Home Congestion Fee Requiem for congestion pricing

Requiem for congestion pricing

by Benjamin Kabak

Chris over at East Village Idiot sums it up best with this Sheldon Silver graphic.

Two hours after the congestion pricing bill seemingly died in conference today without an Assembly floor vote, Assemblywoman Joan Millman from Brooklyn’s 52nd District announced her support of the Mayor’s controversial plan.

“Mr. Speaker, on the bill, I will vote yes on the Congestion Pricing Plan. I will vote yes even though I still have major concerns and questions about the plan itself. I agree too many motorists drive gas guzzling vehicles, polluting our air, causing high rates of asthma,” she said in statement. “My suggestions as well as those of my colleagues deserve a fair hearing. All of us want, need and demand a superior mass transportation system, cleaner air, and a pedestrian friendlier city.”

But it was a message issued in vain. Despite some Eleventh-Hour pleadings by high-ranking government officials, congestion pricing is officially dead. While some Queens politicians are claiming that the plan is elitist, the reality of it is that the elites killed this plan. With money going toward transit and a better environment for our city as part of the payoff, congestion pricing was and always will be a populist plan.

For transit, the Assembly’s failure even to bring the plan to a vote is a major blow to the MTA. The plan was to be a major source of revenue for the MTA’s recently unveiled 2009-2013 $29 billion capital plan. While the early release of the plan allows the MTA to search for other revenue sources well in advance of the scheduled start date, it’s doubtful that the state legislature will actually make good on the billions of dollars it just took away from the MTA.

“Congestion pricing provided a unique opportunity to reduce congestion and dedicate critical funding for the MTA’s capital needs, and we are very disappointed that the proposal has not been approved,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said in a statement. “The $354 million in federal funds that have been forfeited would have allowed the MTA to provide new and improved service to under-served areas across the city. The capital program that the MTA released earlier this year relies heavily on funding from pricing to maintain and expand the transportation system that supports the region’s economy. We will continue to work with our funding partners to find the billions needed to make these vital investments.”

Meanwhile, as Streetsblog reported, Michael O’Loughlin at the Campaign for New York’s Future was less sanguine about the impact this move will have on mass transit in New York City. He said:

The Assembly still has to come up with a plan to deal with a $17 billion transit deficit in a $29 billion capital plan. As Gene Russianoff at the Straphangers Campaign said, ‘That’s more hole than plan.’

The fundamental facts remain the same. The traffic problem and air pollution problems are real. The need for better transit is real. Two-thirds of New Yorkers support congestion pricing if the funds are used for transit. The success of congestion pricing in other cities is real. The reality is that we have to come up with a plan to solve our traffic and transit crisis, if not today then tomorrow.

Now, the legislature has to confront the MTA capital plan. They have to come up with billions and billions of dollars from somewhere. It doesn’t end here. The issue is engaged and it’s not going away. But this is a bad day for 7.5 million transit riders, that’s for sure.

And that basically says it all. Somehow, some way, someone in New York State government is going to have to find a way to get the MTA billions of dollars for programs they need and construction projects they must build to keep the subway system up to the date and competitive in a global economy. This lack of funding will do far more to harm the New York City economy than any $8 congestion fee plan every would have.

Mayor Bloomberg, with nothing to lose, said it best in a statement released this evening:

“Today is a sad day for New Yorkers and a sad day for New York City. Not only won’t we see the realization of a plan that would have cut traffic, spurred our economy, reduced pollution and improved public health, we will also lose out on nearly $500 million annually for mass transit improvements and $354 million in immediate federal funds…

“If that wasn’t shameful enough, it takes a special type of cowardice for elected officials to refuse to stand up and vote their conscience– on an issue that has been debated, and amended significantly to resolve many outstanding issues, for more than a year. Every New Yorker has a right to know if the person they send to Albany was for or against better transit and cleaner air. People know where I stood, and where members of the City Council stood. They deserved at least that from Albany.”

Congestion pricing is dead. Long live congestion pricing.

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Gary April 8, 2008 - 12:40 am

A disgrace.

Kevin April 8, 2008 - 1:15 am

I’m guessing the fare will end up being $2.25 by next year but even that won’t do a whole hell of a lot to solve the funding holes. What can the TA really do? They can cut administrative staff by another 10% probably but after that, it’s going to get awful hard to find new places to cut. The unions won’t budge (as their cost of living goes up) and fuel/electricity prices are skyrocketing.

I have a feeling your April Fool’s joke will look a bit more appetizing to the MTA as their black hole grows deeper.

Benjamin Kabak April 8, 2008 - 1:32 am


As much as the April Fools joke seems that the obvious way out, I think the reality is bit more complicated. It would probably cost the MTA a lot more to shutter and secure 468 stations while securing and finding resting spots for their entire rolling stock. The system just isn’t designed to withstand any sort of closing like that.

smokedgouda April 8, 2008 - 9:01 am

Silver is the absolute worst in politics. He’s like a tumor that has grown to the side of New York. People think he helps the city, but in fact he is a complete cancer on progress.

Marc Shepherd April 8, 2008 - 12:53 pm

I’m guessing the fare will end up being $2.25 by next year but even that won’t do a whole hell of a lot to solve the funding holes.

The fare was going to $2.25 next year even with congestion pricing. You also need to bear in mind that farebox revenues go towards operating expenses, while CP would have funded capital improvements. They are really quite separate revenue streams.

I agree with Ben that there’s no way they’d totally close the subway overnight. The more likely casualty is that capital projects will be deferred.

sustainableflatbush.org » Blog Archive » I *STILL* Support Congestion Pricing April 9, 2008 - 12:44 am

[…] • “While some Queens politicians are claiming that the plan is elitist, the reality of it is that the elites killed this plan. With money going toward transit and a better environment for our city as part of the payoff, congestion pricing was and always will be a populist plan.” (Second Avenue Sagas) […]

rob w April 10, 2008 - 2:49 pm

This article blasting the speaker is totally bonkers. Is the writer for this article on crack or just being on Bloomie Baloney’s payroll? First, our speaker is a savior and a hero to his people of NYC. Secondly, we’re in a recession and we’re not rich like you. Give me a freaking break that the money will go to MTA. Dreaming.
I guess the Lotto money all went to the school as they’re supposed to be as promised in the beginning. I don’t think you’ve lived here long enough to be a true New Yorker of this city. Ever since this god damn mayor got elected everything went up more than 75% either in fees, provisions, property taxes, parking tix, & etc. Not one thing weren’t being taxed extra or raised higher since he took office.
Give me a break! Speaker Silver for Mayor!!!

John April 10, 2008 - 4:05 pm

Despite the CP upset it is good to know that the FTA seems to be in this for the long haul. Check this out, fromt The Real Deal:


The article quotes FTA’s Jim Simpson saying that “New York would be at the top of any list” of applicants for future congesting pricing funds, although it sounds like any future federal funds would not quite be as rich as the $354 million we missed out on this time.

And then, encouragingly, there is this: “Simpson warned that New Yorkers should not expect better bus and train service in rapidly-developing neighborhoods unless the city gets serious about charging cars that create gridlock in Manhattan.”

So there is some reason to hope. Maybe?

John April 10, 2008 - 4:52 pm

Here is a more in-depth article than the one I posted above on the remarks made by FTA’s Jim Simpson today:

Second Ave. Sagas | Blogging the NYC Subways » Blog Archive » East River bridge tolls could fund MTA capital program April 22, 2008 - 12:21 am

[…] those of us in the pro-congestion pricing camp were busy slamming Sheldon Silver and mourning the death of Mayor Bloomberg’s radical and potentially revolutionary congestion […]

Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » Silver, reaching a new low, blames the MTA for congestion pricing failure August 20, 2008 - 1:35 am

[…] Turn the dial on your Wayback Machine to April. Back then, the skies were blue, the grass was green and Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver killed congestion pricing. At the time, Sheldon Silver’s role in the demise of Mayor Bloomberg’s ambitious plan was not up for debate. […]

On Student MetroCards, the Assembly doesn’t get it :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog February 18, 2010 - 4:12 pm

[…] inept Senate. Sheldon Silver has his caucus largely under control, and the Assembly can, with a few major exceptions, pass the legislation it needs to pass. Yet, when individual members of the Assembly start to speak […]


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