Congestion pricing money New York’s for the taking

By · Published in 2009

For the last few months, we’ve been covering the MTA’s budgetary woes nearly non-stop. The city’s transportation authority is facing a massive budget crunch, and advocates would prefer to see the hole plugged through contributions from drivers. That way, public transit will thrive while congestion, an environmental and social evil, will be curtailed. The solution out of Albany does not such thing.

Last year, the city had a chance to take a first step in that direction, but the state legislature declined to pass a congestion pricing plan. That plan would have guaranteed around $400-$500 million a year for the MTA’s capital program and would have netted the city around $350 million in federal funds as well. Officials voted down the plan over concerns from drivers and worries that the MTA wouldn’t do an adequate job administering and spending the money. That’s quite the excuse from Albany.

Streetsblog today points to a NY1 article in which Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood promises that the money for the city is still there if we want it. Earlier reports had indicated that the city had lost the opportunity, but LaHood does not want to close the door on anti-congestion innovation in the nation’s largest city. “The money that was going to be provided for that particular project is still at the Department of Transportation,” LaHood said. “If New York got its act together around that kind of opportunity, I think we would look at it.”

Is it time to renew the push for congestion pricing? I saw we get on that. The MTA needs the money; the city needs a commitment to mass transit growth; and we all benefit from congestion reduction.

Categories : Asides, Congestion Fee

21 Responses to “Congestion pricing money New York’s for the taking”

  1. Judge says:

    I would be elated for the City to enact some form of congestion pricing, even if it’s due to a bribe of sorts than due to the merits of the plan itself.
    I do like how the DoT is holding out for us!

  2. Josh Karpoff says:

    Dear Legislators:
    Driving around for free in Lower Manhattan is not a heavenly ordained, inalienable right.
    Give us congestion pricing.
    Let us fix up our transit system.
    So please just take the money.
    You’ll thank yourselves later.
    –MTA commuters.

  3. Josh Karpoff says:

    $850 Million a year would go a long way toward funding the 2010-2015 Capital program.

    • Just to be clear on this point: The $350 million would go to the city to implement the plan. It would basically pay for all of the cameras and tolling technology necessary to start it. The revenue — $400-$500 million — would be invested in the MTA’s capital plan.

      • Bern Grush says:

        It is not necessary to spend $350M on cameras and tolling technology. With anonymous, financial-grade GPS meters that provide several other services (parking, insurance, rewards) the cost of metering for road-use can be heavily subsidized. New technology, designed for mileage-based, wide area tolling has changed the picture completely. Even enforcement is far easier and cheaper. Most of the $350M can be turned back to transit.

  4. MischaG says:

    God we need this to happen. Lead the way Ben, we’re right behind ya.

  5. Woody says:

    Wouldn’t this require Brodsky and the other opponents to admit that they were wrong to vote down congestion pricing last year? Not gonna happen. Sorry.

  6. Ray says:

    Amazing. This is an administration of game changers. Is there anyway the state legislature could be bypassed? Perhaps the Port Authority becomes the vessel thru which the pricing scheme gets enabled and the dollars mostly go to MTA Capital Account in favor of PA keeping the Hudson Tunnel, Bridge amounts? Far fetched, don’t know.

  7. John H says:

    No chance this happens, particularly after the MTA budget debacle.

  8. Ariel says:

    This has to happen! Congestion still is and always was the best solution to bring in extra funding for the MTA. It is about time that Albany admits they were wrong about congestion pricing and save the MTA’s captial budget plan!

  9. Scott E says:

    If, by some miracle, this DOES happen, how much do you want to bet that the payroll tax and 50-cent taxi surcharge remain as well? Then again, this wouldn’t require the free bridges to be turned over to the MTA, so maybe the politics are a bit different.

  10. Julia says:

    Wasn’t the money going to go to Chicago? What happened that it’s still available? (I’m not complaining, mind you!)

  11. Think twice says:

    Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan need to seriously look at “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz’s version of Congestion Pricing if they’re going to convince outerborough pols to side with the plan.

    • Bern Grush says:

      We all know that congestion pricing is not dead in NYC, and we also know that the way it was proposed a couple of years ago was a pretty brutal approach that in some key ways mimicked the London system – a flat-rate cordon that is expensive, inflexible and while effective at first has over six years lost almost all of it absolute benefits. To be cautious, the assumption is that if it had never been installed, London would be even worse-off (relatively and absolutely), but the point is that a blunt, fixed-rate cordon is a brain-dead approach, that I would not even wish on Tehran or Pyongyang.

      There is another message, here, that LaHood is giving us. The money that was ear marked for NYC two years back was forfeited after the State legislature voted against it by simply not voting at all (talk about cowardice!). But now LaHood says: “The money … is still at the Department…” Well, not exactly just sitting there in a shoe box waiting for NYC. What is happening, is that LaHood needs to find someone bold enough to start taking the advice of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Finance Commission, and start charging mileage-based fees. Mayor Bloomberg is just the man.

      So what NYC needs to do is to think about a proper mileage-based scheme, instead of gantry-madness. One that can eventually manage congestion in all five boroughs, with lower rates outside Manhattan. One that would even allow Manhattan to sell gas without a gas-tax to participants in a proper ‘pay-for-use’ system.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Some of the aspects of the plan, like focusing on charges into Manhattan, are good. Others are simply mad – $100 for through-trucks, freeway widening, and making the Verrazano free all come like proposals made by outer borough NIMBYs rather than by people who want to reduce traffic.

    • Woody says:

      I like pieces of Gridlock Sam’s plan. I’d quickly bargain away the tolls on the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges if that would get votes out of Bronx and Queens politicians. And the tolls to the Rockaways just aren’t fair.

      But I’m certainly not ready to drop the tolls from the Triboro — isn’t that the Robert F Kennedy Bridge now anyway? It must be the biggest moneymaker in the system. In fact, I wouldn’t drop ANY of the tolls into Manhattan, not even into Inwood-Washington Heights.

      Funny to see that Sam wants to rebuild the Belt Parkway to allow trucks. I’ve been thinking we will need to rebuild the Belt Parkway to put it atop levees.

      When the greenhouse gases from vehicle pollution cause the Greenland ice cap to melt and the sea level to rise, much of Brooklyn will join Atlantis. Or join Amsterdam if we put levees around the city.

      Meanwhile Sadik-Kahn is doing a great job of reducing traffic congestion in Midtown by taking back the streets for pedestrians and bike lanes. Usually people talk about “congestion” and only mean cars, because drivers are important. But actually, the sidewalk congestion caused by wide streets and narrow sidewalks oppresses many more people than the excess of cars on the road. Let’s act like a democracy and take care of the sidewalk congestion for the majority of New Yorkers who walk, ride transit, and bike. Let Jersey worry about the cars and their drivers.

  12. Sam says:

    And what about the privacy issues that now the govt will know where every car is at all times in Manhattan? Just time in a plate or owners name and you’ll get a dot saying where that car is at the moment, +/- 2 or 3 blocks accuracy. No legal protections from this information being sold to the highest bidder either, no 4th amendment.

  13. The Secret Conductor says:

    wow the money is still available? great! I am for congestion pricing (although not everything about it like tolls on the Manhattan-Bronx bridges) and I hope this means we can work out our differences and get this going.


  1. […] St. south. The system would be set up by a $350 million grant from the feds — a grant which is still available — and the projected $400-$500 million in revenue would head into the MTA’s coffers for the […]

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