Today’s Headlines

  • NY1

    Video of Paterson and Bloomberg

    Mayor Campaigns For Congestion Pricing
    March 19, 2008

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended a series of events with United States Transportation Secretary Mary Peters on Wednesday to tout the benefits of congestion pricing, before meeting with Governor David Paterson to discuss the project.

    The mayor met with Peters on Staten Island to show off what the city could do with the estimated $350 in federal funding he could win if his congestion pricing plan is approved.

    He focused on a pilot program on Staten Island’s Victory Boulevard and Bay Street, where travel time has decreased significantly as a result of traffic signal priority. This program allows buses with 150 feet of an intersection to make a traffic light turn from red to green seven seconds early, or extend the green light.

    Bloomberg said there are plans to implement that program across the city, but that may not be a possibility if the congestion pricing plan is not passed by state lawmakers.

    “In fact, the city Department of Transportation is planning to implement TSP systems along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, Union Street, Southern Boulevard, and Hillside Avenue in Queens, and Richmond Terrace on Staten Island,” said the mayor. “We can go forward quickly once the federal money is available. Without that money these projects just won’t happen. This is good an example as there can be, that if we get money, you will see improvements right away.”

    “Residents from around the city would soon be able experience faster, more reliable commutes with technology like this,” added Peters. “Millions more travel Manhattan streets at higher, more reliable speeds once the mayor’s ambitious congestion pricing program moves forward.”

    Later in the day, Bloomberg met with Governor David Paterson for the first time since he was sworn in on Monday.

    “The mayor, obviously, made a very persuasive argument,” said Paterson. “I’m going to take it back, review it myself. I wanted to hear his side of it. Talking to leaders in Albany, this is something we are reviewing and we’ll see what we can do. We don’t have much time to make a decision, so you don’t have to wait long.”

    The mayor says traffic would improve significantly in Manhattan if he was given authority to implement a $8 toll on vehicles traveling below 60th Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, critics say that would unfairly tax city residents who live outside of Manhattan, particularly in areas currently underserved by mass transit.

    Bloomberg needs to win support of both houses in the legislature in Albany, and also get the full approval from the City Council.

    While preparing for today’s meeting between the mayor and Peters, city officials realized they might have a little more time to convince state lawmakers to go along with the plan.

    The agreement between the city and the U.S. DOT sets a deadline of 90 days after the state legislative session began – which would make it April 7th, instead of March 31st as originally thought.

    Although – just to add some confusion to that – the state passed a last year promising a decision on the issue in time for the federal deadline. So that state deadline still reads March 31st.

  • Spud Spudly

    Setting aside the merits of the proposal for just a moment, how many people still think CP is going to pass before the end of the month?

    I can’t see at this point how even the City Council will approve it, never mind the state Assembly where opposition was strong even before Bloomberg started writing checks for senate Republicans. The new governor appears to have given Bloomberg a polite hearing-out but has not stated support for the plan. As of yesterday, less than two weeks away from the deadline for fed funding, Bloomberg’s bill hadn’t even been introduced into the state legislature. And there hasn’t been any massive groundswell of public support despite an advertising and P.R. campaign. So how is this going to happen?

  • Ombud

    Budget bills don’t get introduced until the night they are passed – the deal is concluded and leadership rams them through. That’s how important stuff gets done in NY.

  • Davis

    Never underestimate the power of a legislative pay raise and last Big Ugly-making, Spud.

  • I was glad, reading the WSJ pricing article Monday, to at least see where Weiner is coming from. It’s true! The only reason we are close to actually implementing pricing here is because of the actions (and luck) of a neoconnish libertarian cabal in the Bush DOT:

    “the goal is not just to combat congestion but to upend the traditional way transportation projects are funded in this country. They believe that tolls paid by motorists, not tax dollars, should be used to construct and maintain roads.”

    (How awful!) The effect on transit funding that Weiner is being spooky about is a sideshow. As the article makes clear, it was suburban transit projects (like a train to Dulles airport) that lost funding to the pricing initiative. The “transit industry” is upset, but people in big cities have no reason to be.

    As for what transit funding we may lose if pricing is implemented, Weiner is reaching. Even in theory: the DOT has admitted to the politically unpopular goal of privatizing and tolling highways, but hasn’t pitched it as a way to defund transit (for their base, a popular idea). And to the contrary, the proposed pricing schemes funnel money to transit. Their main, honest-to-god purpose is to decentralize transportation funding.

    The current centralized system for funding transportation SUCKS FOR NYC. What Weiner is defending, this precious thing that we might lose, is a system where we all (New Yorkers more than others) subsidize the American automotive infrastructure and industry even as both collapse and take us down with them. The US Senate, where our city/state gets 2 out of 100 votes, could give a damn about funding NYC public transportation. That is why we get a sporadic trickle. When we finally have a reliable source through pricing it will not alter the politics that provide the crappy one, for what it’s worth.

    Privately wealthy cities like ours should be chomping at the bit to change transit spending from a national to local debate. We don’t have to beg the country that we prop up for financial aid! But without pricing we don’t have the local infrastructure (legal or physical) to keep the “free”, dysfunctional auto system from disappearing all levied funds and convincing New Yorkers that the city can not be trusted to collect money and spend it on transit. (What the heck is it FOR then?) And so we became federal beggars, clutching desperately to a system biased against us. That can change now.

    Also, by the way, the Bush administration is heading out? There isn’t enough time for them to push their idea to the phase where the fed DOT cuts back funding across the board. All that can be done now is to stabilize it, to outsource the immediately crumbling parts of the automobile infrastructure instead of patching them with raised gas taxes. (Silly goal, tax-wise, but it doesn’t exclude revenue-neutral carbon taxes.) Capping auto subsidies is something for livable streets advocates to celebrate, not fear.

    Read the WSJ article: it should be music to New York ears. (Don’t worry, the privatization aspect is for inhuman megahighways like I-95 to Miami. City streets will remain public as the public collects money from high-impact uses.) We have to be bigger than Weiner with his Bush branding, Glick with her embarrassing envy of Bloomberg, and our own anger with Ms. Peters for being a complete doofus about bicycles. We have to get behind the policies because they are the right policies, even when advanced by the wrong people.

  • He focused on a pilot program on Staten Island’s Victory Boulevard and Bay Street, where travel time has decreased significantly as a result of traffic signal priority.

    You’re right, NY1, that is a big deal. Your story got the rollout a bit garbled, but here’s another version:

    The City’s Department of Transportation plans to install TSP technology at more than 30 intersections along six miles of Fordham Road in the Bronx by this summer, and is looking to install systems along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, on Union Street, Sutphin Boulevard and Hillside Avenue in Queens, and Richmond Terrace on Staten Island.