Statement from Mayor Bloomberg on Congestion Pricing Failure

Press conference at 11:30 am today. Here is the Mayor’s statement on the New York State legislature’s failure to act on New York City’s congestion pricing plan: 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 17, 2007


STATEMENT FROM MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON

CONGESTION PRICING AND PLANYC

"Although we continue to talk to the Legislature and the Governor, it’s sad to note that after three months of working with all parties to address their questions, the failure of the State Assembly to act in time on a deadline imposed by the federal Government is a terrible setback for clean air and to our critical commitment to fight climate change.

"I can’t ascribe motives to the lack of action in Albany, but I can definitively say the environment and the future quality of life in New York took a beating. This Administration will continue to work with the more than 140 civic, business, environmental and labor organizations that support our plan to make progress, and we will continue to press for real solutions, not interminable study groups whose only real purpose is to avoid accountability and results. Therefore, we will work to implement the initiatives contained within PlaNYC. While business as usual in Albany may be an impediment to congestion pricing at this time, we can still make a difference for the future of our City and create a greener, greater New York."

  • bystander

    It was a noble effort and certainly raised awareness of many issues, but I hope the City has not put all its eggs in this one basket. Hiz Honor can accomplish as much or more congestion relief and emissions reduction with a host of other strategies. Better parking management. More bus lanes and more effective protection of them (even without the congestion charging revenues). More bicycle facilities…. There’s a long list. We may not get the 2nd avenue subway funded on the timeline laid out by the MTA but there’s a lot that can be done.

    We shouldn’t let the temporary congestion pricing failure distract us from the other options the city has.

  • lower Manhattan

    All of the city’s resources should now be directed at improving the mass transit, bicycle, and pedestrian experience. At the same time there should be ramped up enforcement of speeding, parking, and traffic. There should be a moratorium on expanding any road capacity (especially by alienating parkland or medians or sidewalks). The result will be an increase in congestion, but this will increase the pain for motorists. Let the mayor declare pollution and gridlock alerts and take whatever emergency measures may be necessary to protect the health of neighborhoods, schools, parks. The city has few powers over its transportation, but now is the time to find and flex every one of them. This is Mayor Bloomberg’s strength, and I for one will back him all the way.

  • what about bringing back the HOV policy that was enacted immediately after 9-11? if we have to deal with SUVs everywhere at least they should have more than one person in them.

  • It would have been an incredible success to get the legislature to adopt congestion pricing after only 3 months of discussion.

    I expect it will come back next year, and the debate will go on. It might take several years to be adopted.

  • Brian Lehrer brought up an interesting point on his show this morning. Could Governor Spitzer and Mayor Mike be forming an alliance to further pressure the “business as usual” lawmakers in Albany?

  • John Hunka

    I wonder whether the Mayor has the authority to implement tolls on all of the East River bridges without consulting the lawmakers in Albany. The money from such tolls could be used to fund improvements to mass transit, maintain the heavily-used bridges, and possibly construct additional briges and tunnels.

  • lower Manhattan

    If it had been politically feasible to toll the East and Harlem River Bridges, there would never have needed to be a congestion pricing scheme. That was always the more elegant solution.

    I assume it was considered a longer haul.

  • I think the City should sell the 4 city owned East River bridges to the MTA Bridge and Tunnel Division. Let them decide how much to toll them to at least make them self-sufficient for their maintenance costs.

  • jrivero

    The Mayor does not have the authority to toll the east bridges without approval. He called for that and for the reinstating of the commuter tax during his first term, and got nowhere. The most elegant solution would be to secede from NY State altogether. Unfortunately, we cannot do that without approval either.

  • Nino

    Is it possible for a Shoup-style market pricing of on-street parking to replace congestion pricing? Does the mayor have the authority to implement such a plan?

  • Here’s the TA report that I remember on the subject of tolling or selling the East River Bridges:

    http://www.transalt.org/press/magazine/024Fall/15bridgetolls.html

    Pro-transit groups like T.A. would like to see the bulk of East River bridge tolls go to keeping the bridges in good condition and improving the transit system. But unless the MTA takes over the bridges, this is not likely. By far the biggest reason new tolls are a realistic possibility is that the Mayor and City Council believe that the political pain they suffer from imposing the tolls will be less than that of cutting $800 million in vital city services. Thus, it is a good bet that toll revenue will be used only to pay for existing city services. This said, one possible scenario is that the City will lease the East River Bridges to the MTA. The MTA has experience running big tolling operations, will be much more likely to keep the East River Bridges in good condition and can relieve the City of $545 million annual transit and bridge related costs.

  • Ron Casalotti

    There is no way congestion pricing could be described as anything other than a regressive tax. Say you’re Donald Trump with you chauffeur? Pay $8. A garment center worker with three kids at home? Pay $8. If the argument is that charging to enter the heart of the city is it will mainly impact the less well-to-do among us.

    Really want to cut congestion and save poor little Mary who might develop asthma from auto emissions? Ban ALL private vehicles from the area during the week. Make everyone use mass transit (or at least cabs). Doing less is discriminatory. Oh and, the argument that tolling the East river bridges is logistically impractical, I say use the technology congestion pricing was going to use — EZ-Pass readers and photo license plate ID.

  • lower Manhattan

    While parking should of course not be free, there is a danger in relying on it to reduce congestion. A lot of driving is circling and standing, circling and standing — not just to find a parking spot, but to avoid having to park. The other problem it causes is more paved yards and curb cuts. The environmental prong of the plan should be property taxes assessed for permeable surfaces and curb cuts.

  • Nino

    lower manhattan-

    I agree that driving includes circling and standing, but theoretically if curbside parking is priced correctly, 15% of spots on any given street will be open, eliminating the need for circling.

  • jrivero

    That’s right, Glenn. I confused the two. The Mayor did bring it up during his first term. But that one was not before the State. He went so far as to include East River tolls in budget plans in 2001, saying that it would generate between $100 and $800 million annually. But during the subsequent year, the budget gap was closed, his popularity plummeted, particularly in the outer boroughs, and he abandonned the effort. The opposition came from the usual suspects. The problem with changing the tolling scheme to something more rational, is that those who would pay more would view it, not as a part of a more sensible city-wide policy, but as a burden on them. Unlike congestion pricing, whose perceived burden would be difused, the burdens of toll increases are felt by some boroughs more than by others. So you start hearing the same old same old about how businesses will suffer and about all the poor mothers who have to drive to work in order to feed their children. That’s why it has always failed in the past.

    But maybe the time is right to revisit the idea. Maybe the Mayor could parlay congestion pricing support into East River toll support. I wouldn’t count on it. But it’s worth a shot. Schaller wrote a while back that the East River tolls would raise over $500 million a year for the city and $100 million for the MTA because of modal shifts. That’s better than nothing.

  • SPer

    As a Brooklyn resident, I always resented the idea of tolling the east river bridges as long as it was still free to drive downtown from the Bronx and upper Manhattan. Congestion pricing is more equitable. But at this point, I would accept East River tolling as better than nothing.

  • mork

    Ron C.–

    You’re mischaracterizing the nature of the current situation.

    Right now the rich dude is driving into the CBD for free while the garment worker is riding the subway for $4 a day.

    Equalizing this lopsided equation is what makes congestion pricing progressive.

  • jrivero

    SPer, I agree with your objection. And that’s why CP would have been far better. In theory, you could achieve a similar goal if the City controlled all the Manhattan crossings and were able to implement a rational tolling-scheme. But that’s never going to happen, and even if it did, it would still not be as well-tailored as the congestion area would have been. Even so, tolling the East River crossings would be a start. It would eliminate some toll-shopping and it would shift some people into transit. And let’s not forget about he revenues.

    Not that I think it would ever pass.

  • lower Manhattan

    The perverse incentive of bulk discounts for EZ-pass also has to go. If there’s a discount, it should be for a combined EZ-Pass Metro-card that encourages at least some mode shifting.

  • Eric

    The differences in toll prices, or their absence altogether from certain points of access, should be rationalized, so that all routes to and from the city are priced comparably. But that’s not something that can be done without the state government’s cooperation.

    If implementing car-pooling restrictions can be done without the state’s OK, the Mayor should do it. And as “lower Manhattan” suggested above, the City could and should crack down on traffic violations and illegal parking – and free parking for city employees. If cops would write tickets for speeders and other transgressors, rather than spending time busting up Critical Mass rides, they could reduce congestion and raise funds, which the city could allocate to transit, cycling and pedestrian improvements.

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for voters in Silver’s district to vote him out, though. He’ll go to his grave as speaker of the Assembly, unless he chooses to retire. Why would Lower East Side voters want to give up their undue influence in Albany. Rather than secede, we need to fix state government.

  • JF

    Have any environmentalists actually tried to run against Silver? When was the last time he faced a primary challenge, or a Green in the general election?

  • gecko

    This is the way to go (congestion pricing was just another baby step):

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/18/opinion/18haskell.html?_r=1&th=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&emc=th&adxnnlx=1184760034-qxUZrTE6euixi5hlPDVElA

    New York Times

    July 18, 2007
    Op-Ed Contributor
    The Path of Least Congestion
    By DAVID HASKELL

    “New York’s subways and buses are already at capacity, and as we prepare to add one million new residents by 2030, our existing mass transit will require improvements that will take years (if not generations) to put in place. Mr. Bloomberg has fewer than 1,000 days left as mayor. His best chance at securing an environmentalist legacy is to embrace bike-sharing.”

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