Charles Komanoff

 

Bio

Charles Komanoff

11 Hanover Square
21st Floor
NYC 10005
kea@igc.org
(212) 260-5237

 

Summary

*      Consultant and authority on U.S. energy, transport and environment; electricity generation costs; energy usage and supply; bicycling; road pricing; traffic crashes; social and environmental costs and benefits of competing energy and transport modes.

    New York City activist and advocate for bicycling, pedestrians' rights and strategic pricing of automobile use.

    Director of the Carbon Tax Center.

Komanoff is director of the consulting firm Komanoff Energy Associates, 're-founder' and president emeritus of the renowned advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, a founding trustee of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, co-ordinator of the pedestrian-rights organization Right Of Way, and director of the Carbon Tax Center. His work combines expertise in policy analysis, a flair for expressing numerical and economic data in concrete terms, and a passion for progressive social change. Komanoff graduated with honors from Harvard College with a B.A. in Applied Mathematics.

Authority on U.S. energy, transport and environment

For much of his career as a policy analyst, Komanoff has addressed two leading sources of environmental and social harm in industrial societies: electricity generation and motor vehicles.

Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power

Throughout the 1970s and '80s -- years of intense debate over the economics of nuclear power -- Komanoff was the leading U.S. source of credible information on reactor costs. Through painstaking data collection, rigorous analysis, numerous articles and books, and clear articulation to journalists, he helped policy-makers and the public grasp the true dimensions of nuclear power's spiraling costs. During this period, Komanoff consulted for two Congressional agencies, the U.S. Department of Energy, and close to two dozen states including New York, California, Texas and Florida; presented expert testimony before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and 20 Public Utility Commissions; testified before four Committees of Congress and the Select Committee on Energy of the House of Commons (U.K.); and tutored a generation of journalists on the extent and causes of cost escalation in the U.S. nuclear power industry.

More recently: Komanoff represented Manhattan community groups in evaluating and mitigating a proposal by Con Edison to expand its East 14th Street steam-and-electric station; analyzed the potential for electricity conservation in the New York area on behalf of a coalition seeking to shut the Indian Point reactors in Westchester County; and published Ending The Oil Age, a detailed post-9/11 policy prescription for immediately reducing U.S. oil consumption by up to 10%. Komanoff has also advocated and written extensively in opposition to "NIMBY" critics of proposed wind-energy projects in the Northeast U.S., contrasting the wind farms' minuscule noise and visual impacts with their robust benefits in displacing fossil fuels. And he is co-developer of Greening A Block, a project to implement energy-efficient heating, hot water and electric systems in buildings on a block-or-larger scale on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Transport

Komanoff is a founding trustee of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a confederation of advocacy groups working to reform transport planning and financing in the New York region. He edited and co-authored Tri-State's founding document, the Citizen Action Plan, a holistic approach to regional transport emphasizing road­ pricing, center-oriented development and strategic transit upgrades. Tri-State has also published Komanoff's comprehensive analyses of roadway subsidies in New York and New Jersey and his 2003 study of the benefits of "value pricing" (higher peak tolls with off-peak discounts) for New York City bridges and tunnels.

Komanoff conceived and edited Transportation Alternatives' Bicycle Blueprint, the most ambitious bike plan ever published for New York (or any other U.S. city). He contributed a volume, Environmental Benefits of Bicycling and Walking in the United States, to the Federal Highway Administration's National Bicycling and Walking Study, and he composed the chapter on bicycling for the Encyclopedia of Energy (Elsevier, 2004).

Komanoff, an early and vocal advocate for full-cost pricing of automobile use, has spelled out road-pricing proposals in a report for the Energy Foundation and periodicals ranging from the Pace Environmental Law Review to many newspapers and magazines. His current (2010) work, which focuses on modeling and advocacy for traffic pricing and free transit in New York City in partnership with legendary civic activist Ted Kheel, was profiled in the June 2010 issue of Wired magazine. (More, below.)

Environment

Komanoff's work on environmental policy dates to 1971-72, when he co-directed the Council on Economic Priorities' landmark study of pollution in the U.S. electric power industry, The Price of Power. In 1972-74 he worked as an economist for the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection, composing highly original analyses that helped stop the uneconomic Storm King pumped-storage project in the Hudson Highlands and unnecessary LNG tank farms on Staten Island. Komanoff has published popular and technical articles on air pollution from electric generation and motor vehicles, and he recently contributed the chapter on economic incentives for reducing automotive pollution in Northwest Queens for a study for the Queens borough president.

Komanoff is also an authority on noise pollution. His monograph Drowning In Noise: Noise Costs of Jet Skis in America, sponsored and published in 2000 by the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, analyzed and monetized the uniquely annoying noise from jet skis. He currently advises several Manhattan community group in campaigns against noise emissions from "telecom hotels" and helicopters.

NYC activist and advocate for bicycling, pedestrians' rights and strategic pricing of automobile use

Komanoff brings to advocacy a flair for translating data into human terms, familiarity with New York City's rich history, solidarity with the city's many cultures, and a passion for social justice.

Beginning in 1986, Komanoff "re-founded" and led the NYC-based advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives. As volunteer (but virtually full-time) president, he forged T.A. into a vital force for non-motorized transportation in the New York region and made it a model for grassroots transportation advocacy in dozens of U.S. cities. Under Komanoff's leadership T.A. won a string of impressive victories including defeat of a Midtown bike ban and expanded access to area bridges, roads and transit systems. Bicycling magazine acknowledged Komanoff's accomplishments by naming him a 1990 "Bicyclist of the Year," and Komanoff himself recently recounted T.A.'s activist history in a stirring five-part series in Streetsblog.

After stepping down as T.A. president in 1992, Komanoff later co-founded the pedestrian rights organization Right Of Way. He spearheaded the group's street memorial project that marked several hundred streets and sidewalks on which New York City pedestrians and cyclists were run down and killed. The project was honored in 2001 by Industrial Design Magazine for advancing socially conscious design. Komanoff's 1999 report for Right Of Way, Killed By Automobile, drew on statistical analysis by the group's volunteers of close to a thousand NYC pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. These projects helped provoke public policies and paradigm shifts (changing the focus from victim behavior to driver culpability) that have reduced fatal pedestrian accidents in New York City by more than 25%.

Through technical reports and in numerous articles, Komanoff has advocated for strategic re-pricing of motor vehicle use to curb traffic gridlock and raise municipal revenues. In 2002 he founded the Bridge Tolls Advocacy Project to publicize the economic and quality-of-life benefits of tolling New York City's East River bridges. Komanoff's research on the beneficial impacts of bridge tolls on vehicle volumes and traffic flow, available at the BTAP Web site, helped lay the groundwork for Mayor Bloomberg's 2007-08 push for congestion pricing.

In late 2007, Komanoff assumed leadership of a research team assembled by legendary New York lawyer and transit advocate Ted Kheel, to study the feasibility and benefits of pairing free transit and congestion pricing. The group's report, Balancing Free Transit and Congestion Pricing in New York City, marked a watershed in explaining how economic incentives applied via congestion tolls on vehicle trips into Manhattan and discounted transit fares could convert large numbers of automobile trips to mass transit, thereby improving travel times, economic efficiency and the quality of life in a dense urban environment. In 2010, Komanoff unveiled a more powerful and accessible version of his innovative traffic-impact computer model, the Balanced Transportation Analyzer, that he created for the Kheel report. This revolutionary new tool, which captures the interactivities among car, taxicab, subway and bus trips in New York City and allows modeling of time-of-day-varied tolls and fares, was profiled in the June 2010 issue of Wired magazine.

Books

The Bicycle Blueprint: A Plan to Bring Bicycling into the Mainstream in New York City (Trans­portation Alternatives, 1993), editor-in-chief and co-author with Michele Herman et al.

Power Plant Cost Escalation: Nuclear and Coal Capital Costs, Regulation and Economics (Komanoff Energy Associates, 1981, republished by Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982).

Power Plant Performance: Nuclear and Coal Capacity Factors and Economics (Council on Economic Priorities, New York, 1976).

The Price of Power: Electric Utilities and the Environment (Council on Economic Priorities, 1972, republished by M.I.T. Press, 1974), co-authored with Sandy Noyes and Holly Miller.

Book Chapters

"Whither Wind?," in Annual Editions: Environment 08/09, McGraw-Hill, 2008.

"Bicycling," in Encyclopedia of Energy (C.J. Cleveland, ed.), Elsevier Science, San Diego, 2004.

"Bicycle Transport in the US: Recent Trends and Policies" (with John Pucher), in Sustainable Transport (R. Tolley, ed.), Woodhead Publishing Ltd., Cambridge, England, 2003.

"Doing Without Nuclear Power," in Accidents Will Happen: The Case Against Nuclear Power (L. Stephenson, ed.), Environmental Action Foundation and Harper & Row, New York, 1979.

Major Reports

A Bolder Plan: Balancing Free Transit and Congestion Pricing in New York City (Nurture New York's Nature, 2008).

The Hours: Time Savings from East River Bridge Tolls (Bridge Tolls Advocacy Project, New York, 2003).

East River Bridge Tolls: Who Will Really Pay? (Bridge Tolls Advocacy Project, New York, 2003).

A Value-Pricing Toll Plan for the M.T.A. (Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York, 2003).

Securing Power Through Energy Conservation and Efficiency in New York: Profiting from California's Experience (Riverkeeper et al., 2002).

Ending The Oil Age: A Plan to Kick the Saudi Habit (Komanoff Energy Associates, New York, 2002).

The Only Good Cyclist: NYC Bicyclist Fatalities -- Who's Responsible? (Right Of Way, New York, 2000), with Michael J. Smith.

Drowning In Noise: Noise Costs of Jet Skis in America (Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, Montpelier, VT, 2000), with Dr. Howard Shaw.

The Price Of A Ticket: Racial Profiling and Highway Deaths in New Jersey (Right Of Way, New York, 1999), with Michael J. Smith.

Killed By Automobile: Death in the Streets in New York City 1994-1997 (Right Of Way, New York, 1999)

Road Relief: Tax and Pricing Shifts for a Fairer, Cleaner, and Less Congested Transportation System in Washington State (with Todd Litman and Doug Howell, 1998, http://www.climatesolutions.org/).

Environmental Consequences of Road Pricing (Energy Foundation, San Francisco, CA 1997).

Crossroads: Highway-Finance Subsidies in New Jersey (Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York, with Margaret Sikowitz, 1995).

Subsidies for Traffic: How Taxpayer Dollars Underwrite Driving in NY State (Tri-State Trans­portation Campaign, New York, with Cora Roelofs, 1994).

Citizen Action Plan (Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York, 1994), editor and lead author.

Fiscal Fission: The Economic Failure of Nuclear Power -- A Report on the Historical Costs of Nuclear Power in the United States (Greenpeace, U.S.A., with Cora Roelofs, 1992).

Envi­ron­mental Benefits of Bicycling and Walking in the United States (Federal Highway Admini­stration, 1992, Part 15 of the National Bicy­cling and Walking Study, 1994, lead author).

There They Go Again: A Critique of the AER/UDI Report on Future Electricity Adequacy Through the Year 2000 (Nat'l. Assoc. of State Utility Con­sumer Advocates, 1987, co-authored).

Prometheus Bound: Nuclear Power at the Turning Point (Cam­bridge Energy Research Associ­ates, 1983), with I.C. Bupp.

Journal Articles

Injury Prevention, "Safety in numbers: a new dimension to the bicycle helmet controversy?," December 2001 (letter).

Journal of the American Medical Association, "Elevated Blood Alcohol and Risk of Injury Among Bicyclists," May 16, 2001 (letter).

Transportation Research "A", "Bicycling Renaissance in North America? Recent Trends and Alternative Policies to Promote Bicycling," 1999 (with John Pucher and Paul Schimek).

Bicycle Forum, "Restoring Cycling Habitat," No. 45, Summer 1997.

Public Utilities Fortnightly, "Predicting Nuclear Plant Capacity Factors," 1 December, 1994.

Pace Environmental Law Review, "Pollution Taxes for Roadway Transportation," Fall 1994.

Electricity Journal, "10 Blows That Stopped Nuclear Power," January 1991.

New England Journal of Public Policy, "Dismal Science Meets Dismal Subject: The (Mal)­prac­tice of Nuclear Power Econom­ics," Fall 1985.

Public Utilities Fortnightly, "Assessing the High Costs of New Nuclear Power Plants," 11 Octo­ber 1984.

Nuclear Safety, "Sources of Nuclear Regulatory Requirements," Vol. 22, No. 4, July?Aug, 1981.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, "U.S. Nuclear Plant Perfor­mance," November 1980.

Journal of the American Pollution Control Association, "Pollu­tion Control Improvements in Coal?Fired Electric Generating Plants," Vol. 30, No. 9, September 1980.

New York Review of Books, "Doing Without Nuclear Power," Vol. 26, No. 8, 17 May 1979.

New York Affairs, "The Storm King Controversy," Vol. II, No. 1, 1974 (with Ken Semmel).

Newspaper Op-Ed Pieces / Magazine Articles (print only; omits several hundred Web-based pieces on Grist, Streetsblog and the Carbon Tax Center’s blog)

Downtown Express, “How About Free Subways to Go With That Traffic Pricing,” 1-7 February 2008.

Downtown Express, “The Sentencing of a cyclist’s Killer,” 11-17 January 2008.

Downtown Express, “Silver Blocks the road to Traffic’s Promised Land,” 13-19 July 2007.

Downtown Express, “Love Cars, Kill Cyclists on ‘Greenway’ Path,” 8-14 December 2006.

Orion, “Whither Wind?,” Sept-Oct 2006 (reprinted in Mother Earth News, Feb. 2007 and in Annual Editions: Environment 08/09 and in Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues [see above under Book Chapters]).

Newsday, “A bike rider finds commuting to be a vicious cycle, 2 Sept 2006.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Forward-Thinking Idea for a Trendsetter,” 2 August 2006.

Albany Times Union, "In the Wind: Environmental activist's legacy would include support for windmills in the Adirondacks," 19 September 2005.

Newsday, "City Riding hard on Cyclers' Freedom," 31 March 2005.

Berkshire Eagle, "Wind Power Works," 8 January 2005.

New York Daily News, "Cops Should Ease Up On The Bike Rides," 19 October 2004.

Downtown Express, "Overreacting to Whitman's Deceit," 7-13 October 2003.

Providence (RI) Journal, "Even Wind Power Can't Be Invisible," 6 June 2003.

Providence (RI) Journal, "Even Wind Power Can't Be Invisible," 6 June 2003.

New York Daily News, "Deficit Burden Must Be Shared" 6 March 2003.

New York Daily News, "Speed Up East River Bridge Tolling" 12 June 2002.

Newsday, "Giuliani Puts Brakes on Car Culture," 1 October 2001.

Downtown Express, "Ending the car-eat-bike world," 17-30 July 2001.

New York Daily News, "Yet Another Helmet Law? -- Let's Skip It" 10 January 2001.

New York Daily News, "Too Many Cyclists Are Dying," 3 March 2000.

The Washington Post, "Refueling OPEC," 23 February 2000 (with Michael J. Smith).

The Newark Star-Ledger, "Putting Jersey Motorists in the Driver's Seat," 3 February 2000.

The New York Times, "It Isn't Too Many Double-Parkers, It's Too Many Cars," 16 Oct. 1999 (with Michael J. Smith).

The New York Times, "Pedestrians in Peril," 27 January 1998.

New York Daily News, "Bikes Are Safe, It's Cars That Kill," 10 December 1997.

Staten Island Advance, "New York Needs a Verrazano Bike Path," 18 June 1997.

New York Magazine, "Traffic: Demand and Supply," 16 December 1996.

New York Daily News, "The Man Who Had a Cure for Gridlock," 20 November 1996.

Newsday, "Should The L.I.E. Become a Toll Road?," 8 October 1995.

Crain's NY Business, "Steep Gas Tax is One Way to Ease Fiscal Pain," 30 September 1991.

Newsday, "Don't Convert Shoreham -- Use Less Power," 4 December 1990.

The New York Times, "Bikes Just Lack 'Curb Appeal'," 1 Sep­tember 1990.

The Washington Post, "Instead of a Gas Tax, How About a Carbon Tax," 6 March 1989.

New York Observer, "The Bike Ban is Bad Medicine," December 1987.

The New York Times, "The Power Shortage Is A Mirage," 28 April 1985.

Wall Street Journal, "Nuclear Crews Stretch Work, Up Costs," 19 March 1984.

Newsday, "Lilco's Owners Should Share The Burden," 11 Janu­ary 1983.

Los Angeles Times, "A Coal?Fired Future," 3 September 1981.

Newsday, "Let's Halt Shoreham Work While Seeking True Costs," 19 June 1980.

Newsday, "Shoreham: Time For A Reappraisal," 26 June 1979.

New York Review of Books, "Doing Without Nuclear Power," 17 May 1979 (cover article).

The New York Times, "Rights for Urban Bikers," 16 July 1978.