MTA Says it Needs More Money for Congestion Pricing

The deal that produced the 17-member Congestion Mitigation Commission mandated the MTA to "submit comments on the Mayor’s [congestion pricing] plan" by October 1, 2007. In these comments, the MTA was instructed to provide the Commission with three items:

(a) a description of the additional capital needs required for implementation;

(b) proposed utilization of any potential revenue derived from such plan for such capital needs; and

(c) the impact of such revenue upon the authority’s capital and operating budgets.

You can download a copy of the 11-page report right here. The New York Times and Sun also have provided summaries in this morning’s newspapers. The bottom line seems to be this: MTA Chief Lee Sander says that Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan will cost the MTA hundreds of millions of dollars that currently "are not provided for."

The MTA makes five "concluding observations" in its report to the Commission:

  1. "In order to put in place adequate alternatives to encourage motorists to switch modes, additional transit service will need to be deployed in advance of the imposition or collection of the congestion fee." Capital commitments and net operating expenses associated with "ramping up this service" are estimated to be $283.6 million and $55.8 million respectively.
  2. The costs "to implement the full complement of transit services needed to successfully implement" the Mayor’s congestion pricing plan currently "are not provided for."
  3. Even after all of the new federal money comes in, the MTA says "the unfunded capital costs associated with enhanced transit service total $767 million." And "fully capitalizing these costs would add $56 million in additional annual operating debt service expenses" to the MTA debt mountain.
  4. An additional $104 million per year or so will be needed to operate and maintain service.
  5. It will take "considerable time for the changes in travel generated by congestion pricing to stabilize into recurring patterns."

On that last point, even though London and Stockholm experienced only a few weeks of "teething" problems with their new congestion pricing systems, the MTA expects prolonged traffic fluctuations "as motorists that elect to continue to drive will ‘bridge shop’" for the fastest and cheapest routes.

The MTA also implies that traffic congestion on the City’s free East River bridges may not be reduced as much as the Bloomberg Administration planners expect since the 25 percent of motorists who currently use cash to drive through the MTA’s Brooklyn Battery and Queens-Midtown Tunnel may choose to "divert to the free City crossings to avoid being charged both a toll and the congestion fee, since the City plan proposes to credit only E-ZPass customers for the toll paid to the MTA."

Needless to say, congestion pricing opponent Richard Brodsky sees the MTA report as serious fodder. The Sun reported:

"There’s no explanation of where they’re going to get that money," Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat of Westchester, said of the unfunded costs. The congestion pricing plan "is in complete disarray. We’re at a point now where the transition from concept to plan has not been made."

The Congestion Pricing Commission’s next milestones are:

By December 31, 2007: The City or US DOT have to have committed at least $250 million or the deal is off. (The US DOT is being asked to give New York the money before the commission produces it’s implementation plan.)

By January 31, 2008: The Commission must votes on an Implementation Plan. The Implementation Plan is supposed to be the consensus document underlying all legislation. As noted above, the Plan must reduce traffic as much as the mayor’s plan.

By March 28, 2008: The City Council must vote to approve the "Implementation Plan," send a home rule message to the state legislature. A home rule message is a request from a city or town council to the state legislature asking them to vote on legislation affecting only that town or city.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So they are saying they want an additional $150 million per year in aid to increase transit service and service debt for additional improvments, over and above their existing plans. That doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    People seem to be adding up annual costs ($50 million over 100 years is $5 billion if you don’t discount it), and combining it with capital costs, or something.

    Compared with the hole in the MTA budget for keeping service at current levels and keeping the system from collapse, especially after the real estate transfer taxes regress to the mean, that isn’t much.

  • Larry Littlefield

    By the way, did the MTA’s proposal include funding for secure bicycle parking at subway stations proximate to areas beyond walking distance of the subway, such as southeast Brooklyn and southwestern Queens? If not, the bike advocates ought to get on that.

    It might be hard to do on the IRT and BMT, but the IND stations have the room on their overdesigned mezzanines, particularly in locations where the second phase of the IND was supposed to hook in.

  • The voice of Reason

    Congestion pricing
    is a TOTAL scam, my friends…
    You heard it here first!!

  • jmc

    The voice of reason? hahahahahaha

  • Eric

    Here’s a crazy idea. How ’bout the MTA rescind the deal to sell Brooklyn’s Vanderbilt rail yard to developer Bruce Ratner for $50 million less than what rival bidder Extell Development offered, and $114.5 million less than the MTA’s own appraisal of the property?

    Nah, that’d make too much sense. Better to raise fares and let the working class subsidize a privately run basketball arena.

  • Dave

    Permit parking fees will cover some of this…as will putting back the tolls on the East River bridges. CP cannot be introduced without some other changes to streets-use policy.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    I just realized March 28th is implementation day. It’s also my birthday. It better be a good birthday present.

  • The Voice of Reason

    O jmc, he who laughs last laughs best, and as regards “congestion pricing,” I fear that I will indeed laugh last…

    150 million here, 150 million there, pretty soon you’re talking REAL money, and this boondoggle isn’t even off the ground!

    I say again with emphasis: SCAM SCAM SCAM

  • gecko

    Not clear how such a small increase in the number of transit riders causes such a big increase in MTA capital costs?

    In any case, since reported bicycle ridership jumped from 130,000 to 500,000 during the transit strike, perhaps the MTA should seriously investigate this as a possible solution for projected capacity problems?

  • JF

    Gecko, the big increase in capital costs is (1) buses (mostly express buses) to serve the transit-poor areas, (2) depots to maintain the buses, and (3) more subway cars.

    Are all those buses necessary? I don’t know enough to judge. I will be happy to see the increased bus service, though.

    The MTA is planning to junk 1,622 subway cars next year. I know it costs money to maintain old equipment, but it wouldn’t cost $200 million to keep 50 of the best-preserved cars around for four more years, would it?

    Finally, “The Voice” says “You heard it here first.” I did hear it here first, but it was ten months ago. You wouldn’t be McCaffrey, would you? Seriously, Streetsblog has been giving plenty of attention to McCaffrey, Weprin, Brodsky, Dinowitz and everyone else who calls this a “scam.” Why do you think you’re telling us something we haven’t heard a hundred times already?

    The only thing I can think of in response to this: find the funding. Isn’t there some highway widening on Long Island that can be put on hold for a few years?

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