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Congestion Pricing

Corey Johnson Calls on Albany to Pass Congestion Pricing “This Year, This Session”

4:27 PM EST on January 30, 2018

Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Photo: William Alatriste for NYC Council

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is fast becoming the most outspoken local politician in favor of congestion pricing. Johnson was already on the record supporting the policy, but today he went a step further and called for immediate action on congestion pricing in Albany.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Association for a Better New York, which represents the city's business elite, Johnson asked the assembled private sector chieftains to help him "convince the state legislature that congestion pricing is the right thing to do."

Johnson's comments on congestion pricing came at the tail end of a longer pep talk about the need to fix New York's sputtering transit system.

"The subway is the lifeblood of our economy, and our failure to address this crisis could be our undoing," he said. "Almost every day, all of us who ride the subway endure dangerously packed train stations, inaudible announcements, phantom sick passengers or train traffic ahead."

Johnson also touched on the importance of getting the MTA to spend its money efficiently and complete projects in a timely manner.

"We need congestion pricing, this year, this session," Johnson concluded. "We can reduce congestion and raise badly needed funds at the same time."

The full text of his speech is available on the City Council website.

As a representative of neighborhoods where congestion pricing would provide major relief from car and truck traffic, Johnson's position aligns well with his constituents' needs. (Not every Manhattan elected can say the same.) But his remarks suggest broader political support for congestion pricing for a few reasons.

One is that he was just elected by a majority of the City Council to a position of citywide influence. All of the speaker candidates said they supported congestion pricing to some degree, but Johnson's stance is exceptionally strong and unequivocal. There are 51 council members and not all of them are in favor of congestion pricing, but it seems unlikely that Johnson could have won the speaker election if a majority of members are opposed to such a significant policy issue that's frequently been in the news for the past several months.

The second is that Congressmember Joe Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party boss, brokered Johnson's ascension to the speakership. While the council won't be directly involved in the upcoming congestion pricing fight in the state legislature, Crowley's backing of Johnson suggests some level of support for the policy in the Queens political establishment. Ten years ago, Crowley was on the record supporting Mayor Bloomberg's version of congestion pricing.

None of this means that congestion pricing is a sure thing. Far from it. But if Governor Cuomo decides to press hard in Albany, the political landscape is looking as favorable for a strong version of congestion pricing as it ever has.

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