Chicago Loses NYC’s Congestion Pricing Money

chicago_buses.jpgWill Chicago get a second chance at federal funds for better bus service? Photo: celikins/Flickr

Looks like New York legislators aren’t the only ones willing to pass up big money for transportation improvements if it means putting a fair price on private auto use.

Back in April, the feds withdrew a $354 million grant to New York City because Albany failed to pass congestion pricing. Chicago would have received $153 million of that for BRT pilot routes, but as Crain’s reports, the city failed to hold up its end of the bargain:

The administration this week quietly pulled back a pending ordinance
that would have hiked fees and taxes for off-street parking in garages
and on surface lots downtown by as much as $8 a day. The measure was
supposed to be the stick for a big carrot: a $153-million federal grant
announced last spring to begin a pilot express transportation system
known as bus rapid transit.

But the measure, which arrived in the wake of large hikes in
parking-meter fees, drew strong opposition from business groups. And
even if the mayor had put down the opposition, the ordinance was not
approved by the Dec. 31 deadline mandated by the U.S. Department of
Transportation.

With only a few days left in the Bush era, U.S. DOT Secretary Mary Peters, who initiated the Urban Partnership Agreement to spur initiatives like this, has indicated that she won’t cut Chicago any slack. Which means this story could turn into an early test for incoming secretary Ray LaHood. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley still hopes to get the new parking policy through City Council, and if LaHood continues the urban partnership program, the city may not lose the federal funding after all.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If the Feds continue to be hardass about granstanding political games that lead to government delays, New York State can kiss all that stiumus money goodbye.

  • Charlie D.

    When will business groups realize that cheap parking is NOT good for business? Having parking that actually turns over as well as having reliable speedy transit IS good for business.

  • Kind of funny that Chicago was trying for a BRT program that was planned entirely for reserved curbside lanes, after inaugurating a successful grade-separated busway in 2002.

    I think the busway may set some record for government patronage, though. Even though it was paid for by tax revenue, it is restricted to private tour buses traveling from Downtown to the McCormick Place Convention Center. Public buses – even those carrying convention-goers and people who work at McCormick Place (PDF) – are forced to use congested city streets.

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