Cuomo: College Should Be Priced Rationally. Roads? Not So Much.

At a press conference today, Governor Cuomo touted a new plan to introduce a “rational” pricing mechanism to help the state provide critical resources to New York residents. He was talking, of course, about SUNY tuition, which will be structured to rise five percent a year for the next five years.

As for introducing a rational pricing mechanism to help provide critical infrastructure in the NYC region, the governor won’t stand up for that, apparently. Liz Benjamin reports that Cuomo branded the Port Authority’s proposal to raise Hudson River car tolls by $4 this year and $2 next year “a non-starter.” And, amid rumors that the Port Authority toll hikes could open the door to rational pricing of East River bridges, Cuomo threw cold water on the idea of reviving congestion pricing, saying he doesn’t believe the politics have changed since the Assembly killed it in 2008.

There’s a high degree of political theater going on here. Higher Hudson River tolls are probably coming in some form, even if they don’t end up as high as the current proposal. Cuomo and Chris Christie both stand to reap political rewards if the final numbers are lower than the Port Authority’s initial plans. (“They’re going to come in on a white horse and save the commuters and save the tollpayers — it’s the same thing every time,” one source told the Daily News.)

Still, Cuomo could have taken this opportunity to inject some realism into the public discussion of road pricing. Instead of of telling the press that it’s not a good time to be raising tolls, the governor could have acknowledged that congestion is a big drag on the local economy, infrastructure has to be paid for, and higher tolls will lead to less traffic, more carpooling, higher transit ridership and faster buses.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, it’s notable that Cuomo hasn’t said higher tolls would violate his pledge not to raise taxes. (He did say, however, in reference to the PA toll hike, that “the knee jerk response of ‘government needs more money, go to the taxpayer, put your hand in the taxpayer’s pocket, take out more money, and fund it’ — that doesn’t work for me.”) As Adam Lisberg reported today, if Cuomo makes a distinction between tolls and taxes, transit advocates are holding out hope for a revived push to fund the MTA by putting a price on driving into Manhattan below 60th Street. We’ll probably have to wait until budget season to see if it will gather any momentum in Albany, or if the governor will be content to let transit riders shoulder the burden for NYC’s under-funded transit system and irrationally priced roads.

Video: State of Politics

  • Eric McClure

    Who gives a cr*p whether or not “the politics have changed?” That’s what leadership’s all about.  The politics haven’t changed in Washington, either, and look where that’s gotten us.  With all due respect, Governor, why don’t you put your even-more-popular-than-bike lanes approval rating to work and do what’s right for transportation?

  • Anonymous

    Cuomo continues to be a real disappointment in this area. He is proving himself to be a complete motor-head from Queens.

  • Anonymous

    As long as these guys are not afraid of a bridge collapse, they will starve transport infrastructure until the right people scream uncle after the downward spiral is well along.  

  • vnm

    “Cuomo threw cold water on the idea of reviving congestion pricing, saying he doesn’t believe the politics have changed since the Assembly killed it in 2008.” 

    Except that the Assembly supported bridge tolls in 2009.

  • I just don’t understand how millions in this city ride subways and buses everyday (more than drive I’m sure) yet they don’t speak up for funding transit in lieu of subsidizing drivers. And sadly, the rare times they do speak up it falls on deaf ears because our politicians use their parking placards and drive most everywhere. this shouldn’t even be a debate. 

  • Chris Christiefersen

    So, the guy who was able to get gay marriage passed, convincing a bunch of upstate Catholic assemblymen to vote for something their church has prohibited for centuries, says he can’t pass congestion pricing because of the politics.

    Okay.

  • carma

    i dont understand how anybody can be still for congestion pricing.  yes, the mta is in bad shape.  but seriously, its not like the only drivers in this city are rich and can afford it.  you want a way to really segregate bloomhattan from the rest of the city, by all means pass the congestion pricing.  but again, it hurts everybody.  delivery trucks ALSO get charged you know.  that DOES translate into already high priced goods / services in nyc.

    to save the mta, you are better off raising fares to $2.50 no discounts.

    if you really want to equalize tolls, toll all the bridges and tunnels fairly.  how about tolling every east river bridge into manhattan at $3, but at the same time, reduce the other bridges like the whitestone and throggs neck at $3 as well.

  • @d8d46f16f380afef59ca318522397233:disqus:

    If people have a reason to drive into Manhattan every day, it must have value to them.  If it’s not enough value to actually pay for it, then what’s the problem? As it is now they are using a scarce resource (road space) and creating expense and delay for others.  (See http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/05/ff_komanoff_traffic/all/1)

    Charging delivery trucks is also a good idea, especially if it encourages off-hours deliveries.  If goods delivery is contributing to congestion, why shouldn’t end consumers contribute to reducing its effects? Anyway, the cost per item on a $20 toll (or whatever) would be almost unnoticeable to the end consumer, especially if reduced traffic succeeds in reducing delivery costs — it really is a small price to pay.

    I also really like the idea of lowering tolls in the outlying areas (that is, those with fewer non-driving options); there are reports that the powers that be are considering that.  It makes good practical sense and it makes good political sense.

  • carma

    @twitter-9403902:disqus 

    Heres the problem with thinking that drivers who drive into manhattan MUST pay for it.  lets say someone from long island drives into manhattan and has no easy way to get to the LIRR.  or they work in a location on the far west side of manhattan or far east side of manhattan is troublesome to get to.  what do you propose in that case.

    heh, im not saying that driving into manhattan is the best choice.  It is far from it.  but sometimes, it just is a better route for some folks.  and to assume that all drivers are wealthy enough to pay an extra charge is bogus.

    sometimes folks in queens, and the far reaches of brooklyn drive into manhattan b/c there is no mass transit choice.  and even if we had money to fund the MTA, there STILL wont be a mass transit choice for those folks.

    its very funny, b/c the original thought of the congestion pricing was to help MTA fund for the future.  now it seems like w/o congesetion pricing, the world would crumble.  i dont buy it one bit.

    i also like the idea of off hour deliveries, but the problem with that is that not all businesses have the ability to hire extra staff to accomodate for off hour deliveries, since you do need staff to work the night hours.  yes, bigger stores can do that, but not the smaller guys.

    and btw, you think that $20 wont be passed on to the consumer, but lets say a person is in need of a plumber.  do you think that the plumber will not pass that $20 to the consumer.  heck, i am a part time contractor and if there is a charge that i shouldnt be paying for, guess what.  im passing it on to my client.  again, big box stores may be shielded from extra costs, but there are a lot of small businesses that do need to access manhattan, and the cost of doing business is just too high with extra tolls.

    but, i do agree with sam schwartz’ idea of leveling out the tolls and to toll all the bridges. why treat manhattan with special treatment that it costs extra to get into the CBD.  all the bridges should be fairly priced.  meaning crossing queens->bronx, shouldnt be more expensive than crossing brooklyn->manhattan.

  • carma

    @twitter-9403902:disqus 

    Heres the problem with thinking that drivers who drive into manhattan MUST pay for it.  lets say someone from long island drives into manhattan and has no easy way to get to the LIRR.  or they work in a location on the far west side of manhattan or far east side of manhattan is troublesome to get to.  what do you propose in that case.

    heh, im not saying that driving into manhattan is the best choice.  It is far from it.  but sometimes, it just is a better route for some folks.  and to assume that all drivers are wealthy enough to pay an extra charge is bogus.

    sometimes folks in queens, and the far reaches of brooklyn drive into manhattan b/c there is no mass transit choice.  and even if we had money to fund the MTA, there STILL wont be a mass transit choice for those folks.

    its very funny, b/c the original thought of the congestion pricing was to help MTA fund for the future.  now it seems like w/o congesetion pricing, the world would crumble.  i dont buy it one bit.

    i also like the idea of off hour deliveries, but the problem with that is that not all businesses have the ability to hire extra staff to accomodate for off hour deliveries, since you do need staff to work the night hours.  yes, bigger stores can do that, but not the smaller guys.

    and btw, you think that $20 wont be passed on to the consumer, but lets say a person is in need of a plumber.  do you think that the plumber will not pass that $20 to the consumer.  heck, i am a part time contractor and if there is a charge that i shouldnt be paying for, guess what.  im passing it on to my client.  again, big box stores may be shielded from extra costs, but there are a lot of small businesses that do need to access manhattan, and the cost of doing business is just too high with extra tolls.

    but, i do agree with sam schwartz’ idea of leveling out the tolls and to toll all the bridges. why treat manhattan with special treatment that it costs extra to get into the CBD.  all the bridges should be fairly priced.  meaning crossing queens->bronx, shouldnt be more expensive than crossing brooklyn->manhattan.

  • carma

    @twitter-9403902:disqus 

    Heres the problem with thinking that drivers who drive into manhattan MUST pay for it.  lets say someone from long island drives into manhattan and has no easy way to get to the LIRR.  or they work in a location on the far west side of manhattan or far east side of manhattan is troublesome to get to.  what do you propose in that case.

    heh, im not saying that driving into manhattan is the best choice.  It is far from it.  but sometimes, it just is a better route for some folks.  and to assume that all drivers are wealthy enough to pay an extra charge is bogus.

    sometimes folks in queens, and the far reaches of brooklyn drive into manhattan b/c there is no mass transit choice.  and even if we had money to fund the MTA, there STILL wont be a mass transit choice for those folks.

    its very funny, b/c the original thought of the congestion pricing was to help MTA fund for the future.  now it seems like w/o congesetion pricing, the world would crumble.  i dont buy it one bit.

    i also like the idea of off hour deliveries, but the problem with that is that not all businesses have the ability to hire extra staff to accomodate for off hour deliveries, since you do need staff to work the night hours.  yes, bigger stores can do that, but not the smaller guys.

    and btw, you think that $20 wont be passed on to the consumer, but lets say a person is in need of a plumber.  do you think that the plumber will not pass that $20 to the consumer.  heck, i am a part time contractor and if there is a charge that i shouldnt be paying for, guess what.  im passing it on to my client.  again, big box stores may be shielded from extra costs, but there are a lot of small businesses that do need to access manhattan, and the cost of doing business is just too high with extra tolls.

    but, i do agree with sam schwartz’ idea of leveling out the tolls and to toll all the bridges. why treat manhattan with special treatment that it costs extra to get into the CBD.  all the bridges should be fairly priced.  meaning crossing queens->bronx, shouldnt be more expensive than crossing brooklyn->manhattan.

  • Anonymous

    carma, consider these points:

    Almost nobody has to drive into manhattan.  They may need to drive to a commuter rail, subway, or bus station.  This may be less convenient.  But Manhattan is incredibly well served by many transit options.

    Some people will choose not to come into Manhattan if there are congestion charges or additional tolls.  They will decide the extra cost or the the added inconvenience of coming in without a car is not worth it.  That is ok.  Actually, that is part of the hoped for result – less congestion.  These people are by definition engaging in marginally productive activities if the added cost of the tolls changes their decision to come to Manhattan, so it’s not great loss, at least in economic terms.

    Delivery charges will certainly be passed on the consumer whenever possible.  The marginal impact should be very small.  A $20 charge on a typical box truck making a delivery would translate into a tiny fraction of 1%.  Furthermore, the net cost for some deliveries may not go up at all, or even go down, as reduced congestion would result in less time wasted in traffic, and therefore allow each truck and driver to make more deliveries per day.

    A pricing structure which encourages off-hour deliveries would be effective, even if only a small number of businesses use it.  Reducing the number of vehicles on the road during peak hours by even a few percent should result in large improvements in average travel times. 

  • carma

    @J_12:disqus 

    Yes, these are valid points.  But that still doesnt omit the service guys from passing that extra cost to the consumer.  your example of a typical box truck making a delivery will translate into lets say a furniture delivery guy charging from $40 -> now $60 on all deliveries.  that is much more than that fraction of 1% my friend.

    lets take another point.  you say there is no need to drive to manhattan when you can just drive to a commuter rail.  what if you have a party of 2 carpooling in from up in yonkers.  oh, so they are better off taking the train now?  at the cost of 2 extra passengers?

    again, i dont think that driving to manhattan is the best idea.  but sometimes folks go overboard with the fees/taxes/schmaxes, etc…   you cant always hit’em in the pocket to fix a problem.

    look at banks.  they charge a fee for everything nowadays.  are there problems solved? look at fannie/freddie.  there are so many ridiculous fees for mortgages these days.  they are as close to insolvent as ever.

  • vnm

    @d8d46f16f380afef59ca318522397233:disqus wrote: “But that still doesnt omit the service guys from passing that extra cost to the consumer.”
    Actually, it’s the exact opposite. They would pass on the savings to consumers because they wouldn’t spend hours a day idling in stuck traffic, inefficiently wasting time and wasting gas. We’d get deliveries made in a timely way with less pollution.

    Carma: To your first post, I’m glad to see that you prefer 24-hour tolling on bridges rather than 12-hour tolling as proposed under congestion pricing. More hours of tolling would hopefully translate into more help for transit riders.

  • carma

    the reason im more in favor of that is b/c the bronx -> queens connections and the staten island to brooklyn connections are all tolled.  and tolled too much.  now if we level the playing field by reducing it to lets say $3 or $4 or something similar.  it is a better pill to swallow.

    lets remember that $3 or $4 is MUCH less than a $20 fee.

    $20 x 20 working days is $400 / month.  an extra tax of around $4000 per year.  THAT sir is not gonna cut it w/ ANY middle class person.

    sorry to break all of you guys hopes, but $4000 / year can be spent on a lot of things for middle class folks.  dont always assume that all drivers are wealthy.

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