Electeds React to Congestion Pricing

Forty-eight hours in, here is what some elected officials are saying about PlaNYC and congestion pricing.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

Well, I think it’s a very complicated issue, but, you know, we’ll need to look at it and discuss it with the mayor and discuss it with the members of the conference. The concept of charging money to come to the center of a business district is something that is new to this country, especially in a city like New York. But, again, I would like to see what the proposed benefits are, and I’d like to see what the impact on business is projected to be.

Representative Anthony Weiner:

While I applaud the mayor for focusing on a long-term sustainability plan for the city, in this case the cure seems to be worse than the disease. We must look at innovative ways to face the challenges created by the city’s own success, but a regressive tax on working middle-class families and small-business owners shouldn’t be one of them.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz:

While I remain open to it, any plan must ensure equality among the boroughs, include exemptions for commuters traveling for health and employment reasons, alleviate parking problems — particularly in those Brooklyn neighborhoods closest to the tunnel and bridges — and direct generated revenues to improvements in our public transportation system.

I applaud the mayor’s proposals to improve mass transit, since better public transportation — including an expansion of bus service in neighborhoods not served by subways — is essential for a congestion pricing plan to potentially work. I look forward to reviewing the plan as it develops with the necessary exemptions and requirements.

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion:

I wonder if it is another hidden tax on working people. I worry about people who need to use their cars to get to work.

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi:

People’s first reaction is they don’t want to pay. But getting them to switch to mass transit benefits us all.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn:

Whether you’re for it or against it, it’s a serious proposal and it deserves serious attention and that’s what it will get from the council.

Council Member Michael E. McMahon, Staten Island:

It is surprising that such a bold vision for New York’s sustainable future would not include a strategy for attacking the region’s greatest source of traffic and air pollution. It is clear that truck traffic is increasing more rapidly than this City can handle, and, unchecked, the consequences could be disastrous. We urge the mayor to expand on the vision he laid-out today to adequately address truck traffic and freight movement as soon as possible.

Council Member David Weprin, Queens:

You’re not talking about wealthy people, $8 a day is an enormous charge for those type of people and something that could really hurt them financially.

Council Member John Liu, Queens:

People drive to work in Manhattan for the most part because taking a local bus for a half hour to the nearest subway and then riding the subway for an hour is not a real option.

  • lee

    isnt the $8 deducted from other tolls paid to enter manhattan? so if you take the qmt, queensborough, or triboro it’s only $2 more. If that is correct Liu is a little misleading in his statements.

    I like that Suozzi came out in favor of it, though I am no fan of him otherwise. He made a good point on NPR. It’s not a tax, it’s a choice.

  • lee

    meant weprin, not liu

  • Charlie D.

    Hopefully, all elected officials will have an open mind, and try as best as they can to weigh the pros and cons based on what has been done in other cities. Hopefully, they all realize that the goal is to shift the mode balance, encouraging people to take transit, bicycle, or walk and improving the infrastructure to do so. Such a mode shift benefits everyone, especially businesses and those of lesser means.

  • Anon

    I love Markowitz’s statement that there should be an exemption for commuters traveling for employment reasons. So the only people who should be charged are those who are traveling to shop or to a restaurant? And by that reasoning, the subway should also be free if you are riding it to your job. What a pandering idiot.

  • James

    Congestion Charge has worked in London!

    The air is so much cleaner!If it save one life than its worth It!

    I only wished i owned congestioncharge.com

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    With regard to Silver’s comment: it will still be free to go to NYC’s central business district. The proposal is to charge money to bring a motor vehicle with you. Just as there has always been a charge to enter it by bus, train or ferry.

    I’m dismayed by his windshield perspective.

  • “Congestion pricing in particular is an inevitable consideration to address the transportation needs of the future,” said TWU local 100 President Roger Toussaint. “We believe it is a win-win situation for the environment and for mass transportation.”

  • Tobias Frere-Jones

    I just had a long talk with a staffer at State Senator Connor’s office. At first, I got a standard dodge for an answer: this proposal just came out, we need to look at the studies, these things take time, etc. He suddenly got interested when I told him that drivers I know support the proposal — not only for the larger issues of health and environment, but to have an easier time getting around town when there is no choice but to drive into Manhattan. He was aware of the pricing scheme in London, but didn’t know that it had faced early opposition, and now enjoys majority support. He also said I was the first person to call the senator’s office about this issue, though Komanoff apparently had already (“How Green Is Our Mayor” comment #23 below).

    Either way: please get on the phone and email, and impress our officials with how many people want this. Maybe they’ll show some courage. I used this to get the phone numbers:

    http://www.cmap.nypirg.org/netmaps/MyGovernment/NYC/MyGovernmentNYC.asp

    When you call or write your officials, make sure that they know not only about the success of London’s plan, but also the opposition it faced at the start — and that the majority of citzens now support it. “London did something like this” might be all they know.

  • Anon

    The $21 charge for trucks seems unnecessary. Most trucks in the Manhattan CBD are delivering there, and truck trips can’t just switch to mass transit. It would seem that one of the points of congestion pricing is to make it easier for trucks (i.e. commerce) to get around the city. Imposing a $21 fee on trips that can’t be avoided just turns the trucking and delivery industry into a huge opponent to congestion pricing.

  • Connor’s office told me that I was the second person to call! And that they had not heard of congestion pricing before Sunday. Obviously, there is a lot of educating to be done.

    One key thing that seems to be missing from the plan and current discussions, is the “livable streets” that congestion pricing could make possible.

    For whatever privatizing effect congestion charging will have (improving access and mobility to people that can afford it), if combined with a vision for more walkable, livable streets, it can be doing much more to open up our public right of ways to higher and better public use. Congestion pricing will make possible a democratizing of our streets, by finally challenging the tyranny of the automobile over our public spaces.

    Of all the forces of privatization and exclusion culture, the automobile is the worst, and no where is its privatizing effect more degrading of public benefits than in NYC. Congestion pricing is the key tool allow us to start managing our streets to performing for much greater public outcomes.

  • MD

    Anyone know where the “independent” Democrat Jim Brennan stands on this? He never looked more foolish than when he stood on the Brooklyn bridge surrounded by the worst of the boro’s hacks, (led by Markowitz) denouncing Bloomberg’s bridge toll idea a few years ago.

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    Free parking in the garage under the Ponitz Center but everyone is encouraged to walk, bike, carpool or ride the bus to the event.
    RSVP by Monday, April 23, online at http://www.mvrpc.org/rsvp or to Tashia Hunter at 937-223-6232.

    Chris Balish, author of the book How to Live Well Without Owning a Car and Charles Gandy, a national livable communities expert, will speak at the Regional Issues Forum on Monday, April 30, 2007, at Sinclair Community College (Building 12 – Sinclair Center/Ponitz Center) in Downtown Dayton. A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m., followed by the presentations at 6:30 p.m.

    Chris Balish is an award-winning feature writer, reporter, and broadcast journalist. He will delve into his experiences as a person who chose NOT to own a car and how his quality of life has improved because of this decision. He will expose the true costs of car ownership and explain how using other forms of transportation can set anyone on the path to financial freedom and a healthier lifestyle.

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    This Regional Issues Forum is just one of many components of the “Drive Less, Live More” initiative sponsored by Five Rivers MetroParks, the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority, the Miami Conservancy District and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission. More information about the “Drive Less, Live More” initiative will be announced on Wednesday, April 18, 2007.
    MVRPC established the series of Regional Issues Forums as a way to explore contemporary public policy issues facing the Miami Valley Region and to begin devising strategies to cooperatively address challenges posed by issues such as: transportation and infrastructure, “Sustainable Growth”, economic development, education, housing, race and socioeconomic conditions.
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  • dan

    With the old-line pols lining up to pounce on this right out of the box (even the city’s traditional ‘friends’), it’s fairly clear Bloomberg doesn’t have the political support he needs to make this happen. The fact that the status quo largely benefits non residents from LI and Jersey (who no longer pay commuter taxes) is getting lost in the shuffle.

    The last time this was proposed (under Koch), it was shot down by a lawsuit from the garage owners. I have to believe they’re even more entrenched now. And unfortunately, the current proposal doesn’t do a thing for the Outer Boroughs–and I promise you the gridlock in downtown Brooklyn is as bad as anything in the Wall Street area. And with the Atlantic Yards deal signed off on, things will get massively worse on the Brooklyn side of the east river.

    It seems to me the only way to make this work is to go after businesses that underwrite employee parking through flex accounts and other perks. Post-Giuliani and Bloomberg, there’s not a big company in NY that doesn’t have some tax lowering agreement going with City Hall. If City hall leaned on those businesses a little bit (“you can keep your real-estate tax deferral going if you stop compensating your managers for parking and tolls”), there might be daylight. Such a deal wouldn’t have to go through Albany, and most businesses would gladly end subsidized parking for employees in return for keeping those hefty abatements and other deals.

  • Marcus

    In regards to the $21 charge for trucks (comment 9). It isn’t unnecessary at all, but in fact brilliant. The congestion charge applies only from 6 AM to 6 PM, which is when traffic is at it’s worst, and also the worst time to double park to unload your truck. The charge will encourage off hours delivery. As an added bonus it will discourage trucks from taking the “free route” across canal street to avoid paying tolls on the Staten Island bridges to get to NJ.

  • crzwdjk

    Getting rid of employer-subsidized parking would be a great idea, as would parking reform in general. If the garage owners are as powerful as people claim, they should be all for fair pricing of on-street spaces, after all, it eliminates some competition. And much can be done by simply eliminating driving space in favor of other kinds of space, with much of the displaced traffic simply disappearing.

  • Alex D.

    While Markowitz’ comments are indeed pretty obtuse (especially the exemption for people driving for “employment reasons”) but he does raise one issue that may deserve some thought; the possibility that some may drive to Brooklyn neighborhoods just outside the congestion zone but close to their destination in lower Manhattan, then take mass transit or walk across the bridge. While I think not many will want to split their commute that way (and I actually think it is a positive thing overall) there could be a negative impact in some neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights or Dumbo as drivers cruise for free parking near subway stops.

  • Anon

    Yes, charging $21 for trucks during the day will encourage some to switch to night-time deliveries. However, that is precisely when it is most disruptive to quality of life in residential areas. Having more trucks barreling through neighborhoods at 10 PM or 5 AM is not desirable if you want to sleep.

  • MD

    I think Markowitz must be referring to people who drive as part of their job. It seems to me that this objection could be handled by putting a limit on the amount one driver pays each day.

  • lee

    what do you mean by employer subsidized parking?

    how could you stop businesses from reimbursing its employees for parking and travel?

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