Incoming State Senators Say They Support Congestion Pricing, But …

...But it's unclear if the entire legislature will grow a spine and pass a bill.

Solve the traffic. Fund the subway.
Solve the traffic. Fund the subway.

SB Donation NYC header 2Well, at least six new State Senators can’t wait to get to Albany to pass congestion pricing.

Senators-elect Alessandra Biaggi, Andrew Gounardes, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar issued a joint statement Wednesday in support of tolling drivers to enter parts of Manhattan — a proposal that Gov. Cuomo has said is a priority, but one that the state legislature has heretofore shrugged off, despite its potential to raise critical funding for the MTA.

“This statement matters because it’s momentum for congestion pricing from a group of newly elected progressive senators, who ran on a platform of fixing the broken subway system and who see why fixing the subway is a social justice issue,” Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin said.

The statement came one day after two legislative leaders told Streetsblog that congestion pricing remains in doubt in Albany, thanks to outer-borough lawmakers who wrongly believe tolls to enter the central business district of Manhattan will punish their constituents — even though very few residents drive into “the city,” and the ones who do tend to be wealthier.

“We personally support congestion pricing, but our appointing body is not there yet,” Assembly Member Amy Paulin, a Democrat from Westchester who now leads a committee that oversees the MTA. Her Senate colleague Michael Gianaris added, “We have not done a head count,” Gianaris added. “There are skeptics about congestion pricing, I think, in both houses.”

Other lawmakers — including Manhattan Assembly Member Dick Gottfried and Senator Brad Hoylman — have told Streetsblog that overcoming the outer-borough bias against tolls will require substantial leadership from Gov. Cuomo, who has undermined his own ability to strong-arm ambivalent lawmakers by himself doubting whether the MTA can fix the subways even with funding.

Still, advocates hailed the statement from the six newcomers as a “big boost,” in the words of the Riders Alliance. That said, it is unclear how many seats have swung from “no” to “yes” with the election of the newcomers Biaggi, Gounardes, Jackson, Myrie, Ramos, and Salazar. Only one — Biaggi, who beat Jeff Klein — defeated a lawmaker who was not committed to congestion pricing. (Rachael May, an incoming Senator from upstate who is not on the joint statement, told Streetsblog earlier this year that she was “inclined” to support congestion pricing. She defeated a lawmaker who didn’t take a public position but was proud to boast that he never rode the subway.)

Here is the full statement from Alessandra Biaggi, Andrew Gounardes, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar:

“We were honored to be elected this year to serve our constituents in the New York State Senate. We rely on transit ourselves and included fixing the subways and buses that our millions of constituents rely on every day in our platforms. In 2019, we intend to deliver on our promises and begin to bring the MTA and its infrastructure into the modern era of service provision after a generation of disinvestment.

“We support a comprehensive, robust, fair, and sustainable funding plan for the MTA that includes congestion pricing at its core. Congestion pricing has the unique potential of raising over a billion dollars each year dedicated to transit. Drivers who commute into Manhattan represent a small, comparatively wealthy portion of the public. Congestion pricing will offer them less crowded streets and offer the overwhelming majority of transit riders new signals, subway cars, and hundreds of station elevators. It will enable the MTA to embark on its Fast Forward plan to restore reliability, increase capacity, and make the subway accessible to all New Yorkers. Without it we will not achieve the revenue necessary to achieve those goals.

“We must also ensure that the MTA is held accountable. We will work to provide the resources it needs to modernize our transit system but will also make sure that they are spent wisely and transparently and in the best interest of the customers that the system is meant to serve.”

“We look forward to working closely with our new and experienced colleagues on a holistic transit funding plan that is inclusive of the needs of all New Yorkers. Recent years have shown that transit disinvestment is not limited to the subway system or even the five boroughs.

“Together, we pledge to design a funding plan that promotes the efficiency that transit affords across the entire region. We must reach deep into subway deserts and suburban areas where commutes are can be especially long and unreliable. The task before us is a big one but completing it is central to restoring trust in government and cementing the economic future for all New Yorkers.”

  • Daphna

    Congestion pricing should have been implemented 20 years ago!! The continued debate and haggling about congestion pricing by politicians continues to harm NYC and to slow the growth and potential of NYC.

  • Joe R.

    I’ll go one better. There was talk of banning cars from Manhattan from before I was born (1962). That should have happened a few decades ago. If we had done that, this city would be far more livable and pleasant now.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Still want that non-bus or emergency vehicle motor vehicle- free weekend/festival the first weekend in August, Friday to Sunday.

  • AnoNYC

    Once CP is established it will be much easier technologically to enforce something like that. Could ban all automobiles older than say 2000 in the city core to start.

  • Ishamgirl

    I take a Bronx express bus to work everyday. Congestion pricing isn’t going to fix the problem. My bus goes across the Triboro into Harlem and every single morning and evening there is traffic, despite the toll. If a $5+ toll isn’t a deterrent, I’m not sure why anyone thinks congestion pricing will be too.

    As for Alessandra Biaggi – she lives in Pelham and doesn’t know a damn thing about this city. How the hell she was even elected……I just don’t get it.

  • AnoNYC

    If the Triboro was free, the usage would be much higher (worse congestion).

    Congestion on the Triboro is not what is being addressed though, it’s congestion in the Manhattan CBD.

    And CP would reduce the number of drivers coming into the core, which would reduce the net number of drivers coming from points north. That means additional capacity on the Harlem River bridges (many drivers use those bridges to avoid the toll on the TB), and that could directly relieve the Triboro somewhat.

  • Joe R.

    Good idea. Eventually NYC should also ban all non-electric vehicles whether or not there are other types of bans in place. For example, we’ve banned non-electric trains from Manhattan since the early 20th century. No reason not to eventually do something similar for motor vehicles.

  • Thomas Frangipani

    Congestion pricing is pure and simple another tax to fund mass transit. The poor middle to upper class guy that we tell to take the broken down subway to work gets stuck paying for the privlege of going to work. The fee to yellow cabs will probably induce more driver suicide and further kill the industry. To argue otherwise would be disingenuous. It will produce little or no reduction in traffic. The real reason the subways need money is because of funding being diverted by Cuomo over the years ( who most people who commented here probably voted for. and gave a pass to regarding this issue) The city also until recently had not increased its 100 million a year subsidy which was that amount forever. As far as traffic London and other cities have CP and traffic is about the same. The real way to cut traffic is to restrict uber and other ride servces ( which we have done for a year) and restrict truck deliveries to slower times. Those two culprits create aimless driving around and double parking which is crowding and blocking streets.

  • Thomas Frangipani

    I dont see any harm to the cities growth over the last 20 years. NYC has grown in that time from about 7.2 million to 8.5 million. We just landed Amazon ( even though the corporate welfare being given probably could have been used for mass transit). There is new construction and scaffolds everywhere.

  • Thomas Frangipani

    The talk about banning cars is just that talk. it would be a waste of money to try to defend that ban in court and ultimately would b a losing cause.

  • Joe R.

    There’s nothing to defend. NYC, or any city, can restrict its local roads however it sees fit. Maybe there would be issues banning cars on the highways running through NYC which comprise part of the Interstate highway network but that’s it. The cars could travel on the highway, but can’t exit it anywhere within city limits. Problem solved.

  • Ishamgirl

    Thank you for pointing out that most here voted for Cuomo. I read these comments and I laugh – didn’t most of you vote for this azzhole and de Blasio too? So stuck on their damn party they can’t see past their nose.

  • Ishamgirl

    Yeah I forgot that Manhattan starts at 96th Street and anything north of it doesn’t really matter. I also forget that no politicians give two shits about the Bronx and its residents because we’re all a bunch of welfare degenerate thugs.

    My 90+ minute commute each way doesn’t mean squat to anyone and it’s my fault for being a poor white homeowner in a borough that no one cares about.

  • AnoNYC

    The Bronx is being heavily invested in, monetarily and politically. The situation is totally different than what is was in the middle to late 20th century. There are many issues but there have been a lot of positive steps, overwhelmingly so. The Bronx is on the rise and has been for some time now.

    Just because there is a plan for the Manhattan CBD doesn’t mean that the city is not also working on creating solutions for problems in the Bronx.

  • AnoNYC

    The subway didn’t just suddenly decline into its current state. The federal, state and local government have been systemically disinvesting in mass transportation and urban areas for many decades.

    And I would mention that although the subway has its problems, it works as it should the majority of the time. So lets make that clear too. It could be much better, but it’s far from terrible.

    London’s traffic volumes did fall after the implementation of CP. The city took space away from cars which reduced average moving speeds, that was a choice they made (and I agree with it). The city added a lot of pedestrianized space, bike and bus lanes. There was also the issue that the number of for-hire vehicles and other vehicles that are EXEMPT under the charge have increased quicker than imagined. London is looking to change that. The vehicles that must pay have declined. Without the charge, congestion in London would be much worse.

    And in other cities CP works as well, I don’t know where you got your erroneous information from.

    And the yellow cabs are losing to app based for-hire companies because these newer companies provide better service for less money. Simple as that.

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