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Congestion Pricing

Wanted: Drivers (Yes, You Read That Right) Who Support Congestion Pricing

6:58 AM EST on January 16, 2019

Groups like TransAlt and (pictured here) Families for Safe Streets go to Albany to lobby electeds. Photo: David Meyer

Honor The Dream on Monday. Then try to create a new one on Tuesday.

The day after next week's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Transportation Alternatives will send an armada of activists to Albany to lobby straggling State Senators and Assembly Members to support Gov. Cuomo's congestion pricing initiative, which would reduce Manhattan traffic, save lives and fund crucial subway repairs.

Ironically, the group needs drivers to ferry activists to the statehouse.

"A small group of TransAlt advocates will take an impromptu trip up to Albany to advocate for congestion pricing," the group's Manhattan organizer Chelsea Yamada wrote in an online request. "We set up the meetings, but we need you to provide a ride. Can you help drive us there?"

The lobbying will begin with the departure of the caravans at 7 a.m. at a Manhattan location to be determined. Volunteers and TA members will fan out across the state capitol for a day of meetings and button-holing lawmakers. (Streetsblog did that this week; it's surprisingly easy to chat up our elected officials; it is not, however, very easy to get them to listen to reason.)

Still, the issue is a win-win for lawmakers: Congestion pricing supporters say it will raise $1 billion annually for the transit system, which can then be leveraged into $15 billion in capital funds. The system needs at least $20 billion in repairs [PDF]. Some legislators — like Helene Weinstein of Brooklyn and Andrew Lanza of Staten Island — say they oppose congestion pricing because it would penalize drivers in their neighborhoods, but statistics show that only a tiny number of "outer borough" commuters drive into Manhattan regularly, and the ones who do tend to be far wealthier than their transit-using neighbors.

Go to Albany and button-hole people like Assembly Members Joe Lentol (left) and State Senator Liz Krueger. Lentol opposes congestion pricing. Krueger is open to it. Photos: Gersh Kuntzman
Go to Albany and button-hole people like Assembly Members Joe Lentol (left) and State Senator Liz Krueger. Lentol opposes congestion pricing. Krueger is open to it. Photos: Gersh Kuntzman

The request for drivers is a reminder of our poor transportation system between the city and the state capital: Amtrak runs sporadic, costly service. Putting five activists in a car ($50 in gas, tolls and maybe some fish sandwiches at the Arthur Treacher's in the Plattekill rest stop) is far cheaper than sending them to Albany on the train (total cost: $225-$375, plus another $13.75 if you include a can of soda for each, given that Amtrak's cafe car charges $2.75 per can!).

Volunteer drivers will be reimbursed for fuel. Interested drivers should contact Yamada by clicking here.

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