Congestion Pricing Bill: Fun With Legalese

After months of following the step-by-step evolution of the congestion pricing proposal, there’s a certain satisfaction in seeing familiar concepts codified in legislative language. To wit, we hope readers who’ve been tracking Streetsblog’s coverage of this topic enjoy these excerpts from the bill. Parse away.

On short-term transit improvements

The authority [MTA] shall provide for transit projects designed to mitigate projected immediate effects on ridership occasioned by the imposition of congestion pricing fees prior to the operation date.

On the transit lock box:

The authority shall establish a fund to be known as the "traffic congestion mitigation fund" which shall be kept separate from and not commingled with any other moneys of the authority…

[The fund reimburses the City and MTA for capital costs and administrative costs of pricing, and for the initial short-term transit improvements. The rest is for payment of bonds and capital projects.]

Such projects may include, but are not limited to, new buses and bus facilities, bus rapid transit routes, park-and-ride facilities, commuter rail improvements and subway expansion and rehabilitation. Congestion pricing revenues shall not be used for any other purpose. Priority in the distribution of funding shall be given to those areas in need of additional transit investments.

On the "livable streets lock box":

There is hereby established a special fund to be known as the "transit enhancement fund" [financed by parking fees in the congestion zone]…  The revenues of such fund… shall be used solely to provide additional transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and parking management improvements, including, but not limited to, expanded ferry service, bus signalization, bus rapid transit investments, bicycle facilities and pedestrian enhancements.

On residential parking permits:

The city shall
complete the community planning process already underway with respect
to a citywide parking policy and a residential parking program prior to
the operation date. The city shall ensure that neighborhoods adjacent
to the congestion pricing zone are provided an opportunity to opt into
the residential parking permit program.

As expected, the bill goes on the describe RPP quite thoroughly. The details match what we heard from Mayor Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at last week’s unveiling of the RPP proposal. But there is one surprise:

Fees collected pursuant to regulations authorized by this section shall be credited to the transit enhancement fund of the City of New York.

This means that fees collected from RPP would go towards the "livable streets lock box," but before you get too excited, it’s worth noting that residents would not have to pay a fee to get a permit (they just have to prove residency). So would any revenue actually come from this provision? We consulted a source experienced in interpreting legislation, who said this language leaves the door open for RPP to serve as a dedicated "transit enhancement" funding stream, should fees be collected at some future time.

By the way, have we mentioned what DC is doing with parking revenues these days?

  • Great post.

    As to that last paragraph, what about fines from violating the RPP rules? My proposal, lo these many months ago, was that fines from violating RPP be dedicated to transit improvements.

  • Ben Fried

    Gary, our source said that since the bill only refers to “fees” collected from RPP, and not “penalties,” it’s unlikely that this language is intended to funnel RPP fines to the transit enhancement fund.

    That would great if it did, though.

  • Heffron

    So then am I understanding this correctly, there will be no fee or charge to get a parking permit?

  • Ed

    Yeah, uh huh, lockbox. And social security was only going to be used for social security payments. Big pool of money equals dirty politicians sticking their fingers in the pot. But it is nice that at least one or two friggin weeks before the deadline this is dealt with but has been an issue all along. Smoke and mirrors, anything to dazzle and to try to get this passed no matter what.

    I wonder what other last minute surprises will arise. I can’t wait.

  • Davis

    Ed,

    In Albany, gigantic pieces of legislation are typically dropped on legislators desks minutes before coming up for a vote — literally. In many cases there will not have been any committee meetings or public hearings about the legislation prior to the vote. That’s how things usually work.

    By contrast, the months-long Traffic Commission process that brought about this piece of legislation and the four weeks (three if you subtract “Kristen Week”) the Legislature and Council will have had to negotiate and fine-tune is a veritable model for how it should be done. It is rare that anything this complex and important going through Albany gets this much of a public vetting.

  • JK

    Heffron. The mayor’s bill proposes free RPP — no fee for your permit. So, the City will lose money on the actual RPP. It’s a cost of pricing and potentially raising meters.

  • Heffron

    Just wanted to make sure I understood it correctly before I went around telling people that the RPPs will be “free”. Of course nothing is free, the cost will come from taxes paid by everyone, with or without cars, but the impression will be that the permits will be free.

    I don’t agree with not charging for the permits, but it certainly takes the wind out of the “People shouldn’t have to pay to park in front of their own homes” argument.

  • Ed

    Dave, I appreciate your comments regarding the process and I tend to agree. However, this is smells like appeasement to me to get CP passed whatever the costs. Silence was the response to most issues legitimately raised and they are only being added now at the last minute so that any opposition cannot review it in its entirety and so that pro-CP can say “See, its been addressed”.

    I remember the same scramble for the west side stadium that failed. Not all legislation is made up of this last minute wheeling and dealing such as the public funding of the two stadiums, only the most controversial and suspect.

    I mean, now we hear that the entire future of the city is tied to this? It wasn’t that way 3 months ago. The hyperbole is way over the top. And the entire way that Bloomberg is calling his opponents “stupid” for questioning this, this is a major, major change that requires questions. In my opinion, his personal attacks means Bloomberg takes this plan personally which affirms my belief that it is more for his legacy and less for the good of the city (even if it may have some beneficial effects for the city).

  • JF

    And the entire way that Bloomberg is calling his opponents “stupid” for questioning this, this is a major, major change that requires questions.

    There’s nothing stupid about asking questions. There is something stupid about ignoring the perfectly reasonable answers you get to those questions and then repeating the questions over and over.

  • AN

    Thanks for the excerpts of the bill, but I want to see more! Is there a link to the entire Paterson bill for congestion pricing? I’m glad that he is exhibiting leadership to support this and has introduced the bill.

  • Davis

    I mean, now we hear that the entire future of the city is tied to this? It wasn’t that way 3 months ago.

    Ed,

    The MTA debt bomb has been looming over this year’s state budget for about 25 years and the importance of congestion pricing to NYCs economic and environmental well-being has been widely and publicly under discussion for at least two years now.

    If this is all news to you, you should complain to the editorial board of whatever local paper you happen to read. This is what you’ve been missing during all that coverage of A-Rod’s salary negotiations and various governors’ sexual exploits.

  • jmc

    #6– even without a fee the city is still likely to make money on RPP. This is because the RPPs will have “90 minute or permit only” signs that allow people to park for up to 90 minutes (without meters, the maids can simply use chalk). If they go over the money, there’s a parking ticket. This will provide revenue!

  • Dave

    There should be a fee for RPP and it should not be minimal; these fees should cover the cost of administration, help pay for the maintenance of the streets that people park on, and be used to fund transit.

    Where did this ridiculous idea “People shouldn’t have to pay to park in front of their own homes” come from? If you want that buy a house with a driveway.

    And I bet the people complaining the loudest about an RPP fee are the same ones double-parking in front of Starbucks for their $4 coffee.

    Price an RPP permit at $3 a day (less than one round-trip subway fare but less than a coffee) or $90 a month. Well worth it for a much-improced chance of parking and think how far that would go to closing the MTA gap.

  • jacknyc

    DIRECTED TO DAVE & OTHERS.

    IT IS AMAZING HOW TOTALLY OUT OF TOUCH ALL OF YOU ARE WITH THE COST OF RAISING A FAMILY IN THE OUTER BOROUGHS, PAYING EVER INCREASING REAL ESTATE TAXES,FUEL COSTS, WATER TAXES, HOME OWNER INSURANCE, AND NOW YOU WANT A $90.00 A MONTH ADDITIONAL FEE FOR THE PRIVLEDGE OR PARKING IN OUR OWN NEIBORHOODS… AND WE ALL KNOW, OR SHOULD… THAT EACH YEAR IT WILL GO UP YEAR AFTER YEAR, EVEN IF TO GET THIS SCHEME PASSED IT BEGINS AT ZERO!

  • Davis

    No, Jack. You shouldn’t be paying for the privilege to park. You should be paying for the privilege of storing your space-hogging, horn-honking, exhaust-spewing, planet-warming, oil war-causing, piece o crap GM Hummerscelade on publicly-owned streets that could be put to much better use if there weren’t so many cars on clogging it up.

    And besides, if your outer boro neighborhood doesn’t want RPP’s, you don’t have to have them.

  • Dave

    What about the cost of taxpayers to provide you with that free parking spot in front of your home? Money that could go to better schools maybe?

    The problem is not that city is becoming too elitist or expensive, it is the fact that the subsidies that flow out of Manhattan to the other boroughs are being scaled back. People in the boroughs have been so coddled and given so much for free that now that moan about paying their fair share. Buck it up.

    Of course the real villains are Washington and Albany that rape the city of tax dollars and are responsible for property tax increase and fuel costs.

    So Jack if you can’t affod the city….leave. Move to Farmingdale or some bland suburb. If enough people leave values will fall and then maybe the city will become more affordable. Maybe too late for you but oh well.

  • JF

    IT IS AMAZING HOW TOTALLY OUT OF TOUCH ALL OF YOU ARE WITH THE COST OF RAISING A FAMILY IN THE OUTER BOROUGHS

    Um, hi, Jack! I’m raising a family in the outer boroughs … without a car. Prices are going up for us, but probably not as much as for you, since we’ve got a relatively small apartment and don’t have to pay all the expenses of a car.

    At this time when the city is cutting the school budgets, do you think we really want to keep paying to clean, pave and police your parking space and roads? No! You want your house, yard and car, you pay for all the extra city services it requires.

  • JF

    You owe me a Coke, Dave.

  • Dave

    Davis: good point. I may be a little off-topic in my previous post but I am sick and tired of people complaining when thy are asked to pay for things that should never have been free.

    Jack actually trips himself up by calling it a privilege to park in front of his home. A privilege is something you pay for…and at $90 a month a bargain. The street should never have been allowed to be overrun with cars and used as storage.

    I bet Jack drives over the free bridges that our tax dollars got to maintain and doesn’t understand that those funds could be used for a better benfit to the city, rather than supporting his free-driving habit.

    And I bet RPP won’t be successful in the outer boroughs exactly for the small-minded reasons Jack puts forth. That is why I think Bloomberg should have mandated it for the entire city.

    But I accept that won’t happen. I’ll just be glad when CP passes. A small first step to making drivers pay for the damage they cause to the standard of living in this city, but a step in the right direction.

  • Dave

    Anytime JF. Anytime.

  • Ed

    My god, the people on here that support CP especially Davis, are so sanctimonious and demeaning in any response where anyone even questions the legitimacy of CP. Come on. This isn’t utopia and anyone against it isn’t a bad guy. But almost everyone on here (and Bloomberg too) treats everyone else as stupid.

    I bet you’re a newcomer to NY, Davis. I’ve been here for over 20 yrs and am against CP and I don’t own a car. And I bet that I read more newspapers and am more educated than you will ever be so don’t throw your insulting crap around.

    Davis wrote:

    You should be paying for the privilege of storing your space-hogging, horn-honking, exhaust-spewing, planet-warming, oil war-causing, piece o crap GM Hummerscelade on publicly-owned streets that could be put to much better use if there weren’t so many cars on clogging it up.

    Okay Davis, well pay CP if you promise to leave NY. As I see it you are a space hogging, horn honking, exhaust spewing, planet warming piece of crap on publicly owned streets.

  • JF

    But almost everyone on here (and Bloomberg too) treats everyone else as stupid.

    Pot, kettle, black. Read your own posts, Ed.

    The whole debate could do with a lot less people treating everyone on the other side as stupid. Since you’re concerned about it, you could set an example. How about you show even one iota of suspicion that anyone pro-CP could actually know something you don’t?

  • Davis

    Ed,

    I find it hard to see how anyone can interpret my responses to your points (comments #5 and #11) as sanctimonious or demeaning.

    But congrats on reading lots of newspapers, being highly educated and living in NYC for 20 years without a car. Good for you!

  • Mark

    I am having an increasingly hard time taking anything Ed says at face value.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Yeah Mark, I thought he was a plant but his arguments have disintegrated into nonsense. A plant would have done a better job focusing on a few unresolvable problems and pounding them home. This guy just thinks hes getting screwed by everyone. Thats one of the things driving this down though, the inability to generate political trust.

  • Dave

    Not to jump on the bandwagon but I was going to ask how someone who doesn’t own a car could possible be against CP. Rather than stupid I was going to call Ed ill-informed or ignorant….

    But perhaps he’s one of these overly-liberal types that will sacrifice the benefit to the city at large for that tiny minority inconvenienced by CP?

    The city has suffered long enough from the NIMBY politicians (Glick?), CB’s and those who would protect the poor minority at the expense of the middle-and-up majority.

    Let them be priced out of the city and go somewhere else…good riddance!

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The city has suffered long enough from the NIMBY politicians (Glick?), CB’s and those who would protect the poor minority at the expense of the middle-and-up majority.

    Let them be priced out of the city and go somewhere else…good riddance!

    Dave, I wouldn’t support a program that would price out the poor minority. It’s precisely because the poor minority would be unaffected by CP that I’m unswayed by the attempts of people like Brodsky to frame this as a regressive tax.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Paterson Backs Pricing, Introduces Bill in Albany

|
David Paterson is going to do right by his old State Senate district after all. New York’s new governor settled any doubts about his position on congestion pricing this afternoon, introducing a bill that follows the recommendations of the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission. The Daily Politics has the scoop: "Congestion pricing addresses two urgent concerns […]

Details of the US DOT’s $354.5 Million Grant to NYC

|
The Agreement: The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded $354.5 million through its Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) to New York to implement the Mayor’s congestion pricing program (or an alternative plan approved by USDOT as described below). The funds have been awarded jointly to the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), the New […]

Let’s Hear About Mayor Bloomberg’s Transit Improvement Plan

|
Kevin Sheekey: Bring this man home to talk about the transit improvements congestion pricing will fund. Sixty Percent of New Yorkers support Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to impose a congestion pricing fee on traffic entering Manhattan’s Central Business District and spending the resulting money on transit improvements. According to the pollsters at Quinnipiac, that support hasn’t […]

Congestion Pricing Plan Includes a “Livable Streets Lock Box”

|
There is a nice surprise for City Council, neighborhood groups and transportation reformers in the congestion pricing plan approved by the Traffic Mitigation Commission yesterday. On page 8 of the plan, in a section called "Securing of parking revenues," the commission proposes dedicating all revenue raised within the congestion pricing zone from additional parking meter […]

Roberts: MTA Needs Congestion Pricing

|
When NYC Transit President Howard Roberts announced Monday — to some ridicule — that certain subway lines are overcrowded with little to no relief in sight, it was reported that the system would not be able to handle the influx of commuters who are expected to switch to transit should congestion pricing be implemented. Considering […]

TSTC Asks the Obvious, Yet Elusive, Pricing Poll Question

|
While the results of the latest Quinnipiac congestion pricing poll were repeated with little analysis earlier this week, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign noted a significant, though not surprising, shortcoming. The Quinnipiac poll failed to link congestion pricing to the mass transit improvements it would bring. The pollsters asked this question: “The Bloomberg administration has suggested […]