Planners Looking 25 Years Ahead Say NYC’s Climate and Transit Crises are Increasingly Urgent

It’s telling, however, that in looking back on the first year of the Fourth Plan, Thomas Wright, president & CEO of the Regional Plan Association projects a sense of urgency on two issues: the transit funding crisis and the threat of climate change.

“Climate change is a completely new set of issues. It is something fundamentally different, an existential threat to the entire region, to a much larger population,” Wright tells City Limits. “We still thought of it even a year ago as more of a marathon that an immediate threat. In some ways, you could argue that’s the thing we didn’t foresee the most. The bad news on climate has come much faster than we expected. Recent events and new science is proving that we maybe missed something.” November saw a report by the National Climate Assessment predicting serious economic impacts from climate change and in early December came an update from the Global Carbon Project reporting that carbon emissions were accelerating. “If we said that stuff a year ago, we were afraid people would have dismissed us as doomsayers,” Wright says. “Now, it’s looking overly optimistic.”

On funding for the MTA, Wright sees 2019 as a critical year. “Congestion pricing has to pass. It has to be in the budget. We need it to reduce traffic and to fund the MTA,” he argues. “Six months from now either we’ll be moving forward on that or our legislative and elected leaders will have failed us and we’ll be caught tighter in a downward spiral.” When future generations look back on the next year, they’ll either say, “‘Here was a moment they either made the right choice and things improved’ or ‘They made the wrong choice and we all suffered,” Wright says. “I really do think it’s that important.”

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