Turning Opposition into Opportunity

Traffic congestion. Air pollution. Decaying infrastructure. $13 billion dollars and counting in lost productivity every year. New York’s traffic woes are legendary. Decades’ worth of attempts to address the problem have come up short. Yet today, the Move NY campaign, led by Alex Matthiessen, is drawing unprecedented support from all sides of the debate. What’s made Move NY successful when other plans have failed?

A viable strategy

As a taxi driver, a transportation engineer, and NYC Traffic Commissioner, “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz saw it all on New York’s streets. Those experiences led him to develop a long-term solution to New York’s traffic woes centering on a “fair tolling” approach. But Gridlock Sam knew that ideas and implementation are two different things. So in 2012, he teamed up with Alex and the Move NY team.

Together, the team crafted a holistic strategy that addresses the needs of a wide variety of groups each of whom have different priorities. Early gains will include faster commutes, fewer accidents, and expanded public transit options, all of which improve the daily lives of local residents and workers. Revenue generated by the fair toll plan will be used for transportation investments, creating a faster, safer, more modern and accessible transportation system while generating more than 30,000 new permanent jobs that will help New York’s economy thrive.

Building an unlikely coalition

Of course, it doesn’t matter how good a plan is if it doesn’t get broad support and political buy in. That’s why Alex and his team have leveraged existing relationships to engage advocacy groups on the right and left, unions, the private sector, and New York’s political leadership. The process has been successful in part because of the team’s transparent approach that embraces inclusion, patience, flexibility and sensitivity to stakeholder priorities.

Those who have opposed similar plans in the past, like city councilman Mark Weprin and organizations like the New York State Motor Truck Association, are supporting the Move NY plan. Even AAA, which has previously sued over pricing plans, agrees. “It’s a pleasure working with the other side here for a change,” said AAA New York’s John Corlett in recent media coverage. In addition to building such an unlikely coalition, Blue Marble Project has managed to secure more than $2 million in funding.

With Blue Marble Project driving this grassroots, coalition-based effort, New Yorkers are posed to reap the benefits of a transformed regional transportation system.

Photo courtesy NASA's Earth Observatory