Congestion Pricing Moves Forward to Albany

New York City Council has officially backed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, which now moves forward to Albany for approval.

Just to recap, the plan would charge drivers an $8.00 fee for driving below 60th Street from 6am – 6pm. There are provisions in the plan which allow for credits when paying a toll to enter the city. So if you paid $6.00 to cross a bridge on the way into the city, for example, you would only owe an additional $2.00 that day.

However, if you were parked below 60th Street or otherwise already in the city and drove below 60th Street, you would be charged the full $8.00.

So what the hell does this have to do with the subway?

Well, the city stands to receive $354 million in federal funding to help launch the congestion pricing plan. This money would pay for the fee collection infrastructure, as well as fund initial mass transit improvements.

The goal with the congestion pricing plan is to encourage people to leave their cars at home more often, and rely on mass transit. Of course, this means that the transit system would need to increase service, and increase reliability. So much of the federal funding would go towards these initiatives…at least so they say.

So now the plan heads to Albany for state approval. The State Legislature is in the middle of finishing the budget, however the plan deadline is quickly approaching.

Congestion pricing needs to be approved by April 7th in order to obtain the federal funding.

Way back in July, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno ironed out a deal with Spitzer to get the plan passed.  Let’s hope that still stands.

2 thoughts on “Congestion Pricing Moves Forward to Albany

  1. I support congestion pricing, but have extreme reservations about this version they’re trying to ram down our throats. There are serious drawbacks to this plan; most importantly, it will not produce substantial reductions in traffic and pollution, nor will the plan provide sufficient revenues to enable the necessary improvements to mass transit necessitated by congestion pricing.

    The plan may also be unconstitutional—how do you justify making outer-borough residents de facto second-class citizens of the city in which they live? What additional tax burden do Manhattanites living within the zone pay, that they should receive preferential treatment above and beyond other city residents? Yet the state assembly was the direct cause of this—the agreement with the federal DOT did not specifically restrict congestion pricing to the borough of Manhattan (as I read it), but the bill approved by the state assembly and senate authorized the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission to devise a plan restricted to Manhattan. We outer-borough residents already receive inferior city services compared to Manhattan.

    There are insufficient disincentives to discourage drivers coming from Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island to forgo travel to Manhattan by car; most would receive a credit for tolls paid, and would only pay an additional $2.00 to enter the congestion zone. There are no incentives in the plan for the use of hybrid vehicles and other, non-polluting and alternative methods of transportation (how about eliminating sales tax on bicycles and helmets?). Only those who live within the congestion zone will benefit from improved air quality—those who live in neighborhoods outside the zone, who already suffer disproportionately higher rates of asthma and COPD due to high concentrations of particulate matter will continue to do so—the rates of asthma and COPD may even rise. As New York City has the highest rate of asthma in the United States and the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx has the highest asthma rate in the world, I, and many others find this green-wash solution completely unacceptable.

    New York City residents have the lowest car-ownership rates in the area, and account for the lowest percentage of drivers in Manhattan, yet the lion’s share of costs of this plan will inequitably fall on them.

    I will not go into all the alternatives here, but many spoke out to the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, including myself, and that testimony is part of the record, and I urge you to read all of it—there are many excellent suggestions, most of which were ignored by the commission.

    Please read my report on Traffic and Mass Transit in New York City, which I originally sent to Governor Spitzer in May of 2007, but I ask you to also read the letter to the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, which also appears here:

    I also request that you read my other posts:

    I’d like to point out that 40% of the City Council did not approve of this plan, and I would like to say, once again, that drastic reforms at the MTA (ignored in the plan) are necessary if congestion pricing is to be an effective means of reducing congestion, pollution and improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers, both upstate and down. Driver reform is also entirely necessary, and is also completely ignored in the current plan.

    Finally, I leave you with the dissenting words of Councilmember Leroy G. Comrie, Jr.

    I am very disappointed that this body was not able to come together to develop a real plan to help all New York City residents deal with the issues of congestion and health. The lack of outreach was evident and an opportunity to create a real five-borough plan has been missed. In my opinion, the residents of Queens will be unfairly taxed by the current congestion plan.

    As a long-time member of this body — as an elected official and as a staffer — over the past 20 years I’ve heard numerous promises made by several administrations regarding improved public transportation and capital improvements in Queens, which were never delivered. And despite the assurances of this administration, I’ve seen nothing that will assure me that the projected benefits of this congestion plan will ever be delivered upon.

    We have no control of the M.T.A.’s capital budget- they can change it whenever they want to. Several years ago, when the M.T.A. took over the private bus lines in Queens, there were promises made for additional express bus services. We still haven’t seen them. And the M.T.A.’s inability to open their real financial books to the public only reaffirms my belief that the people of Queens will be paying into a system that places executive perks over real transportation improvements. I have absolutely no faith in M.T.A. to be honest with New Yorkers.

    I want to applaud my colleagues who stood against this plan, especially my colleague from Brooklyn, Council Member Lew Fidler. Real leadership comes not when you are agreeing with majority- that’s the easy part -but when you dissent as minority, based on your principles and your belief that what you do and how you vote is a true reflection of the community you serve.

    Today, I cast my vote for the residents of Queens, who this evening will be packed like sardines on the E train to Jamaica Center. Who will be frustrated sitting in traffic on the Grand Central. Our economy is in recession and the mortgage crisis now threatens to erode the entire Southeast Queens community. Our federal government has seen fit to bail out billion dollar Wall Street firms, while real families in this City are losing homes and jobs. And the message from this Council, in the midst of this crisis, is to impose another tax. We are unwilling to raise taxes on the wealthy, but see fit to continue pricing working class residents out of the City.

    I will not in good conscience vote in favor of this plan.


  2. Great news as long as we see some of the $354MM go to the 2nd ave line and other improvements like Metrocard vending machines that can read your debit card


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