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

"We need to convince the state legislature that congestion pricing is the right thing to do," the new City Council speaker told NYC business leaders this morning.

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

  • Dave Gil de Rubio

    I’m glad that part of the system has been improved by you, but by and large, there’s still plenty wrong with the MTA:

  • Dave Gil de Rubio

    Wow… a voice of reason. Thanks for clearly articulating what I was having a problem getting across. If people are commuting, then by all means, they SHOULD use mass transit. If plans are for tolls during peak usage times, then by all means, toll away. I just don’t think this should be applicable during off-peak times. If you had tolls in place during peak commuting times and not charge it say, on Sundays or after 7 p.m., I think that’s a reasonable compromise.

  • Dave Gil de Rubio

    If you live in an area that’s a two-fare zone, (say eastern and southeastern Queens), chances are, you are working class and have a car. Hell, if you live in Middle Village, which IS a working class neighborhood, chances are you have a car. Also, I’m not advocating that anyone drive in to Manhattan to commute. I’m talking about off-peak hours, which to me would be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And also, not on Sundays.

  • Dave Gil de Rubio

    Again, not saying people should use cars to travel into Manhattan during peak hours. I don’t think a toll should be charged on Sundays. Ideally, this congestion pricing should be applied the way metered street parking is handled, Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The MTA gets its revenue and people get a break.

  • climber54

    One of the first things that sprang to mind when I first heard of this was “Trucks too? That’s how we get our food supply here on the island – won’t prices soar??”. I’m quite surprised that this issue hasn’t been part of the greater discussion or maybe I’m missing something…..

  • qrt145

    A truck can transport literally tons of food, so you are talking about maybe a penny or two per pound.

  • Given that a large part of the traffic problems have arisen from the massive amount of development (apartment buildings, hotels, office buildings etc.) in the area over the past 15 years, I propose that instead of charging long time residents, congestion pricing be paid for by developers! They’re the ones who have contributed greatly to the creation of this problem and are profiting bigly from all of this congestion.

  • climber54

    OK – the rudimentary math seems to work out that way, but …really? To think these companies will not pad the profit line in their ledgers is something I simply don’t buy. Once fuel prices came back down years ago, did the airlines (even ONE of them) rescind the various fees (started with baggage) that were supposed to offset fuel costs temporarily? (and yes, those exact words were used). I could site more examples and will if you insist, but don’t feel like getting into a silly argument scenario. Straight through bottom line “penny here, a penny there” passed on to the consumer is something I’ll believe when I see it. ‘Why charge them a dime when you can get a dollar’ is more in line with what I’ve seen.


Photo: Crain's New York

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