Requiem for congestion pricingBy
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.