What Will It Take for Assemblyman Kellner to Vote for Pricing?

Two weeks ago, State Assemblyman Micah Kellner submitted a report to the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission [pdf] detailing his concerns about the two pricing plans in the TCMC’s interim report. Kellner’s district encompasses both of the congestion zone’s proposed northern boundaries, running from 60th Street to about 90th Street, and from 3rd Avenue to the East River, including Roosevelt Island. He has consistently said that he and his constituents support "the concept of congestion pricing," while objecting to several of the specifics in the actual plans.

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The report is based on residents’ responses to a detailed survey; 64 percent said they supported pricing (I highly recommend the survey data, which begins on page 12). Reading it feels like a quick whiff of fresh air if you’re used to choking on the fumes spewed by Anthony Weiner, et al. But the sensation doesn’t last long. Even though Kellner declines to dismiss pricing out of hand, he requests so many adjustments that it’s fair to ask whether any real-world plan could secure his support.

The report states that "none of the five options outlined in the [TCMC] report constitutes a viable plan," then goes on to suggest alterations that would make pricing palatable. A satisfactory pricing plan, it says, would:

  • Guarantee all revenue goes toward the MTA’s capital budget
  • Include a residential parking permit program
  • Deduct tolls on MTA or Port Authority bridges from the congestion fee for New York State vehicles (out-of-state drivers would pay in full)
  • Set the northern boundary at 72nd Street, not 86th Street (because it’s a major commercial corridor) or 60th Street (which would lead to a park-and-walk effect)
  • Add exemptions for disabled people and those making trips to the hospital
  • Dump the "regressive" taxi surcharge in favor of one on "black cars" (luxury livery vehicles)

The full list is quite long. Some of the concerns have been subsequently addressed. Other objections seem like the same type of straw man argument advanced by the most ardent foes of pricing. Given a likely scenario in which the TCMC’s final recommendations incorporate some but not most of these suggestions, how will Kellner and others straddling the fence cast their lot?

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