It’s been a decade since former Mayor Michael Bloomberg first proposed bringing congestion pricing to Manhattan, and in the years since, the plan—despite having the support of transit advocates and some New York City officials—has gone basically nowhere. Bloomberg’s original proposal never came to pass, thanks to the state legislature, and subsequent attempts to get some kind of congestion pricing on the books haven’t panned out.
But now, MoveNY, the transit advocacy group that has consistently pushed for congestion pricing, is back at it again. The group claims that it could be introduced and passed in the city without state approval—a crucial distinction, since Bloomberg’s original proposal ended up losing steam once it was sent to Albany.
According to the Wall Street Journal, MoveNY has cited “a 1957 state law giving cities with a population of more than one million people the power to toll their own roads and bridges” as proof that the plan could be pushed forward.
Under MoveNY’s proposal, per the WSJ:
the city would impose a $2.75 fee on cars entering Manhattan’s central business district south of 60th Street. Trucks would pay a higher fee, while taxis and other for-hire vehicles would pay a congestion surcharge based on travel within the zone.
If this came to pass, the group says, “New York City could raise about $1 billion a year through the plan, which could pay for improvements to roads and bridges, as well as subsidize MetroCards for low-income households and improve bus service,” per the WSJ.
The city, however, isn’t buying it; the City Council’s transportation committee held a meeting today on congestion issues plaguing the city, and reports from that indicate that the DOT and Mayor Bill de Blasio will not take Move NY’s plan into consideration:
.@NYC_DOT says city's lawyers decided that congestion pricing/E.River bridge tolls must be done by state, city has no legal authority— Dan Rivoli (@danrivoli) June 5, 2017
Commissioner Trottenberg, asked 3 times, will not say whether de Blasio administration supports the concept of congestion pricing for NYC.— Alex Silverman (@AlexSilverman) June 5, 2017
Indeed, De Blasio seems unwilling to put forth any effort on congestion pricing since it’s almost certainly doomed to die in Albany:
The mayor says he won't spend time on congestion pricing because it won't happen in Albany. Could say the same for many issues.— Jillian Jorgensen (@Jill_Jorgensen) June 5, 2017
Of course, there’s not just the congestion-combating part of the plan to consider; as the city and state both move to uphold the Paris climate accord—which seeks to combat climate change and lower carbon emissions—encouraging people to drive less seems an obvious way to get New York closer to achieving that goal.
Today’s meeting was meant to be a wider-ranging discussion of the larger traffic problems plaguing parts of the city, and several City Council members—including Mark Levine and Corey Johnson—expressed support for Move NY’s plan as one component of a larger scheme to combat congestion. The DOT has outlined its own proposals for easing those traffic issues:
NYC's congestion efforts to come, put briefly:— Vincent Barone (@vinbarone) June 5, 2017
-dynamic parking meters
-new placard system
But critics argue that these aren’t enough to truly solve the problem; as Corey Johnson put it, “tinkering around the edges” likely won’t make any real difference without congestion pricing on the table, too. Whether or not that happens, however, remains to be seen.