With Congestion Pricing Dead, a $17 Billion Transit Deficit Looms

We’re putting in some calls and getting some initial reactions to the State Assembly’s failure to bring New York City’s congestion pricing plan to a vote today.

Michael O’Loughlin at the Campaign for New York’s Future said:

Congestion pricing is dead. Long live congestion pricing.

The Assembly still has to come up with a plan to deal with a $17 billion transit deficit in a $29 billion capital plan. As Gene Russianoff at the Straphangers Campaign said, ‘That’s more hole than plan.’

The fundamental facts remain the same. The traffic problem and air pollution problems are real. The need for better transit is real. Two-thirds of New Yorkers support congestion pricing if the funds are used for transit. The success of congestion pricing in other cities is real. The reality is that we have to come up with a plan to solve our traffic and transit crisis, if not today then tomorrow.

Now, the legislature has to confront the MTA capital plan. They have to come up with billions and billions of dollars from somewhere.

It doesn’t end here. The issue is engaged and it’s not going away. But this is a bad day for 7.5 million transit riders, that’s for sure.

Noah Budnick at Transportation Alternatives said:

There is still a lot that the Mayor and City Council can do without the state but it’s certainly less than what we could do with that $354 million in federal money, the hundreds of millions of dollars in congestion pricing revenue and the billions in bond money that we could have done with congestion pricing.

The city doesn’t need Albany’s permission to undertake parking policy reform, to establish market rate curbside parking and to start reclaiming street space from automobiles and repurposing it for other uses. The city doesn’t need state approval to build dedicated bus ways and protected bike lanes. Bus lane enforcement cameras do need Albany’s permission but can be stand-alone legislation and may not be as heavy a lift. Creating pedestrian-only streets temporarily or permanently, Albany has no say over that. And we could establish a bike-sharing program similar to what Paris has done.

  • Dave

    I hope the public outrage over this defeat will lead to a closer examination of NY state politics and the need to both throw out the current leadership, and to change the rules that stack the deck against the city.

    As for the CP-opponents, I can’t wait to say “I told you so” when the twin disasters of congestion and transit funding get dramatically worse. Higher fares for sure; fewer improvements in transit as well.

    Fidler, Brodsky, Weprin, Vallone and all you Manhattan-haters who saw it as us-vs-them rather than a funding issue; you’ll get yours.

  • gecko

    Noah is right and the city should have been adding these low-cost improvements from the very beginning, then maybe Congestion Price might have had — will have — more proponents.

  • ms nomer

    Hey Joey Paesan: I am a Brooklyn native and proud that I never needed a car to get around (or to prove my sexual virility – think about it). Progressive transportation policy isn’t an outsider-only thing. I strongly support congestion pricing, NYC parking reform and livable streets. You want to cruise in your beloved BMW? First, thank me for the taxes I pay to keep your local streets even half-ass decent. Then move to the suburbs where you belong.

  • gecko

    With adhoc protected bike lanes 500,000 people traversed the city daily on bicycles during the transit strike which can easily be put in place again.

    This is the season to start really improving transportation in this town using known and proven low-carbon people-friendly strategies.

  • Mark

    To everybody re #1: Don’t feed the troll.

  • brent

    It will be interesting to see how the country’s most worthless and corrupt state legislative body will justify raising transit fares (a “TAX” on the working class if ever there was one). They seem perfectly comfortable voting for a 22% pay raise for themselves- for a part time job. How can they justify turning down 350 million in federal money for the rest of us?? I am tired of saying this all the time- our leaders are a shameful and spineless bunch and no problem will ever be solved by this group of low lifes. Unfortunately, it is now up to the citizenry to make the changes happen- the “leaders” do not possess the qualities necessary to get anything accomplished. As more information because available, public reaction should be swift and severe. I had to really clean up this rant so it doesn’t get censored.

  • gecko

    Those legislators who supported Congestion Pricing should be proud to say so just as those who did so before the closed door meeting and including Speaker Sheldon Silver.

  • Melky Cabrera

    Glad to see that sanity is still alive in Albany. The “millionares tax”, which 80 percent of the public supports (unlike CP which has less than 50% support)can provide real funding for transportation without adding another tax to the middle class.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Millionaires tax will take all the attention in the immediate future. Congestion pricing will become yesterday’s news. Then quietly more Paris type solutions can be proffered. Control of the streets can yield more MTA value in terms of productivity and capacity utilization than CP. It will be tough but thats the only road to go down if this is really finished.
    Outside chance that once the Federal deadline has passed Silver can make it happen, then call the Mayor and the Fed’s bluff regarding the Federal money.

  • Josh

    Well gee, go figure, 80% of the public supports the millionaires tax. Could that be because it won’t inconvenience them in any way?

    But ask the public to support anything that might affect their daily lives and they go ape.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I think D’Toqueville called it the “Dictatorship of the Majority”.

  • Real Men: 1,
    Liberal Douchebags trying to live the “urb” dream as an expression of their midlife / quarterlife crisis: 0

  • fester

    Joey, are you gay? I’d love to go for a ride in your BMW. You sound hot!

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Forse tu non sai niente Giuseppe.

    Congestion Pricing was actually a market based solution to both traffic and MTA funding. What you really favor is “Socialism for BMWs”.

    “Non ha certo bisogno di una candela per vedere il sole.”

  • Clarence

    I remind everyone this (here comes a pep speech):

    I have been engaged in the fight for cleaner air, safer streets, less traffic and such for almost 15 years. In the last year or so I have witnessed things I never thought would happen. Up until today, we had been on a long streak of good news. Really good news and innovative initiatives. It was enough to almost make one forget what defeat feels like.

    But it has energized me even more. This fight is hardly over. Like Noah says, the mayor could do some amazing things: declare the parks car-free, do lots of dedicated bus lanes and take back streets from cars, build more separated bike lanes, parking reform and loads more. We have to hurry, no doubt about that, but we can still get plenty done.

    My video on pedestrian life and the walkability of Melbourne should post shortly. Hopefully it will be just another item that can help fast-track more improvements that do not need the approval of people like Brodsky, De Blasio, Weprin, SIlver, electeds who have just helped continue the political tradition of doing nothing in the face of a local and global crisis. May their children, grandchildren and families forgive them one day if the best advocates cannot turn this city and world around.

  • Carol Wood

    The Times reports that Gov. Paterson has called an emergency meeting on CP that was going on as of 5:45.

    I have already phoned the Speaker’s office (212-312-1420) to demand that the plan be put to a vote, and the Gov (518-474-8390) to thank him and ask him to do everything humanly possible to implement the plan.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Those legislators who supported Congestion Pricing should be proud to say so just as those who did so before the closed door meeting and including Speaker Sheldon Silver. comment by gecko — April)

    Hey gecko, whose Ministry of Truth do you work for? Anyone who was not in favor as of yesterday is oppposed. They are trying to avoid responsibility for the consequences of their decision, and you are trying to help them.

    Every one of them is opposed. And only those opposed are responsible for solving the MTA funding problem.

  • d

    The American spirit is over. We no longer have any sense of shared duty or sacrifice and live very selfish lives, at least when they are defined by politicians who are only concerned with the next election. Had Sheldon Silver been in power in 1969, he would have voted against the moon landing because no one from his district would have gotten to go on the trip.

  • jmc

    Joey Paesan — Non si deve guidare d’essere un uomo vero. Cretino.

  • Charles

    I am basking in this due process moment of constitutional democracy. Hey, Mr. Bloomberg, Atlantic Yards is next.

    And for proponents of congestion pricing, please, stop crying. Your embarrassing yourselves now. Take it like a man.

  • J:Lai

    Some form of congestion pricing is going to happen in NYC. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t pass, and that the city may not get the federal money right now, but let’s keep some perspective on the big picture.

    Continuing without some type of major reform in transportation policy is really not feasible. It is going to happen one way or another.

    The Bloomberg proposal was great in that it broke new ground and opened the issue up to serious public discussion. It was also very problematic in a lot of the implementation. It may be for the best, because I think we can do a lot better. The policies that are eventually chosen will shape the city for decades to come, so it’s worth taking some time to make sure we choose wisely.

  • TD

    Congestion pricing seems to be an interesting concept, but it hasn’t been tried in an American city before. It’s slightly tinged with Socialism … as any opponent of London’s “Red Ken” mayor can tell you.
    Maybe if a New York plan was thoroughly researched … details worked out with New Jersey and Connecticut … and its advocate wasn’t a strident Boston billionaire who uses Jet A fuel like some use water … then maybe it stood a decent chance in Albany’s “three men in a room” scenario.
    Bring back the NYC commuter tax! Less painful as it is a payroll tax, the NYS Tax Department is an established bureaucracy …just think of the bureaucratic costly mess a NYC congestion pricing organization would be …

  • P

    Using the market to regulate congestion is socialist? Our ‘billionaire mayor’ is socialist?

    Please stop- I’m tired of excuses for elected officials refusing to lead.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Using the market to regulate congestion is socialist?

    Somehow the opponents of congestion pricing seem to be able to paint proponents as both wild-eyed socialists and free-market Bush Administration ideologues. Makes me wonder how well any of them know us. This thing has been an interesting exercise in strange bedfellows.

  • In promoting Congestion Pricing as a panacea, Mayor Bloomberg continues the irrational policies of his PlaNYC and the MTA by omitting non polluting street level boarding light rail as a remedy for improving the environment and lessening vehicle gridlock. Light rail, the solution successfully adopted by forward-looking cities including Charlotte, Baltimore, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Portland, Oregon, has proven to be the 21st century answer for reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.It is shocking that the Camaign for New York’s Future and Transportation Alternatives did protest the ommission of Light Rail from PlaNYC.

    Moreover, the Mayor and the MTA are promoting two excessively costly Manhattan mega-projects which threaten to absorb not only all available transit funding and but which may require further subway, bus and toll bridge increases. Moreover, the $4.65 billion, 1.7 mile three station first phase Second Avenue Subway is not expected to be completed until 2015 and construction of the $2.1 billion one station 42nd street number 7 line extension has not yet begun.
    Substituting street level boarding (excellent for senior citizens and the disabled) light rail on 1st, 2nd and 3rd Avenues for the Second Avenue Subway and the uncomfortable polluting articulated buses now used on those thoroughfares would cost less than $500 million and the MTA could easily construct river to river light rail on 42nd street for less than $300 million. Studies have shown that European and North American motorists are willing to abandon their cars when provided with state of art light rail as an alternative for their daily commute. There is enough money already committed by Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC and the MTA to the aforementioned Megaprojects to make major improvements such as light rail and bus rapid-transit plus improved subway signaling equipment throughout the five Boroughs without the economically harmful Congestion Pricing scheme.

  • “This thing has been an interesting exercise in strange bedfellows.”

    For opponents as well. A comment I almost choked reading: “How can republicans support a regressive tax like this?” Republicans, what next, you’ll vote against the proletariat controlling the means of production!? Capitalist swine!

    But don’t think the strangeness is over, Shoupian pricing is also pretty capitalistic. Is it fair to working little motorist guys to have parking meters that charge everyone the same rate, or should we free up street parking in a way that affects everyone equally™ ???

  • Millie

    Bad ideas are just that: bad ideas. It might benefit the green fringe and the rich mayors of the NY metro area, but all the middle class and poor people were going to get out of it was a “credit”. “Credits” for later don’t mean squat to people already struggling to survive in an expensive town.

    And the arrogance of the proponents, from Bloomie on down, is what killed the plan. From #3: “Then move to the suburbs where you belong.” Elitism is only the tip of what arrogance lurked beneath the surface of this proposal; calling people “stupid” who just didn’t want to pay a surcharge on driving into the city in which they live is never good form.

    CP has its merits. But the options you provide to the people that suffer because of it have to be worth taking the plunge. Otherwise, what’s the point? This plan deserved to die. Revive it when there’s a reason not to tax those who already need help to make ends meet. And revive it when the self-righteousness of being a proponent of it is replaced by making sure no one gets crushed under its weight. If supporters’ arrogance about it being the way and the life gets replaced by something which doesn’t penalize those who have few options other than expensive train and bus rides into a city they already call home, the city will respond. Until then, tell me how something more than half the entire city was opposed to in the first place is much better than having no idea at all.

  • JF

    penalize those who have few options other than expensive train and bus rides into a city they already call home

    You know, Millie, I’d take comments like that a lot more seriously if the anti-congestion pricing people had been able to come up with a single person in that situation. They were not.

    The arrogance and elitism came from people who live in large houses and drive large cars, but hid their selfish entitlement behind a mask of populism. Their is no way to avoid victimizing drivers “who already need help to make ends meet,” because they’re fictions controlled by wealthy politicians, and they will always be put upon.

    You and your friends won this battle, “Millie.” Now don’t you have a road widening to subsidize or something?

  • Mark

    Millie, two questions:

    What is the nature of your interest in the livable streets movement?

    Also, above you say “CP has its merits.” What are those merits? Please be precise.

  • just saying

    the main reason there is traffic is because of the double parked cars/trucks and construction zones. try crossing 53rd st from the fdr: construction on 53rd and 2nd, 53rd and lex, and 53rd and park. also, do something about cars/trucks blocking the box.

  • SAJH

    This shot down of the CP proposal really shows how special interests rule in politics. Most people in this city support it b/c they dont drive. Most people in Albany have no idea about living in NYC. Is this a tax on the middle class? Not really. Congestion pricing isnt aimed at taxing people, its aimed at making people adjust their driving. If you dont have to be in the city during rush hour, then you will avoid b/c you dont want to pay. I bet the reason why this entire proposal was shot down b/c the rich constituents of the 60s & 70s dont want the congestion and craziness of people trying to park or drop off in their neighborhood b/c they dont want to pay $8.

  • As a Chicagoan who followed the congestion pricing initiative closely in the hopes that New York would lead the way in fighting car culture and global warming, I’m bitterly disappointed with the defeat. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this fight is not going to be won thru lobbying – we need a popular protest movement against cars and climate change.

    Our enemies aren’t really the politicians (in this case) – they’re the people who are unwilling to shoulder the true costs of their wasteful car-centric lives and insist on everyone else subsidizing them. Occasionally (infrequently in New York but more often elsewhere) these are working people who don’t make much – which is why the anticar/anti-global warming movement needs to act in solidarity with the labor movement and support reforms like a living wage. But more often they’re well-off suburbanites with outsize power in the state legislature. We need to start organizing people, expand education efforts, and directly confront people who are too selfish to pay for the social damage they cause. This isn’t just a political fight, it’s also a culture war.

  • Spud Spudly

    You know, Millie, I’d take comments like that a lot more seriously if the anti-congestion pricing people had been able to come up with a single person in that situation. They were not.

    Too bad Millie didn’t say “long, time-consuming and inconvenient” instead of “expensive” because then she could point to this guy:


  • a

    Congestion Pricing for commuters. . .good
    Congestion Pricing for deliveries, etc. . .bad and will only drive up the prices of everything we city dwellers purchase. We already pay considerably more for most everything than the rest of the nation. Congestion Pricing is dead because it only looks at the surface positives, $300+ million, but how much do you think that would do for a transit system that talks about billion dollar deficits? Seriously people, you have to look at all angles with this one because once it does happen, we are all going to have to figure out how to live with it. And in case you need to know, I use public transportation everyday and never a car except for p/u & delivery of large items.

    Once the politicians take seriously the multifaceted impact of such a plan on the people who actually live here beyond one or two issues I’ll support it. . .tell then I’m glad it is dead!


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