Flippant headline aside, someone — or a group of someones — is thinking creatively about the MTA’s capital funding problem. It’s been a long time coming, but Sam Schwartz and the Move NY coalition unveiled their restructured traffic pricing plan on Tuesday. If implemented properly, it could generate $1.5 billion that the group says could be bonded out to support the MTA’s capital plan. It may kick the debt can even further down the road, but it’s the most promising proposal we’ve seen at a time when Gov. Cuomo has seemingly left the MTA out to dry.
The details of the plan — now being called the Move NY Fair Plan — contain a mixture of new revenue streams in the form of East River bridge tolls and givebacks in the form of reduced current tolls that should appease everyone. No one will be double-tolled, and all money would be collected electronically so toll gates and the alleged traffic they could cause will be a non-factor.
The plan, in a nutshell, is simple, and I’d urge you to read Streetsblog’s primer. Essentially, tolls on current MTA bridges would drop while the currently-free East River bridge crossings would carry a charge, restoring a 104-year-old wrong. The money would go toward transit, and the corresponding drop in clogged streets would be a major boon for all New Yorkers. The plan would see a new taxi surcharge as well as congestion pricing for automobile trips south of 60th St. in Manhattan, and off-peak tolls would be cheaper than rush hour charges.
In return, Move New York promises massive transit investments. In their report [pdf], they highlight how the MTA would have a steady revenue stream that would lead to implementation of the agency’s capital plans. The coalition believes the MTA would have the money to restore bus service cut in 2010, reduce the City Ticket fares on Metro-North and LIRR, speed up SBS and BRT implementation, and address the subway system’s technological and physical issues that come with age and the need for modernization. All in all, it sounds good.
Interestingly, while as Dana Rubinstein astutely noted, Gov. Cuomo and the MTA were silent on the plan yesterday, it’s drawn support from unlikely sources. Mark Weprin, a City Council member who opposed then-Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, voiced his support as did Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Council’s transportation committee. The prospects for a home-rule message though remain murky as the New York State Senate GOP, with no better ideas or funding solutions, has come out against the plan. Without acknowledging that no funding solution will lead to less service and drastically higher fares, a State GOP spokesman said, with a straight face, “Hardworking New Yorkers are paying enough already.” Talk about obliviousness.
Anyway, I digress. The editorial boards for The Post and Crain’s New York, two of the tougher constituents to impress here, voiced their support, and real estate and business interests may actually line up behind this plan. Streetsblog again explored the changing political dynamics behind the Move NY Fair Plan, but as Stephen Miller noted, “The key to the plan, though, is Governor Cuomo.” If the Governor supports this idea, it will become reality; if he doesn’t, the MTA is up a $15.2 billion creek with fare hikes and service cuts as their only paddle. Make of that what you will.