 hours for the first time in recorded history.  Setting aside multiple scenarios of continued CO2 rise, the last time we sustained 400 PPM, (3-5 million years ago during the Pliocene era) temperatures were 2-3 degrees Celsius hotter … and sea levels 60-80 feet higher.


Per your Office of Environment and Energy, half Authority assets are “coastal” and directly at risk to sea level rise and storm surge.  The rest vulnerable to extreme weather events.

In 1931, five and a half million cars crossed the GWB.  Last year it was 110 million.  And since the Authority took over airports in the 40′s, air travel has risen thirty-fold.  Over the same period carbon levels have risen 25%.  And while correlation is not causation, the parallels and implications are striking.

So you have motive, means, responsibility … and the once-in-a-lifespan opportunity afforded by the recabling.

Thank you.

Neile Weissman, 2013