Senator in Gridlocked Brooklyn District Has Doubts About Pricing

Montgomery.jpgFor a sense of the challenge that lays ahead for congestion pricing supporters, take a look at the mailer that Brooklyn Democratic State Senator Velmanette Montgomery sent to all of her constituents last week. Montgomery has a smart, engaged staff when it comes to transportation policy and she has often been helpful when it comes to Livable Streets issues.

Her 18th Senatorial District covers Bed-Stuy, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus and Sunset Park — a swath of Brooklyn that is absolutely pummeled by regional through-traffic and epidemic asthma rates. Clearly, Montgomery’s district stands to gain more than most from reductions in traffic congestion and improvements to mass transit and air quality.

Yet, in her mailing, Montgomery says Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan "is silent as to the benefits for the outer boroughs and for upper Manhattan." For that and other reasons she has "major reservations" about the proposal. Montgomery then presents a number of informational points and objections to the pricing plan while offering no suggestion of any benefits to her constituents. 

One of the arguments stands out. Montgomery writes, "The congestion pricing measure will not help asthma sufferers." That one appears to be pulled directly from pricing opponents’ talking points and, by most reliable accounts, is not based in fact.

If the Senate Democrats matter in the coming debate then, clearly, congestion pricing supporters have some work to do.

If you get congestion pricing mailings and letters from your elected officials, please send them to Streetsblog. Find Montgomery’s mailing, in full, after the jump…

  • mike

    Particularly odd, since her district is well served by mass transit.

    There’s a lot of misinformation out there.

  • Clarence

    I sent her a very angry letter last week, I’ve lived in her district since moving here in 1991. Baffling is the only word I can come up with.

  • bus a move

    Weprin’s reasoning was:

    high asthma hoods have lots of buses, so more buses must equal more asthma

    that’s wrong because it’s the bus depots and traffic congestion, not buses per se, that cause the air pollution that triggers asthma. also, all of the buses that are part of the plan are clean hybrid buses.

  • As I’ve been saying for years, congestion pricing is unlikely to make measurable improvements in air quality and asthma rates — at least first-generation pricing such as East River bridge tolls, or, now, the mayor’s plan. That’s because cars (passenger vehicles) are by now a fairly minor source of particulate matter, and because c.p. will make a measurable but not huge dent in passenger vehicle miles traveled.

    Ergo, selling c.p. on the basis of a.q. and asthma isn’t a winning strategy.

    For Montgomery, the linchpin should be the improvements in transit service, combined with the likelihood that her constituents will pony up a sub-proportionate share of the dollars.

    The first order of business in educating Sen.
    Montgomery should be to document/calculate the extremely small percentage of c.p. costs that will fall on her constituents. Something like: “your 300,000 (?) constituents, comprising 4 percent (?) of New York City residents, will contribute only 1 percent (?) of c.p. toll revenues …”

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Yeah, you could counter with facts but I think this debate has reached the point where they “don’t need no stinking facts”.

    The livable streets forces have limited political capital to spend and is it worth bothering with the Senate Minority, do they really have to be brought along or can Bruno deliver the Senate? I think he can and the political forces should be concentrated on the City Council a majority of whom are term limited and need to deliver a home rule message in the end.

    In that regard, I have often suggested that the livable streets tendency needs to organize politically around the Tammany Hall clubhouse model. If livable streets clubs were in place when petitioning season begins in earnest they will be able to hold out to the term limited city council people the possibility that they could help with what they need most, their next political job. I’m sure Bloomberg is offering them money but ultimately someone has to stand out by the subway stations with the petitions for candidates. That is how the clubhouse moves.

    As it is the opposition to CP has an active and dominant clubhouse presence and they are not concerned with Bloomberg’s campaign contributions even if they are greater than what the parking industry would, could or will offer.

  • drose

    Most of her points are taken from the original bill: Bloomberg will not be the only one deciding whether to extend the pilot program beyond 3 years; the SMART authority is not at all in the current legislation, and none of the brownfield or green building legislation is included in the bill. She is reading off of a two-month old cheat sheet instead of actually looking at the legislation to be voted on.

    Scary, if the rest of the democratic Senate conference works in this fashion. Congestion pricing will probably need some of their votes.

  • TOM BALISH

    BEAT THE TRAFFIC CONGESTION!

    AMERICANS: GUILTY OF EXTRAVAGANT OVER-INDULGENCE–TOO MANY CARS

    It is time for America to start increasing the taxes on car ownership. If a household owns more than one car, there should be an increasingly higher annual tax on every car after the first one.

    This would be a fair way to encourage a reduction of cars on the road, to increase revenues for road and transit system improvements, and to fight Global Warming.

    How do we all live well without so many cars? The answer, and the plan, is found in a great new book, “HOW TO LIVE WELL WITHOUT OWNING A CAR” by Chris Balish.

  • pete

    You are naive if you think the CP will do anything to improve mass-transit in this city.
    A few token improvements like increase in express bus service but little else. As much as I wish it would.
    Seems like all debate is centered on commuters in private cars rather than fee on trucks which is steeper, more polluting and bigger share of traffic in CP zone anyway.

    And of course , as I written before, to give cab and limo riders free pass from this plan,
    is its biggest failing. Something like 50% of travel within the CP zone is by cab and limo – and remember this is the area where mass-transit has most options – yet somehow no plan to have this group pay anything to improve mass-transit or encourage to use mass transit.
    This short-sightedness stinks of favoring certain group of constituents over another.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    And of course , as I written before, to give cab and limo riders free pass from this plan, is its biggest failing.

    Yes, and as people have responded before, cab users already pay a fare set by the city, and money is already going back to the city from this. The TLC could implement congestion pricing at any time, without state approval, just by adjusting the fare by time of day.

  • dave

    pete – I agree with you about cabs, but disagree about trucks. Truck traffic only makes up less than 4% of traffic entering the Manhattan CBD. You could argue that they have a disproportionate impact on traffic because of their size/maneuvering/loading activity/double parking, but on the other hand they are keeping NYC’s economy running, unlike most car commuters. I don’t see the big deal with charging trucks even more than $21.

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