Manhattan BP Stringer Calls on NYC to Seek Federal Funds

$15 Million in Grants Are Available for the Study of Congestion Pricing

stringer.jpgIt’s rare that you see someone on the inside of New York City’s political power structure doing anything that looks even remotely like picking a public fight with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That is why this press release from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer caught my eye. Stringer, who hosted an important conference on New York City transportation policy at Columbia University in October, has been making great use of his bully pulpit as a catalyst for transportation policy reform. While he doesn’t criticize Bloomberg by name, his statement reads as a pretty direct rebuke of the Mayor’s apparent brush off of Growth or Gridlock, the Partnership for New York City’s recently released study finding that traffic congestion costs New York City at least $13 billion a year.

From the Borough President’s press release:

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer today said that New York City should seek federal funding from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to explore a local value pricing pilot program in order to ease the congestion on New York City’s streets.

DOT has $15 million in grants available for local value pricing pilot programs. Stringer said that given real-world successes with the policy elsewhere, New York City had an obligation to seek these funds and to determine whether value pricing would be a feasible and equitable solution for New York City’s transportation woes. 

"Clearly the time has come for our City to seek out and explore bold solutions to our transportation crisis," Borough President Stringer said. "Value pricing has reduced congestion in major cities around the world and it would be wrong to brush it off without even exploring its feasibility here in New York City. It may not be the answer to our traffic problems but unless we study the impacts, we will never know."

  • JK

    It would be even better if Stringer joined with another BP to make a statement like this. Note that Bloomberg already announced that the city was seeking this money before Stringer’s announcement. So, really, Stringer was supporting a decision the mayor already made. So, he is not really “picking a fight with the mayor.” Note also that Stringer is calling for pricing to be studied, not put in place. I bet NYC already has as many studies and analysis of pricing impacts as London, Stockholm and Oslo did when they put it in place. Lastly, the only way to really know is to try it.

  • steve

    If JK’s right on the facts this is a pretty lame bit of posturing by Scott Stringer. As for other Beeps joining in, the post has become essentially symbolic since charter reform, but even so it would have been nice to see a gesture from Adolpho Carrion (whom I haven’t heard from on biking issues since the Tour de Bronx).

  • Anonymous

    He held a conference, but can anyone really say it was important?

  • I think nit-picking Stringer is pretty lame, people. He’s already established himself as way ahead of the pack in supporting “progressive” transportation solutions for Manhattan – that he hasn’t come out and implemented them himself is only because he doesn’t direct the actions of DOT; the mayor does. If you ask him, he’ll say “congestion pricing today,” but he has to get the ammunition to force the mayor (etc.) to get on board, and the more we study it, the more sense it makes.

  • JK

    H’mm. The article below from the NY Sun helps explain why I may been mistaken about the mayor and the federal funding for a pricing study. The piece starts by stating that the City is applying for federal congestion pricing study funds (which I believe was also reported by AP or 1010wins.)Then it quotes the mayor’s spokesperson as saying “no” it is not, and then says “other city officials” are pushing pricing and refers to closed door meetings. My understanding is that Doctoroff, or his reps, have told business leaders for months that the City would seek the federal funds. Lastly, note that John Liu is quoted here as endorsing seeking federal study funds.

    Part of this confusion maybe that Bloomberg is typically synonymous with City Hall, and so is Doctoroff, but when they are saying different things…

    The New York Sun

    December 4, 2006 Monday

    HEADLINE: Fees To Ease Midtown Traffic Jams May Get a New Look From City Hall
    The city will likely apply for federal funds next year to conduct a pilot study on how charging a fee to drive on Manhattan’s most congested streets could help reduce city traffic.

    Today, the Partnership for New York City, a group of 200 CEOs from some of New York’s biggest companies, will release a report on the economic costs associated with traffic congestion in Manhattan. Congestion pricing is one option the group studied.

    A consulting firm has been hired to conduct a phone poll gauging public opinion on congestion pricing and commuter taxes, although it is not clear who the firm’s client is.

    Mayor Bloomberg has not endorsed the idea of congestion pricing. He has said in the past it isn’t on his agenda. But the movement to bring congestion pricing to Manhattan is quietly gaining momentum. Previously closed-door discussions on congestion pricing are beginning to contribute to a public dialogue on the issue.

    The Manhattan Institute, a think tank, will host a panel discussion Thursday about what New Yorkers think of congestion pricing. The president and CEO of the Partnership, Kathryn Wylde, is one panelist who will likely speak in favor of it. City Council Member David Weprin will represent the opposition.

    The city has until March to apply for a grant from the Federal Highway Administration, a national agency that awarded $7.3 million in grants last year to cities studying innovative methods to relieve traffic, including a $1.04 million grant to the city of San Francisco to test congestion pricing.

    A spokesman for the mayor, John Gallagher, maintains that the city has no plans to apply for federal funding and that congestion pricing is not a part of its agenda. But other city officials and private advocates are pushing the idea.

    “We should always apply for federal funds to conduct studies if those are available,” City Council Member John Liu, who heads the council’s Transportation Committee, said. “Conducting a study doesn’t obligate us to do anything, but at the same time it may open our options up to things that haven’t been realized before.”

    Opponents of congestion pricing in New York are, most often, residents outside Manhattan who say that the fees discriminate against them because of fewer public transportation options in their boroughs.

    Congestion pricing was introduced in London three years ago. Today, drivers there pay $14 to enter the tolled zone of the city during rush hours, and traffic has been reduced by about 30% in those neighborhoods.

    “There’s no question that traffic congestion is choking us in many ways,” Mr. Liu said. Many consider traffic congestion to be a public health issue, because of the pollution it creates, as well as a cause of economic stagnation when it deters potential shoppers from entering certain neighborhoods in the city.

    The president of the non-profit organization Citizens for NYC, Peter Kostmayer, has emerged as one of the most active advocates to bring federal funding to New York.

    Mr. Kostmayer, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, says he will meet in the next two weeks with officials in the mayor’s office and city council members to discuss an application for federal funding. He says he will discuss with them the possibility of applying for federal money to fund a two-year, small-scale congestion pricing experiment. “It seems like a compromise if we do it in a BID and show that it works, rather than doing the entire midtown business district all at once,” Mr. Kostmayer said, referring to the business improvement districts that represent many of the city’s commercial strips.

    Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff is said to be taking the lead on seeking federal funds to study congestion pricing. Some speculate that the city will not disclose its future policies regarding congestion pricing until the political groundwork is properly prepared.

    LOAD-DATE: December 4, 2006

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