Brennan Introduces Alternative Pricing Bill in Assembly

044.jpgAssemblyman Jim Brennan, a Democrat from Brooklyn, has introduced a new congestion pricing bill, according to a statement released by his office. The bill contains some elements lifted from Mayor Bloomberg’s original proposal, including:

  • Re-instating the $4 intrazonal fee
  • Exempting drivers who cross into Manhattan below 60th Street but only drive on the periphery

If these changes were to be applied, against the recommendations of the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, it would result in higher administrative costs and more surveillance cameras. Although Brennan identified himself as a pricing supporter when the idea was first floated last summer, at this point his bill seems to undermine much of the approval process to date, including the contributions of the TCMC and the City Council’s vote on Monday in favor of a home rule message.

Brennan alerted his colleagues in the Assembly to the new bill this morning. His office told me it is too early to say whether the bill enjoys more support among Assembly Democrats, who are currently discussing pricing behind closed doors, than the version that the City Council approved. As of this writing, the bill has no co-sponsors.

UPDATE: The new bill would also require congestion pricing to come up for renewal in three years and prevent the MTA from issuing bonds backed by pricing revenue.

Brennan’s full press release:

Brennan Congestion Pricing Bill Authorizes Plan as an Experiment;

Exerts Full City Council Control over Residential Permit Parking;

Retains Elements of Original Proposal that Required Entrance into the Business District Before a Charge is Imposed

State Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D – Brooklyn) has introduced a congestion pricing bill. The new proposal takes a variety of ideas that have been advanced and blends them together to create a better plan, while dropping or changing several proposals advanced by the Traffic Mitigation Commission.

Key to this proposal involves authorizing congestion pricing as a three-year experiment, similar to the concept advanced by Mayor Bloomberg last summer. Authorizing the congestion pricing program as an experiment would assure that the MTA does not go into debt by selling bonds with congestion pricing revenue pledged toward the new debt, only to find that the program is unsuccessful in deterring traffic congestion. The congestion pricing revenue, estimated at $500 million per year, would still be directed to the MTA capital program.

The new bill retains two concepts advanced in the original Mayoral proposal from 2007. First, it would retain the $4 charge for auto trips originating within the zone. Short trips would be exempt. The proposal also only charges drivers crossing bridges and tunnels into Manhattan if they enter the zone. Under the Traffic Mitigation proposal just supported by the City Council, drivers who cross bridges and tunnels in to Manhattan but bypass the zone are still charged $8.

Another aspect of the Brennan bill would require full City Council approval of residential permit parking plans. This would assure that individual neighborhoods would not be able to create exclusive zones without the consent of all of the City government’s elected representatives. New aspects of the Council-supported program, such as a Port Authority contribution, a low-income tax credit, and prevailing wage, are included in the proposal, as well as a new compliance requirement for the MTA for the State’s MWBE program.

  • I’m fine with most of the changes, but would really NOT want the periphery to be exempt if possible. I remember the mayor’s plan had exemptions for corridors between the bridges and highways, like on 60th street. Those types of loopholes will be exploited and lead to really high congestion along those corridors. Stand on 60th or 63rd Streets and First Avenue and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Dave

    This is a huge step backward:
    – this would do less to eliminate traffic on the bridges and tunnels and alleviate Brooklyn/Queens traffic.
    – the cost to monitor intra-zone trips would eat up a large part of the additional revenue.
    – what is a “short” trip?
    – no exemtion for staying on the highways. If they want highway travel use Staten Island, Triboro or the Cross-Bronx to avoid the zone altogether.
    – RPP needs to be coordinated centrally withe areas defined by existing political boundaries to avoid confusion and overlap.

  • vnm

    NY1’s Josh Robin on the phone from Albany reports 10 speakers against Pricing at that closed door Assembly Democratic caucus meeting, and zero in favor of it.

  • Big Tent

    The truth is sitting out in the hall on a bench with the DOT commissioner and Russianoff. Inside, the convened assemblymembers will be holding a pep rally for irrationality and self-delusion. Look for some more quality bills along the lines of universal exemptions except for $100 fees for investment bankers driving red foreign cars.

  • momos

    I don’t understand Brennan’s move at all. Why is he doing this? Theories, anybody?

  • How odd, to suggest throwing out the commission’s work. I would take either plan, any plan, but the one requiring more infrastructure was clearly not the favorite. If Brennan is worried about CBD residents with cars not paying the fee, he should ask some of them how they feel about the commission’s plan. My impression that they don’t see an advantage in it, because no one is regularly driving entirely within the zone. It’s a small area with very expensive parking and cramped streets; if they are travelling by car in the zone a cab is easier, cheaper, and faster. If they are going far enough to make personal driving worthwhile it would mean paying the congestion fee. Plus there’s the repeal of the private parking tax exemption.

    AND there just aren’t that many downtown residents with cars to get upset about in the first place. Manhattan’s only concentration of car ownership is the UES:
    http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/01/12/the-times-is-a-changin/

    They will be subject to pricing exactly the same as those living on the other side of free bridges. It’s a pretty good plan, all things considered! Do we really need a whole new one right now?

  • Dave

    I live in the zone and with the recent taxi hikes it is usually easier and cheaper for me to drive round-trip within the city and park in a garage than to take a round-trip cab. That’s why I laughed at Brodsky’s ridiculous plan to raise taxi fares: that seems to have died.

    I hardky ever drive in the CP hours so do not add to congestion, but even with the CP fee figured in it’s cheaper to drive.

    Of course I am totally against the repeal of the parking tax exemption; we should be encouraging people to park their cars in garages rather than on the street. I can forsee more street spaces with RPP so people take cars out of the now-more-expensive garages to park there.

    But as a Manhattan resident I am used to getting the short end of the financial stick on everything.

  • JK

    This is mischief aimed at defeating congestion pricing. It distracts from the business at hand, which is passing the CP language already approved by City Council, the mayor, governor and ready to go in the Senate. Anything which increases confusion or complexity consumes time. The clock is the enemy. The legislative scenario old Albany hands feared on April 23, 2007 was Shelly running out the clock using a whole bag of tricks. This is one of those tricks. This is about not coming to a vote. The assembly fears getting blamed for the upcoming MTA meltdown — $3.00 base fare by 2010 — and is trying to reconcile that with getting blamed for a congestion fee.

  • JF

    But why would Brennan pull such an obvious trick? He must know how many of the most vocal congestion pricing supporters live in his district.

  • So, right, Dave you don’t see much personal advantage in the commission’s lack of in-zone charging. I’d imagine that the point at which taxi fares exceed short-term parking (and gas, etc.) is roughly near the zone boundaries. There will be some zone residents making use of their cars on some days without paying the fee, but those are edge cases that aren’t worth blanketing the zone with ez-pass readers. (In principle, and in net revenue.)

    And yeah if anyone thinks that cooking up last minute alternative plans that solve imaginary problems will get them off the hook for killing the real plan they are sorely mistaken.

  • me: “making use of their cars on some days without paying the fee”

    During peak hours specifically, I meant. Whatever happens off peak when no one is paying the fee is irrelevant.

  • Dave

    The point I was trying to make is that charging $4 for a trip in the zone is not worth the investment and in my mind unfair to me. Why should I have to pay to drive in my neighborhood if someone in the other boroughs doesn’t?

    Frankly as much as we talk about “one city” we are a city of neighborhoods and the easiest solution out there is to toll the East and Harlem River bridges, and for all you Manhattan-haters out there make them two way. Trust me you come to Manhattan a lot more than I ever go to the boroughs.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Respectful disagreement regarding the following points.

    1) “This is mischief aimed at defeating congestion pricing.” —- This is instead mischief aimed at allowing Mr. Brennan to have his cake and eat it too. He can avoid the fate of Mr. De Blasio widely seen pandering against policies he has supported for years (tolling the bridges) and pretend he is voting against this because of this or that.

    2) “The clock is the enemy.” —- The clock may not be a friend, but it is a clock, without which the game would never end. (F. Zappa “and the torture never stops)

    3) “if anyone thinks that cooking up last minute alternative plans that solve imaginary problems will get them off the hook for killing the real plan they are sorely mistaken.” —-while that may be Mr. Brennan’s intention I think that the hardball politics of the situation will take care of it. He may want to vote against the entire budget scenario. A lot of people would like to, but they still want the legislative pay raise. What to do? They can’t all vote against it and still get the pay raise, there is no where to hide. It is all going to be wrapped up in the same ball of string.

    This is one of those moments where good policy can only move through the mechanisms of raw political power. It has very little to do with the candy coated version of democracy we are fed in grade school, checks and balances, etc. Backs get scratched and if they don’t nothing moves. Everything New York political culture has learned from Tammany Hall must be engaged to pass this. As the Harlem Fox once said, “no one ever does anything for nothing.”

  • Well, Dave, it all depends on where you draw the lines. The proposed zone is much larger than your “neighborhood” and hypothetical zones could include all of Manhattan, or all of the city. Why should anyone have to pay to drive in his own city? The answer is to compensate other city residents for pollution and exclusive use of public space; the same applies to resident motorists of the zone (which has some of the lowest percentage car owning neighborhoods in the city). The only reason you shouldn’t have to pay is that it isn’t worth the infrastructure it would take to make you pay.

    These are exactly the kind of divisions this insta-plan is intended to create, I would speculate. But while there is no perfect congestion pricing plan, the principles are sound enough that practically any plan is better than the unregulated mess of over-capacity traffic we presently suffer. You and I both support the commission’s plan, and though I hope you’d find it in your heart to support a plan that charged for intra-zone trips, that isn’t the question at hand. The only credible plan in Albany is the commission’s plan that over the past year has been painstakingly determined, dissected, debated, and finally emerged intact and approved by the city council.

  • JK

    Nic, agreed on Brennan. Whatever his exact motivation — and I think you nailed it — any new proposals should be read as as a way to oppose pricing. Which is a bit interesting since Citizens Union ( a typically thoughtful group) has issued it’s own last minute revision, which opens the exemption loophole door wide enough for Gods Love We Deliver to drive it’s truck through.

    We’ll see how ugly the sausage making ends up. By Thursday AM the cops and firemen will probably have their exemptions. I’d be much happier if the whole first year of pricing revenue was divvied up in the senate and assembly to direct to their districts for whatever they wanted. It would be much cheaper in the long run.

    Given the amount of effort and discipline the vast coalition of civic and neighborhood groups have expended creating and maintaining a united front, this last second freelancing is a bit mindboggling. This is also a good word for the hutzpah of Gods Love We Deliver, which is displaying phenomenal parochialism, or more likely kissing the ass of a political patron. They have timed their concerns for maximum destructive effect.

    (Incidentally, the hutzpah of the exec dir of that group to undermine a vast coalition

    http://citizensunion.org/news_release/04_02_08.html

  • Dave

    Doc:
    My view is that if my trip doesn’t take me over a bridge or through a tunnel it is local as the cost to maintain a bridge or tunnel is much higher than a street. Arbitrary maybe but rivers do make natural boundaries.

    Unlike London which had to create such arbitrary (and expanding) boundaries why not just give in to mother nature and toll the bridges and tunnels and be done with it.

    Make the tolls two-way (which should be done everywhere) and exempt those on the Cross-Bronx and be done with it.

    How many of the poor in the Bronx travel to Harlem by car and vice-versa? How many of these phantom poor-car-owners-driving-to-Manhattan will be impacted by this? Not many I bet.

    If I am to be charged for intra-zone travel in Manhattan I expect those of you shouting how bad traffic is in the outer boroughs will accept intra-zone fees in downtown Brooklyn as well.

  • NoZone

    The intrazone costs too much. It’s a bad deal. Plan is much better without it.

  • JF

    Agreed. As long as you charge more for parking (through elimination of the tax deduction, an increase in on-street parking, and reduction of placard use), there is no need for the intrazone. I thought that was one of the most elegant things about the Commission’s plan.

  • Dave, you aren’t going to be charged for intra-zone travel. Just shut your mouth please. You are feeding the legislative trolls.

    Seriously, though, it’s fine if you don’t support pure congestion pricing. It’s fine with me if the coalition includes people that support the plan as a way to finally sort-of toll the east river bridges. If we weren’t talking about congestion pricing I would support bridge tolling as a worthwhile aim in itself. But that’s been a big fat loser historically. Maybe you could take a lesson from that and stick to reaffirming your support of the plan on the table (at this crucial point!). Whenever technology advances to the point that intra-zone tolls are worth looking at for NYC we can sit at opposite sides of the table.

    NM: “It has very little to do with the candy coated version of democracy we are fed in grade school, checks and balances, etc.”

    Mrs. Henderson has a lot to answer for. I wonder if I could dig up her e-mail address? Speaking of candy, though, I’m getting through this week with a steady intake of ice cream and beer. I can not WAIT until it’s over. There’s still the Democratic presidential “race” to worry about, but I’m far more attached to this policy, and the insane drama of right now being our only real shot at getting it in the next few years, than I am to any politician.

  • Dave

    Those of us with cars in the CP zone can afford to have and will continue to have cars no matter the games you borough-ites play with the Manhattan parking tax exemption.

    By eliminating the parking tax reduction you are doing exactly the wrong thing; if anything the reduction should be greater to entice more people to park in garages, freeing street space for loading zones, bike parking and other non-car uses.

    Get rid of the placard-criminals and insurance cheats through RPP and more street space will be created. Rather than have that space taken over by parkers moving out of the now-more-expensive garage, have them stay in the garage and use the space more wisely.

    Eliminate on-street parking permanently on one side of the street (alternating) to allow deliveries, taxi drop-offs and the like.

    The streets in the city, especially the CP zone should not be used for car storage. Raise the parking tax and you will encourage exactly that.

  • “you borough-ites”

    Now you’re officially having this argument with the voices in your head, as we (unfortunately) inhabit the same borough. Hey look everybody, if you want to argue with Dave about the parking tax exemption, that jewel of public policy, this is the place! (It sounds fun but I’ll pass.)

  • Dave H.

    Dave,

    There already is a finite amount of on-street parking and it’s already all taken. Just where do you think the people leaving the garages are going to put their cars? The result of removing the parking sales tax exemption will be

    1) slightly fewer cars owned by Manhattan residents
    2)higher tax revenues
    3) slightly lower pre-tax garage rates

    To what degree any of the above will occur, I don’t claim to know. I don’t think any more people will store their car on the street, unless you know of some unused parking spots somewhere that no one else does (and if you did, why were you parking in a garage in the first place?) Does this make any sense to you?

  • MrManhattan

    I Hate to say it, but for a guy who lives on Manhattan and still owns a car, Dave makes a lot of sense.

    Manhattan is an island (well to me, it’s a world, but thats another thread) so it would be easy, economical and intelligent to simply charge the fee to transport and store a one or two ton 600-1000 square foot piece of personal property on the second most valuable real estate on the planet at the point where they cross the river.

    There are what, 15, 20 places to access Manhattan from the mainland? It makes far more sense to make all of Manhattan “the Manhattan zone” than to arbitrarily declare south of 60th street a “congestion zone”

    Now for the folks like Dave (I had no idea that so many people own cars on Manhattan! I’ve lived here almost 30 years and only know one), the point is not whether they should or shouldn’t pay, they should, but the cost/benefit doesn’t add up.

    Only about 2-3% of the households in the “congestion district” own cars, so if there’s 2-3 people per “household” that puts the percentage of people to cars at about 1%. In order to monitor these rare birds, a sophisticated (ie expensive)system of EZ Pass sensors and cameras would have to be set up covering thousands of blocks of city streets just to capture that 1% of the population (a lot of whom only drive to the Hamptons on the weekends so wouldn’t have to pay anyway).

    The cost of setting up that system (even before the costs of the superfluous lawsuits by the NYCLU) would be a large multiple of the fees collected.

    Collecting the Fee at the bridge or tunnel makes far more sense from a pure cost/benefit analysis standpoint.

  • Eric

    I believe that Brennan supports congestion pricing. I think he’s pretty sure that there aren’t enough votes to pass it, and he believes (rightly or wrongly) that his alternative may be more palatable. But I think exempting the FDR and West Side Highway waters down the effect.

    Toll the bridges!

  • ParkSlopeBob

    When did George Costanza get elected to the Assembly???

    I must have missed that episode!

  • MrManhattan, you seem to be blurring the issues of a 60th street cordon vs. all-Manhattan zone vs. intra-zone charging, unless I am misunderstanding? It is not a choice between expanding the zone to the whole island and Brennan’s intra-zone plan. In fact the most likely option, the default option, is the commission’s 60th street bounded zone with no intra-zone charges and a relatively simple cordon of ez-pass checkpoints along one street. What’s wrong with that? (If you include the UES without charging intra-zone, you add a TON of freebie unregulated drivers. That is why the commission shrank the zone when abandoning intra-zone. It’s all worked out. We should not be rethinking from scratch on Thursday of drop dead week!)

  • Dave

    MrManhattan: thank you for your support. I sometimes feel alone as a Manhattan car-owner.

    DaveH: I walk down the streets in my neighborhood and see the same cars parked all the time with NJ, CT, PA, Ohio, you name it plates. These people live in NYC and register their cars elsewhere for insurance and registration savings.

    I bet these same people also don’t pay NYC resident taxes. RPP is necessary to get these registration and tax-cheats off the street. Do that and you will free up a lot of on-street parking.

    DocB: I only got a car because I had to reverse commute to NJ and there was no public transit option. But once I had the car there was no giving it up. Unlike a lot of people with cars it the city, however, my car was always registered and insured at my Manhattan address and parked in a garage.

    What percentage of the cars that park on your block have out-of-state tags? And are always there?

    And the additional $40 to take away my exemption is one round-trip taxi fare. Big deal. The city would gain a lot more by looking at those car owners parking on the street and falsely claiming residency elsewhere.

    Focus on the big tax revenue dollars and collecting them; not on the inconsequential intra-zone fees or parking-tax exemption dollars.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I agree that this is Albany at its finest — prevent something that would benefit someone other than the special interests that provide the sinecures, and try to find a way to avoid blame.

    “The right wing Bush Administration too away the money with their bogus deadline.”

    “The out-of-touch billionaire wouldn’t negotiate.”

    Except for this part:

    (UPDATE: The new bill would also require congestion pricing to come up for renewal in three years and prevent the MTA from issuing bonds backed by pricing revenue.)

    I guess in a best case scenario that would stick, because it hopefully doesn’t contradict the home rule message and commission.

  • Phil

    You know what a short trip is? Going from Brooklyn to NJ without paying an arm and a leg or going miles out of your way. So you got to take the Verazano and then some other bridge and maybe a parkway. Or you go up the BQE disaster to the Triboro and then over to the Cross Bronx disaster to the GW disaster. I guess burning all that gasoline and polluting the air for a longer period of time to do that is fine with the smug, self satisfied and self righteous. Oh you mean I shouldn’t go at all? Wait I’ll get my mule.

  • JF

    I guess burning all that gasoline and polluting the air for a longer period of time to do that is fine with the smug, self satisfied and self righteous. Oh you mean I shouldn’t go at all? Wait I’ll get my mule.

    Well, Phil, judging from your comment you’d probably know better than me about what the smug, self-satisfied and self-righteous think. The environmentalists would prefer you took the train.

  • Answer for Phil

    A serious question deserves a serious answer. Of course there are times and people who need to drive from Brooklyn to NJ. You pay $8.00, knowing that your $8.00 is going to take 4 other people off the road and into transit. It’s your contribution to keeping your mode moving, and enabling others to keep theirs functional.
    But then you might start thinking about creating some disincentives to people like me driving into the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. For example, I confess I go there, maybe driving through your local streets, to shop at the big box stores, which aren’t near transit, on the weekend, when there will be no CP. If Ikea, Costco, Target and Fairway were required to CHARGE for parking in their sprawling lots, and there were watertaxi and bus options (Ikea used to offer a free bus to New Yorkers to its Elizabeth, NJ store), I will stop driving through YOUR neighborhood.
    Congestion pricing has to be seen as one of many tools. It’s been strung around a small section of Manhattan (not the entire borough or island) that acts as a powerful traffic magnet for the larger metropolitan region. It should logically be able to reduce traffic originating far beyond the city.

    By the way, I believe you are wrong that the outer boroughs contribute least to the CBD traffic. As I recall, it was much higher than the suburban commuters, despite having more transit options.

  • Poor deluded Dave. The answer to out-of-state registry already exists in the state motor vehicle code. It is illegal to do what they do already.

    If the world was “fair” you would not be so wealthy as to be able to live in Manhattan, own a car and have the luxury of a job…anywhere. So get off your self righteous high horse of entitlement and start getting with the program. The costs to society at large for you to enjoy owning a car in Manhattan far exceed what you pay; CP or no.

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