By Alex Israel
The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS), and Con Edison (ConEd) introduced a plan to install electric vehicle charging ports on the Upper West Side during the September meeting of Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee.
As part of the Curbside Electric Vehicle Charging Pilot, DOT will install 50 charging ports, each with two chargers, on streets across the city for a four year demonstration. FLO, a private company that, according to its website, operates one of North America’s largest charging networks, will supply the hardware for the electric vehicle charging network.
In Manhattan, DOT, MOS, and ConEd intend to install a total of eight charging ports across a total of sixteen parking spaces for the pilot program. This includes three ports on the Upper West Side, as well as an additional two ports in Washington Heights and three ports on the Upper East Side.
The purpose of the program is to evaluate the usefulness of charging ports, to encourage electric vehicle ownership, and to test the feasibility of a larger-scale program, according to Mark Simon, Director of DOT’s Electric Vehicle Policy. He said DOT wants to use it to send an informational message to the city: “This is something that’s coming soon.”
DOT will spend the remainder of 2019 checking for feasibility across a number of sites they have identified as optimal; their analysis is based on a combination of inputs, including data regarding journeys to work, census, and electric vehicle registrations, as well as feedback from elected officials and existing plans from the Department of City Planning, said Simon. The ideal locations for charging points are near major institutions, educational institutes and medical centers, and places with high commercial activity.
On the Upper West Side, the top locations have been narrowed down to the following:
- West 93rd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- The east side of West End Avenue between West 66th–70th Streets (parallel to P.S. 199, Juilliard, LaGuardia)
- West 86th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive
Additional considerations are along the east side of Amsterdam Avenue between West 66th–67th Streets and West 64th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and West End Avenue.
The ‘Level 2’ chargers, which use a 240-volt power source (higher than the ‘Level 1’ chargers you might use in a home garage), will provide about 25 miles of charge per hour, culminating in a full charge in between 4–8 hours. The chargers will operate through a fee-based system comparable to gas prices, starting at $2.50 per hour and payable through the FLO app, per Avi Kahn, the Project Specialist for ConEd’s electric vehicle demonstration program. Spaces selected for charger installation will be designated as ‘no standing zones’ for all non-electric vehicles—and if a car is parked there and not plugged in, the NYPD can issue a ticket.
The pilot program aims to help deliver on the ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gases in New York City 80 percent by 2050, as proposed in Mayor de Blasio’s 80×50 plan. Adopting electric vehicles is necessary to help reach that goal, said Nate Kimball, Senior Policy Advisor at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.
Right now, transportation makes up 30 percent of citywide greenhouse gas emissions—and 83 percent of that comes from passenger cars, according to Kimball. Ideally, MOS wants to get people out of cars and into the various forms of public transportation offered throughout the city. But eliminating passenger vehicles completely just isn’t realistic.
By 2025, MOS hopes to see 20 percent of new vehicles registered be electric. In order to get there, the implementation and normalization of electric chargers is key. “Without it, it’s like having a city without anywhere to get gas,” Kimball said.
Before passing a resolution in approval of the pilot, some Community Board 7 Committee members and local residents discussed their issues with the program.
“I think the city should use all of its efforts to promote environmentally friendly transit,” said committee chair Howard Yaruss, the only member who voted against the resolution. “Sure, [the chargers] would get someone to go from gas to electric, but all of our efforts should go towards public transit.”
One resident said he felt the pilot plan was “silly,” pointing to the DOT’s decision to create more opportunities for passenger vehicles. “It feels like we’re still focused on incentivizing car ownership,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say this is our focus. This is one project that we’re working on,” responded Felicia Tunnah, Assistant Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at DOT, in defense of the proposal. “If you have to use a vehicle we want to encourage electric.”
The committee resolution will be up for a vote during the next full board meeting on October 2, 2019. Based on the projected timeline and tentative buy-in from all relevant parties, the charging ports are set to be installed in Spring 2020.
In the meantime, residents can learn more, share feedback, and suggest locations for curbside charging across the city on the DOT website: nyc.gov/charge