Congestion pricing cometh? It’s possible. Amid the back-and-forth between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo over funding for subway repairs, transit experts and advocacy groups have once again raised the oft-discussed, but never implemented surcharge on drivers in the busiest parts of Manhattan.
And it appears that this time, Cuomo might be listening: Though the governor has yet to make any public remarks on the matter, both the Times’s Emma Fitzsimmons and NY1’s Zack Fink reported via Twitter that Cuomo is looking at how to implement some form of congestion pricing in the city, with the proposal to (potentially) be discussed when the New York State legislature reconvenes for its next session in January.
I can confirm: Cuomo is looking at congestion pricing as part of 2018 State of the State speech, according to a Cuomo admin official.— Emma G. Fitzsimmons (@emmagf) August 6, 2017
The biggest proponent of congestion pricing in recent years has been a group called Move NY, led by former DOT commissioner Sam Schwartz (aka “Gridlock Sam”). The group has pushed for adding tolls to the currently free East River crossings, along with levying a $2.75 surcharge for drivers entering Manhattan at 60th Street, and having for-hire vehicles pay some sort of surcharge in the area below 60th Street. Move NY says that by implementing its plan, the city could generate $1 billion in revenue to fund not only subway repairs, but other improvements like better bus service and lower-priced MetroCards for poor households.
Congestion pricing = most powerful lever to fix 2 of the 4 major NYC transit problems: slow buses & high MTA debt https://t.co/LVbOnmsUpX— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) August 6, 2017
But every time congestion pricing has come up—and not just recently—it’s been shot down by legislators in Albany, from John Lindsay’s attempt in the 1970s to Michael Bloomberg’s close-but-no-cigar efforts during his administration, which ultimately died (thanks to Sheldon Silver) in 2008. (A City & State article outlines the history of the plan quite neatly.)
And one person who’s not quite convinced that it could move forward is De Blasio, who told Brian Lehrer on Friday that that idea is a “non-starter” given the current State legislature. “So, I don’t think this is how address our problems right now,” he said. “I think it’s everything else. It’s light rail, it’s ferry service, it’s Select Bus Service, it’s Citi Bike. It’s a lot of other things we can do to improve the flow of traffic.”
While there’s no telling if congestion pricing would actually pass this time around—or indeed, if Cuomo will actually bring it to the table in January—the city’s current transit crisis may be enough, as Stephen Miller wrote in that same City & State piece, to “force Cuomo’s hand” on the matter.
“I strongly suspect that there has to be a complete level of rage from the transit-riding public in order to make this happen,” John Kaehny of watchdog group Reinvent Albany told Miller. “Maybe we’re approaching that.”
- Could congestion pricing save the subway? [City & State]
- MoveNY [Official]
- NYC congestion pricing is being pushed by transit advocates again [Curbed]