Bloomberg Says There’s No Reason Pricing Shouldn’t Pass

Mayor Bloomberg (far, far background) at the Battery Park City Ritz-Carlton this morning

It’s now or never for congestion pricing, the MTA, and maybe even the city itself, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning.

Speaking before a sold-out crowd at the Battery Park City Ritz-Carlton, Bloomberg and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters were the guests of honor at today’s Crain’s New York Business Breakfast Forum, where the mayor painted a bleak picture for a city transit system without congestion revenues and the $354 million in federal funds that hinge on the adoption of a pricing plan by March 31.

“Refusing those funds is basically saying that there will be next to no MTA capital projects in our immediate future,” said Bloomberg. “It’s just the truth of the matter. There is no money short of this.”

Bloomberg said there are “only four significant issues” left to address in the current pricing plan. As to doubts that revenues will be dedicated to transit, the mayor implied there would be no alternative, other than “a steep increase in fares.” The MTA has borrowed all that is “feasible,” he said, noting that even with pricing funds, there is a $9 billion gap in the agency’s capital plan.

Residential parking zones will guard against park-and-ride problems, Bloomberg said. Responding to criticism of a toll credit for New Jersey car commuters, the mayor cited estimates that indicate the new $8 toll is already reducing peak hour traffic. “So, in a very real sense, there’s already a congestion pricing fee for New Jersey drivers,” he said, pointing out that the State of New York receives a 50 percent share of Port Authority tolls.

According to Bloomberg, his administration is working with lawmakers on a possible refund for low-income city commuters “that offsets what they’d pay in congestion pricing fees that are over and above the comparable cost of commuting by subway” — a significant compromise reportedly insisted upon by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He gave no further details.

Though he said the city needs to “make sure our governor is on board,” Bloomberg bristled at the notion that recent turmoil in Albany could stall the plan, since the makeup of the legislature has not changed. “There’s nothing new here,” he said. “Either you’re going to do it or you’re not.”

Asked if there was any possibility that the plan could be passed now but implemented during better economic times, as has been suggested by Comptroller William Thompson, Secretary Peters responded simply: “No.” For her part, Peters said she is “optimistic” congestion pricing will pass. If not, she said, New Yorkers will have missed out on a “once in a generation” opportunity.

Playing to his business-friendly audience, Bloomberg elicited rueful chuckles when he pointed out that while New York has four earth-boring machines at work on subterranean transportation tunnels, Shanghai has 90.

“Cities that are our competitors in the global economy are making investments that will ensure their future,” he said. “So must we.”

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

More Mixed Signals on Pricing’s Chances Under Paterson

|
  "Today is Monday. There is work to be done." So said David Paterson, who was sworn in as New York’s 55th governor just after 1:00 this afternoon. Two Mondays from now, the City Council and state Legislature will need to have adopted a congestion pricing plan if the city is to receive $354 million […]

From a Sea of Green, Bloomberg Works a Tough Room

|
Flanked by dozens, if not hundreds, of citizen spectators in bright green "I Breathe and I Vote" t-shirts, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city staffers this morning made the case for a three-year congestion pricing pilot program to a largely hostile cadre of state Assembly members. Seated alongside ten colleagues in the auditorium of the New […]

Today: Dueling Congestion Pricing Press Events

|
State Assembly Member Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) is releasing his report on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal on the steps of City Hall today at 2:00 pm. Billed as "the first thorough, independent, and fair-minded" analysis (Apparently, the Partnership for New York’s two-year study wasn’t thorough and Bruce Schaller’s massive body of research wasn’t independent […]

Congestion Pricing Plan Advancing Rapidly

|
Sewell Chan at the New York Times’ Empire Zone has more on this morning’s meeting between Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Spitzer and US Dept. of Transportation secretary Mary Peters: Mr. Spitzer said at a news conference this morning, "There will always be some congestion and the good news is there is economic growth and there’s vitality […]

Congestion Panel Meets Amidst Q Poll Parsing

|
The third meeting of the 17-member Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission will be held at 2:00 this afternoon at the offices of Hughes Hubbard and Reed, 1 Battery Park Plaza (24 State St. @ Pearl St.), 10th Floor, in Manhattan. Today’s event comes on the heels of a new Quinnipiac Poll, released yesterday, that shows support […]