Deborah Glick Blames de Blasio for Albany’s Failure to Pass Congestion Pricing

Glick's constituents lost in the state budget, forking over money without getting the traffic reduction benefits of congestion pricing.

Assembly Member Deborah Glick has never bothered to support congestion pricing, despite the huge burden that motor vehicle traffic imposes on her constituents in downtown Manhattan. As recently as last week, she told the Daily News she was still undecided.

Glick’s indecision has real consequences. While Governor Cuomo deserves most of the blame for backing off his Fix NYC panel’s congestion pricing recommendations this budget season, the lack of any strong pressure from Glick and other NYC Democrats in the Assembly was also a major cause of Albany inaction.

Over the weekend, Glick, along with every single Assembly Democrat, voted for a state budget that imposes a set of fees on taxi and Uber trips in the Manhattan core. A disproportionate share of the cost will fall on Manhattan residents, but it won’t provide the traffic reduction benefits of a real congestion pricing system. Glick’s constituents lost.

If the three men in a room had been weighing a package that was similarly unbalanced toward Eastern Queens, David Weprin and his contingent in Albany would have kicked and shouted and made headlines. Manhattan reps in the Assembly did no such thing.

Streetsblog has been checking up with these representatives to get their take on the taxi fee and the absence of congestion pricing in the state budget. Glick is blaming her inaction on Mayor de Blasio.

In a statement to Streetsblog yesterday, Glick defended the new fees and her vote for the budget:

As with all budget bills, you can’t vote on just one provision – it’s all or nothing. Not voting for the transportation budget bill would have meant not voting for all of the funding, including existing MTA and DOT funds.

I am pleased we have added a surcharge on for-hires as there has been a small one on yellow cabs for some time, and that these funds will go to mass transit. People can avoid the surcharge by taking mass transit as I do. Many people other than local residents use for-hire vehicles in Manhattan, such as business travelers.

I do wish that we addressed congestion more comprehensively. First, I would prefer a cap on for-hire vehicles to reduce congestion. Second, I would support tolls on East River bridges, but the Mayor has rejected that proposal.

After the first paragraph, it’s hard to make sense of this response. Glick doesn’t directly engage with the Fix NYC panel’s cordon toll recommendations, and she mostly conveys how little time and effort some Albany legislators put into understanding transportation policy.

For starters, Glick’s handwaving about “business travelers” versus residents paying the new surcharges obscures the plain fact that Manhattanites — her constituents — are paying a much greater share of the fees than they would under a Fix NYC-type congestion fee structure, according to analyst Charles Komanoff:

Chart via Charles Komanoff
Chart via Charles Komanoff

The deflection and finger-pointing at de Blasio doesn’t hold up either. The state legislature has proven itself to be very capable of overriding the mayor when politically suitable. And contrary to Glick’s assertion, the mayor has recently warmed to the Fix NYC proposal.

Testifying in Albany in February, de Blasio sounded ready to make a deal. And since then, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has said the city is prepared to enact any pricing plan Albany passes.

Despite the plague of automobile traffic choking the streets of her district, Glick has never championed congestion pricing. She took no position when the Bloomberg administration pushed the policy in 2008. This past February, after Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC panel put forward a viable pricing plan, her legislative director told Streetsblog she was still “reviewing all of the congestion pricing proposals that have been put forward.”

A thorough review of the material should have produced a more informed response from Glick. Instead, like Denny Farrell and other Albany congestion pricing obstructionists 10 years ago, Glick hasn’t bothered to grasp what’s at stake, how it would work, and why it matters to her district.

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