It’s (Apparently) Official: Congestion Pricing Is Dead

Following an evening closed-door meeting in which state leaders discussed congestion pricing one last time today, they emerged announcing no deal had been reached. Here is a statement from Mayor Bloomberg:

"Today is a sad day for New Yorkers and a sad day for New York City.  Not only won’t we see the realization of a plan that would have cut traffic, spurred our economy, reduced pollution and improved public health, we will also lose out on nearly $500 million annually for mass transit improvements and $354 million in immediate federal funds.

"I will be speaking with Secretary Peters and will express my thanks for her commitment to innovative solutions to real problems facing large cities today.  I will also express my deep disappointment that, sadly, even Washington, which most Americans agree is completely dysfunctional, is more willing to try new approaches to longstanding problems than our elected officials in the State Assembly.  It takes true leadership and courage to embrace new concepts and ideas and to be willing to try something.  Unfortunately, both are lacking in the Assembly today.

"If that wasn’t shameful enough, it takes a special type of cowardice for elected officials to refuse to stand up and vote their conscience– on an issue that has been debated, and amended significantly to resolve many outstanding issues, for more than a year.  Every New Yorker has a right to know if the person they send to Albany was for or against better transit and cleaner air.  People know where I stood, and where members of the City Council stood.  They deserved at least that from Albany.

"The idea for congestion pricing didn’t start in our Administration and it won’t end today.  The $354 million we would have received from Washington tomorrow will go to another city in another state.  But the problems congestion pricing could have helped solve are only going to get worse.  And too many people from more than 170 environmental, labor, public health and business organizations recognize the merits of congestion pricing and hopefully someday, we will have more leaders in the Legislature who recognize it too.

"We will continue to push forward on the other 126 proposals in PlaNYC that will reduce our carbon footprint and green our City.  We will move forward on proposals to plant 1 million trees, introduce hybrid taxis and install green roofs on City buildings. Congestion pricing is just one part of our ambitious agenda.

"I want to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly for congestion pricing and I want to acknowledge the courage and leadership that our partners in the City Council, Speaker Quinn, Governor Paterson, former Governor Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco and some in the Legislature have shown by working together to convince their colleagues to support congestion pricing.  Together, we will continue to work to build a greener, greater New York City."

  • Larry Littlefield

    Note to Bloomberg, Quinn, and those voting in the affirmative on the City Council. You stuck your necks out on this one, and have done so enough.

    So sit back and watch the MTA budget and state budget unfold, and demand:

    o No fare increases.

    o No service cuts.

    o No tax increases on wage income.

    o No more debts — we won’t pay them back.

    o No deferred normal replacement for transportation systems — if the signals won’t be replaced on the Queen subway line, no Queens pol should forget it for a minute..

    o No deferred major projects that were passed by bond referendum and have dedicated bond and federal funding. If they try to reallocate that money, sue.

    o No cuts in funding for other services, such as education, to pay for transportation.

    o No City of New York money required to solve the problem. Brodsky and Weiner have promised $billions. Demand it.

    o And as for congestion, go ahead and demand red light cameras, bus cameras and the rest and let them vote that down too.

  • Larry Littlefield

    And, by the way, don’t repeat the arguments by the Ministry of Truth.

    The legislators did not refuse to vote on Bloomberg’s plan. They refused to vote on the plan put forth by their commission to replace Bloomberg’s plan.

    So the idea that Bloomberg was arrogant or a billionarie or refused to make changes is a fraud.

    The legislators will say they were in favor when the budget consequences come along, but they weren’t. No statements after yesterday are anything but a lie.

    And every negative consequence coming forward is either the consequence of what they failed to do today or gladly did for 20 years. Pataki ran up all those debts and they couldn’t say no? They said no today.

  • Do you think there was a vote on Easter Island before they cut down the last palm tree?

    http://capntransit.blogspot.com/2008/03/last-palm-tree.html

  • Dan o

    I was trying to drum up support for calling the Assembly Speaker’s office. I had posted the information from this site on a Green newsgroup I belong to. I was astonished at the level of hostility toward CP from the Greens. many of those posting had bought into every argument made by Brodsky and friends, and some had invented a few of their own.

    After this experience, I’m not surprised by the outcome announced. The people who got CP wrong got the word out more quickly than those of us who had the facts.

  • And then, when service cutbacks and fare increases occur, make sure everyone knows they are the Brodsky/Fidler/et al service cutbacks and fare increases.

    “So sit back and watch the MTA budget and state budget unfold, and demand:
    o No fare increases.
    o No service cuts.”

  • gecko

    To repeat:

    “If that wasn’t shameful enough, it takes a special type of cowardice for elected officials to refuse to stand up and vote their conscience– on an issue that has been debated, and amended significantly to resolve many outstanding issues, for more than a year. Every New Yorker has a right to know if the person they send to Albany was for or against better transit and cleaner air. People know where I stood, and where members of the City Council stood. They deserved at least that from Albany.”

  • jmc

    Go Bloomberg
    Go Quinn
    Go Yassky et al.
    Your position will be remembered.

    Screw the naysayers. I hope Shelly gets stuck in traffic every time he rides in his car for the rest of his life.

    This was one of the few reasonable developments in domestic policy at this time. It was welcome antidote to the rest of the shenanigans that we’re enduring on the national stage. No one nationally cares about climate change or the depletion of fossil fuel resources. Our most enlightened policy is to burn poor people’s food and pray to the gods for technological innovation. We’re stuck in an endless war for reasons that aren’t clear and no one wants to end it.

    America has really jumped the shark, so to speak.

    So shameful…

  • da

    “Something for nothing” is sort of the foundational myth of America; our tragic flaw.

    Forget about “In God We Trust” or “E Pluribus Unum”. The national motto should really be, “Something for nothing”.

    Now, 200+ years later, to quote a phrase, the chickens are coming home to roost.

  • Bjorn

    So will the feds be looking for another city to try a congestion pricing program.

    Bjorn

  • d

    Streetsblog, please keep track of where that money is going. It will be interesting to see where $354 million in federal money will go instead of right here. Thanks, Albany! You had a full year to figure out how to get hundreds of millions of dollars for clean air and less traffic and you couldn’t do it.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    Bloomberg: “The idea for congestion pricing didn’t start in our Administration and it won’t end today. The $354 million we would have received from Washington tomorrow will go to another city in another state.”

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2006/06/16/the-46-million-parking-perk/ [Bruce Schaller 2006]

    The City under Bloomberg has lost $322-million in lost parking meter revenue from placard abuse ($46-million X 7 years under Bloomberg = $322-million, and still counting). An honorable legacy would be to clean up permit abuse – Bloomberg can still do it, and I hope he does.

  • Paul

    Since when are state leaders experts in traffic planning. Fuck ’em. We’ll do our own guerilla congestion control if no one can step up and do it. Sometime too much democracy just gets in the way and we end up with a big chicken fight and no we get nowhere.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    #9- “So will the feds be looking for another city to try a congestion pricing program. – Bjorn”

    Yeah, I bet San Fran will make a run for it with either CP or someother WAY too progressive idea for the supposed Blue States of the East Coast.

    Maybe even Salt Lake City will get it to build another light rail line. SLC continues to prove that you don’t need to be Blue to be progressive.

    Anyway, as for NYC’s driving minority, to paraphrase a recently departed celebrity, “I’ll give you my steering wheel when you take it from my cold, dead hands!”

  • Shemp

    A lot of what is going on here stems from the fact that the global talent – the best and brightest – that NYC attracts has historically ceded local government to a lumpen class of local morons. Bloomberg and many working for him do not fit that mold and indeed clash badly with it. If you want to see more intelligent stuff actually enacted here, you have to get more involved in actually running the place and in electing much better people to every level of office.

  • Jan

    Its the way that this was done which caused its failure just like the stadium. Bloomberg thought he would ride popularity to overcome Albany and he didn’t do the proper legwork.

    If CP is so great, why should it stop now? Because of $354 million? Shouldn’t a new plan be drafted and proposed or shouldn’t the same one be tailored for passage regardless of the loss of the federal money?

    If not, then it means that CP wasn’t all that it was held up to be. But maybe Bloomberg can make another last minute donation to the Republican party and this time it will get passed.

  • gecko

    Obama and Clinton should address the abomination that went on behind the closed doors of the Democratic New York State Assembly as it speaks very badly about the party and its ability to respond to the Climate Change Crisis with New York City strategically positioned in the northeast United States, the third largest economy in the world.

  • Live and Learn

    “They” say Silver is a religious man. (The Weprin bros too.) Evidently, he forgot Hillel the Elder’s admonition in Ethics of Our Fathers 1:14

    “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”
    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillel_the_Elder
    and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirkei_Avot

    In response to NYT 04-08-08: Mr. Silver, a frequent antagonist of Mr. Bloomberg’s who in 2005 blocked the mayor’s plan to redevelop the West Side railyards, pre-empted criticism that he was personally to blame for the plan’s defeat, saying that he favored some kind of congestion proposal but that the mayor’s plan simply lacked enough support to pass. “Let me be clear: If I were making the decision alone, I might have made a different decision,” Mr. Silver said.]

  • Larry Littlefield

    Those of you following this one issue many not be aware of all the other decisions over the years. Much bigger decisions than this one.

    Philosophically, the decisions by the state government on health care, education, retirement, taxation, debt, and public amenities — everything — have been much worse than this, and done in the dark.

    Which is why, believe it or not, I’m happy this went down just as it did. What I feared is that CP would pass, and absolve them from blame in the minds of the public (we gave the MTA the money!), but the results of all those other decisions would lead to disaster anyway.

    Ladies and gentlemen, get as many people as possible on bikes, and do not suppport any sacrifices to save the transportation system otherwise.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    “Obama and Clinton should address the abomination that went on behind the closed doors of the Democratic New York State Assembly as it speaks very badly about the party.”

    Ha! Ha! Fat chance, they will stay away from this like its fucking West Nile Virus. Neither party has the balls to raise gas taxes and I doubt they will want to discuss tolling anything during any campaign. And, thats basically where Bloomberg lost it. He had to win by 70% he couldn’t dare bring it out during an actual campaign.

    He did get it through the City Council though, who woulda thunk it, the same City Council that repealed Sunday parking regulations (No “Pay to “Pray”).

    Jan’s comments above were correct, “If CP is so great, why should it stop now? Because of $354 million?”

  • Edgar

    “Shouldn’t a new plan be drafted and proposed or shouldn’t the same one be tailored for passage regardless of the loss of the federal money?”

    Sure, except now the issue becomes tricky: where do we get the funding for the immediate improvements that need to be in place before the implementation of CP?

    It was already a (false) talking point before, that the transit system would be overwhelmed the second CP went into effect. Now that we don’t have the booster shot to increase capacity immediately, their talking point will have teeth.

    In other words, this deadline has transformed a lie from the anti-CP crowd into a truth.

  • Charlie D.

    The next strategy should be for NYC to implement as close to CP as they can using resources under their direct control. The two biggest things:

    * Eliminate placard abuse
    * Jack up on-street parking rates

    How do you discourage people from driving into the city? Besides charging them to enter, making it expensive to park is the second best way, IMO.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Wrong way to look at it — Bloomberg, Quinn and everyone who supported CP shouldn’t propose ANYTHING.

    They should make demands from the opponents, and refuse any sacrifices. Any alternative source of money for the MTA and transportation in general should come over their, and our, objections.

    Meanwhile, what Bloomberg and Quinn should focus on is taking street space away from the automobile. The key is to establish a negative declaration in any area that is congested, because the only check on auto traffic IS congested, and places will be as congested as people can stand no matter how much (or little) space is allocated to the automobile.

  • comentz

    As long as legislators like Mr Silver conducts state’s business in the dark and without transparency I will assume the worst, i.e., his actions in this case is tainted by his service to special interests as it may have been in other cases, as seen below.

    From Wikipedia:

    Silver has long been criticized for his employment with Weitz & Luxenberg, one of the state’s larger litigation firms. This has led some to accuse Silver of having a conflict of interest, as he has consistently blocked medical malpractice and other tort reform in Albany. Weitz & Luxenberg insists that Silver’s ties with the firm are “negligible” but Silver has refused to disclose the details of his employment or the salary he receives from the law firm.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Silver#cite_note-nysun_20060519-10

  • Spud Spudly

    I agree with you 100 percent LL — the traffic will fill up whatever space is allotted to it. Take that space back, make the congestion even harder to deal with, and you’ll drive people onto public transit and increase revenues there. If you want fewer cars then give less space to the cars.

    I’ll give Streetsblog credit for making me more aware of these issues. Even though I oppose huge increases in parking fees for the same reason I’m pleased that CP went down in flames, you’re making progress if you can open the eyes of a stubborn guy like me. I hope the transition from anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance will be an easy one.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I hope the transition from anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance will be an easy one.)

    We’re off the took and you are on it Spud. I hope that you will not be opposing any alternatives that come along in the wake of CP.

    Being against everything is easy, but dishonest.

    Fare hikes? Tax increases? Service cuts. I am opposed. You must be in favor.

    After all, what did you do to oppose all those debts the MTA ran up over 15 years? I left a job and ran against the state legislature, costing my family 9 months income. Did you do so also? Those are your debts, not mine.

  • vnm

    The worst part about this is that the people who did the right, forward-thinking and principled thing — Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and 30 City Council members — are term limited. While the people who did the cowardly, spineless and craven thing, not even giving the issue a proper airing, can carry on idefinitely as a separate class being non-responsive to the needs of the majority of their constituents and to circumstances changing all around them (oil availability and climate change).

    I keep getting calls from various Democratic organizations saying how great it would be to finally end the Republican control of the State Senate, and asking for my financial support.

    They can count me out as of this morning. Sheldon Silver needs to be a) voted out of office, b) deprived of his majority, or c) term limited.

  • AM

    Larry, I disagree that Bloomberg, Quinn et al. should sit back so CP opponents can come up with alternatives. If CP opponents succeed in putting forth congestion reduction/revenue generation measures that actually get passed, then Bloomberg and Quinn will end up looking foolish for having spent so much time on congestion pricing.

    Bloomberg and Quinn have created an appetite for congestion mitigation measures that were probably unpalatable in the City Council a year ago. They ought to capitalize.

  • What about a critical mass of cars instead of bikes? (I know, I know, we already have that everyday.)

    Our state assembly obviously doesn’t think it’s necessary to discourage unnecessary driving, so why don’t we make Friday, May 16 into Take a Car to Work Day (formerly Bike to Work Day).

    Millions of New Yorkers who normally take transit, ride bikes, or walk can switch to cars (or cabs) for the day. That will be our environmental impact statement. Let’s see how that works out for us.

  • Spud Spudly

    Your sacrifices and passion are admirable, but losing nine months income would wipe MY family out and I’ve no desire to bang my head against that wall for a job I don’t want. Gene Russianoff and others have figured out a way to get paid while making a difference and I’m sure you can too. (And Gene’s making more difference than even most state legislators.)

    I just told you that I’m for taking space away from cars, which is a change of heart for me (my fault if I didn’t make that clear). I’ve stated many times that I would support traffic reduction measures that don’t make it government policy to use “who has the most money” to determine who gets to do what. I really do see things much differently these days and I can’t be the only one.

    Take the car space away = compel more people to use transit + environmental benefits = more fare revenue for transit + demands for more service = more government money allocated to transit. Sounds like a plan, though it will take time. CP was never the silver bullet people like Kathy Wylde made it out to be, though it had its benefits.

    So if it makes you feel any better you are making progress on livable streets issues even if it’s slower than you would like. As for the situation in Albany, I really don’t know. I’m still in the depression stage over the whole Spitzer “Day One Everything Changes” implosion the same way you’re in the anger stage over CP.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hey Spud, the MTA operating budget assumes $1.2 billion per year in real estate transfer taxes, down from a bubble peak of $1.6 billion.

    A typical level — $400 million or so.

    But we may not get typical. Commercial real estate transactions have just about stopped.

    So where are you going to get the $1 billion to prevent a transit shutdown, before the capital plan is even considered? Borrow it? Blow all the money for the Hudson Yards in one year, IF Tishman can finance the purpose (good luck with that).

    I say just shut the system down when the money runs out, and demand that the promised $billions appear. I’ll bike in.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Our state assembly obviously doesn’t think it’s necessary to discourage unnecessary driving, so why don’t we make Friday, May 16 into Take a Car to Work Day (formerly Bike to Work Day).

    I thought of that. But it would have to be organized ahead, and those who drive in normally could frustrate it by just staying home (or taking transit).

  • If CP is so great, why should it stop now? Because of $354 million? Shouldn’t a new plan be drafted and proposed or shouldn’t the same one be tailored for passage regardless of the loss of the federal money?

    Sure, if the goal were really congestion pricing. But that isn’t the goal, and never was. The goals were: reducing pollution, keeping congestion from dragging our economy down, and reducing the number of deaths and injuries. These goals are necessary to our quality of life; there’s no way we could abandon them.

    http://capntransit.blogspot.com/2008/04/douglas-adams-wrote-that-in-infinite.html

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    So Spud, the same City Government that eliminated Sunday Parking Rules is going to do all these progressive Parisian projects? (PPP?)

  • Spud Spudly

    They just authorized CP 30-20 Niccolo and who would have thought that? And you can do those PPPs without Albany, correct? And unlike CP they would rock-solid guarantee a substantial reduction in automobiles in the city, right? And they would sidestep any “ability-to-pay” objections too, eh? Worth a try. You recruited me in just a few months over some funny-named Web site so it might work. Either way it’s something.

    And LL, I don’t know where the MTA will make up the anticipated deficit in its operating budget. But wasn’t CP money supposed to be exclusively for capital costs anyway?

  • Larry Littlefield

    (But wasn’t CP money supposed to be exclusively for capital costs anyway?)

    Yup. But since the state legislature made all the other decisions and non-decisions that have led to disaster, I wouldn’t mind them being blamed for that too. If they passed CP, they might have avoided it.

    For what happens now, look to two other “defeats.”

    Silver stopped the Olympics and Jets Stadium. Then to show they weren’t anti-everything, the state legislature waived through big subsidies for three other stadia.

    The City Council voted down a City Planning proposal to make it easier to open new large stores, intended to get large supermarkets with more access to better, cheaper food to poor neighborhoods.

    But since then they have waived through large store after large store, as long as they do not allow more access to better, cheaper food near poor neighborhoods and thus compete with the existing purveyors who gave them money. Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Fairway yes, decent cheap food for the poor no.

    So, there is no sense trying to resurrect CP. There is sense in leveraging outrage over its rejection, particularly as fiscal consequences emerge, to go after other things.

  • Streetsman

    Nobody is mentioning that Silver also blocked Moynihan Station in a purely political move, so that it wouldn’t happen under Pataki. Then, when Spitzer was elected, it was suddenly revived. Only then, the RE market went into the crapper, the bottom fell out of the funding, and MSG pulled out of the plan. $130 million in federal funds was lost on THAT project and now it looks like it will never happen.

    This arrogant f***er is either aggressively anti-transit or just a posturing sleazebag political maniac. There is no doubt in my mind that New York would be a MUCH better place without him. He should burn for this.

  • epc

    * primary everybody, regardless of party or role or tenure. I just gave money to Silver’s challenger Paul Newell in AD64 (http://newellnyc.org)

    * Consider running yourself or identify potential candidates to challenge incumbents.

  • JM

    I am so looking forward to seeing Shelly & Company’s CP plan.

    The Assembly’s busy with the budget right now but I’m sure they’ll unveil their plan before they break for the summer.

    Having “debated” CP for a year, their plan should have a whole lot of collective wisdom.

  • sjp

    i own a business in nyc i am for cp even though i live in nj my business employs about 200 people anything to reduce traffic at rush hour is ok with me besides 40 a week is chump change if the reduce my commute by 40 minute lets get the workers back in the buses and subways where they belong

  • Spud Spudly

    Sorry, but the failed CP plan wouldn’t have reduced congestion for NJ drivers approaching Manhattan — in fact, it very likely would have made it worse for them until they got to the NY side of the river since there was zero financial incentive for NJ commuters to stop driving. Put your $2000 a year in a nice bond fund or something.

  • Brooklyn Dad

    Incorrect, Spud.

    NJ drivers would have been putting about $45 million per year in the congestion pricing kitty. Off-peak PA tolls were still lower than the congestion fee. Aggarwala described it in detail before City Council. I think you can find some of that here on Streetsblog.

    Likewise, once the system was in place, there’s no reason why, at a later date, the fee couldn’t be raised over and above the PA tolls to discourage even more traffic.

    Pricing also would have discouarged a huge amount of traffic from using Canal Street and Lower Manhattan to access the Holland Tunnel westbound.

    It’s just a bogus argument, Spud.

  • Spud Spudly

    I know ahat Aggarwala said and it amounts to less than a hill of beans with no effect on most NJ drivers, particularly commuters like sjp, who’s almost certainly driving from Jersey during peak hours.

    Likewise, once the system was in place, there’s no reason why, at a later date, the fee couldn’t be raised over and above the PA tolls to discourage even more traffic.

    Yet, another reason why it got shot down — because nobody really believed it would stay at $8 for very long.

  • Loophole

    You gotta feel bad for everyone who missed the cut for a parking placard. When congestion pricing failed it meant we never got to see the full list of exemptions for all the really important and special people. The sick people never got the doctor visit loophole big enough to drive an ambulance through. The tens of millions of impoverished motorists never got to play with rebates. The first responders never got their unlimited go anywhere for free passes, the judges, court workers, union reps, food kitchen workers, botox specialists… We were just getting started, it would have been so fun.

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