Heastie Makes History: Assembly Has The Votes to Pass Congestion Pricing

The details, however, are still being worked out.

Carl Heastie and his Democratic conference. Photo: Amirabbady00/Wikimedia Commons
Carl Heastie and his Democratic conference. Photo: Amirabbady00/Wikimedia Commons

The fight over congestion pricing is history — and the State Assembly will now make history by approving new tolls on drivers entering Manhattan’s central business district.

Speaker Carl Heastie confirmed the news after meeting with Democratic assembly members on Monday afternoon.

“The Assembly is ready to go forward on congestion pricing,” Heastie reportedly told the Albany press corps.

The program needs 76 votes to pass. Of the 107-member Democratic conference, only six or seven are hard “no” votes, according to sources familiar with members’ thinking.

It’s not clear which, if any, fence-sitting assembly members changed their minds today to give Heastie confidence pricing would pass, but momentum is clearly favoring congestion pricing. On Monday, the program picked up support from Manhattan Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who had previously told Streetsblog he would wait until a bill was written before deciding on his vote.

Heastie said the details of the pricing program are still to be determined. Those details — such who if anyone will be exempt from the tolls — could make or break the program’s effectiveness in both raising money and reducing congestion.

A bill should be printed by the end of Thursday, Heastie told reporters.

With the April 1 budget deadline fast-approaching, state legislators were facing mounting pressure to come up with some sort of substantial and sustainable revenue stream for the New York City region’s ailing transit system. Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins have all come out in support of the governor’s broad congestion pricing framework, which would raise around $15 billion towards the MTA’s $40-billion-plus capital needs.

A handful of pols in Heastie’s assembly majority has been reluctant to come on board, however. As recently as two weeks ago, the speaker was defending the concerns of reluctant outer-borough and suburban legislators like David Weprin and Rodneyse Bichotte., and suggesting that other, smaller funding sources would be a satisfactory conclusion.

The speaker himself is a longtime supporter of congestion pricing, going back to the days of the Bloomberg administration. In the decade since, the assembly’s membership has become younger and more transit-oriented. Even longtime congestion pricing opponents, such as Jeff Dinowitz of the Bronx, have softened their stance and stated that fixing the beleaguered subways and buses is their top priority — above even protecting the wallets of car commuters (who tend to be wealthier overall than their transit-riding neighbors, yet had undue influence in car-friendly Albany).

“There’s an absolutely softening in the conference,” Assembly Member Amy Paulin told Streetsblog earlier this month. “Could there be an alternative proposed? I presume, but right now the conversation is going to center around congestion pricing.”

 

  • walks bikes drives

    Hurray for it finally coming to pass. Then, if the city council passes residential parking permits, we should be in a good place. I know Kominoff says it’s not going to be out-of-towners rolling around for parking spaces in the UES and UWS, but parking is scarce, yet attainable. Passing RPP will both increase parking availability for residents, to avoid them from having to circle around the block for parking, and also dissuade people from driving into work on the UWS and UES when they could take transit instead.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I guess we have to hope that it won’t be completely stupid as a result of the state legislature.

    One requirement for it not being completely stupid is for the total fee to drive into the CBD to be the same from any direction and crossing, ending the extra traffic due to toll shopping.

  • Camera_Shy

    I don’t live there and I couldn’t find a direct answer using google, can someone point me to a map or other description of the area of NYC that will be included in the congestion pricing? thanks.

  • UWS

    Manhattan below 60th Street, not including the FDR Drive

  • AMH

    Any details on how this will be implemented? Last I read, Cuomo was going to use it as a power grab to give the state total control of city streets via the TBTA.

  • Vooch

    watch closely – read the fine print to verify if placard holders and their ilk are exempted.

    If placard holders are exempted , thats about 125,000 daily drivers who are get off scot free

  • Wilfried84

    Call me superstitious, but history hasn’t been made yet, so the headline is jumping the gun a little. And, the devil is in the details. But, please let it be so!

  • Frank Kotter

    Price per permit? How many permits offered per restricted parking space?

    I’d like to get your take.

  • carl jacobs

    I wonder what the over/under will be on the number weeks before this all goes sideways. In a couple of years you will see news stories titled “Why did Congestion Pricing Fail?” And they will talk about the inevitable carve-outs. They will talk about how there was no discernable improvement in service and about angry commuters who saw their standard of living decreased either in increased expenses or increased commute time. They will talk about price increases and inflation. They will talk about how congestion pricing wasn’t really about reducing congestion but was rather about raising money and that’s why people didn’t notice any reduction in congestion. Finally they will talk about the various powerful factions that fell upon all that new revenue like jackals fall upon a dead antelope to explain why there haven’t been any capital improvements. Lots of people got nice raises, though.

    When political theory meets political power, you can bet power will win.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Out of the hands of transportation planners and city officials and into the hands of the New York State legislature, the same people who bankrupted the MTA to start with.

  • walks bikes drives

    Honestly, a permit anywhere from $25-200 would be legitimate. Cutting circling time alone would save me $100 in gas or more. Plus, even $200 per year is not a lot compared to the costs that car owners are already paying. Any extra money above costs of administration should go to road budgets and lower the amount of money coming from the general fund. As a driver, I should be paying more for road upkeep than a non-driver. The gas tax does not significantly affect city streets because only state/interstate roads benefit. So city roads are primarily funded from property and income taxes.

    As for how many permits – there is should be no limit – only requirement beyond the fee is that the driver’s address and vehicle registration address must be a neighborhood address. Restricted parking should be most residential streets, and keep meters on the avenues for guests. Guest parking passes can come with the permit like Chicago has – each guest pass is good for a single day. The only numerical restriction on permits being one permit per address.

    That’s my take.

    FYI – I park on the street.

  • motorock

    We were also told that he was taking power through the MTA- where the MTA is going to decide what to charge and how to use the money. Why are we trusting a serial profligate with that?- one of the worst this world has seen as far as transit is concerned. This is one thing none of the law makers should agree to.

  • Wilfried84

    Hey, I sounded the note of caution. But it’s always good to have hope. And prepare to fight for the next round.

  • reasonableexplanation

    “Cutting circling time alone would save me $100 in gas or more.”

    Doing the math:
    Gas: $2.65/gallon.
    City MPG: 19 (Reasonable, unless you have a massive SUV or a really old car)

    $100/2.65 = 37.74 gallons
    37.74 * 19mpg = 717 miles driven.
    717/365 days = 2 miles per day circling for parking, or about 40 city blocks.

    That’s if you circle for parking every single day. that number goes up if you only drive some days.

    You sure that’s right? You circle 40 or more blocks every day?

  • Vooch

    $300/month seems like a good start for a charge to store one’s private property on the street.

    Eventually should increase to $800/month market rate but $300/month is fair to start

  • walks bikes drives

    Summer gas prices usually rise over $3 a gallon in Manhattan. If you think about your two miles per day calculation, 1 Avenue is equal to 4.5 city blocks. So to circle around the block once is 11.5 city blocks. Make 4 circles around a single block and you have now traveled 46 city blocks. However, most people do not circle around just a single block and will typically go 1 Avenue East or West of their preferred parking location. So that is 28.5 city blocks in a single circle. Do that a few times, and you are now going well above your 40 block calculation.

  • Joe R.

    I recall back when we lived in Woodside Houses in Astoria back in the 1970s my father would easily circle for 2 miles trying to find a spot. Keep in mind this was Queens, not Manhattan, and the city had about 1 million fewer people back then (and probably proportionately fewer cars). Granted, we mostly used the car on weekends, but 2 miles a day average circling for parking isn’t unreasonable if you use your car even a few days a week.

  • walks bikes drives

    There is your pie in the sky that only non drivers will ever agree to, and then there are the real reasonable options that can gain traction from all users and benefit all users.

    Market rate monthly parking is less than $500 in the Upper West Side unless you have a large SUV or an expensive luxury car where they tack on extra. Going up to Harlem and North that price drops to less than $300 per month.

  • Joe R.

    I’m all for RPPs with one caveat, namely that the permit gives you the option to use the space for a 20′ storage container in lieu of a car if you wish. My reasoning here is lots of people have small apartments. Those without cars should also have dibs on the street space. The free market will decide whether cars or extra storage are more important. My guess is eventually the curbside will be lined with mostly storage containers. The resulting lack of curbside car parking would be a huge disincentive to car ownership.

    While congestion pricing is a good idea, to borrow a famous quote “It’s the parking, stupid.” Parking is 100% under NYC’s control. Reducing on-street parking is the single most effective way to reduce driving, bar none.

  • Joe R.

    Perhaps but I think your figure of $25 to $200 per year is way too low. The city is leaving money on the table. Sure, you can’t charge more for curbside parking than the market rates for garages, but something like 1/3 to 1/2 that isn’t totally unreasonable. The idea here is a relatively high price will get people who hardly use their cars to just ditch them, which is really part of the point of RPPs. The infamous example of Manhattanites who only drive their car on alternate side days isn’t too far from the truth for many car owners. It’s a security blanket, but one which costs the taxpayers lots of money.

  • walks bikes drives

    People will have a lot of trouble moving their storage bins for alternate side parking.

  • Joe R.

    They won’t need to. With storage bins sitting right on top of the street, there won’t be garage accumulation under them which needs to be swept away, as is the case with cars. To keep things orderly you could designate a certain part of the street for the containers so street sweepers don’t have to haphazardly go around them. The containers will be lined up in one area only. The next container would be added to the end of that line, and so forth.

  • walks bikes drives

    There is no precedent anywhere in the world for charging that much for an on street parking permit. In fact $200 per year is much greater than any other city I know. In fact, I only put the $25 minimum there as that is the precedent for most other cities. This being New York, I’d lean towards 200.

  • Joe R.

    Keep in mind some cities, like Tokyo, won’t even let you own a car if you don’t have an off-street place to keep it. My rationale here is how much in taxes per square foot is the city getting from the surrounding real estate? That should be a rough guide for how much to charge. As an example, our taxes for our lot are roughly $1.50 per square foot per year. A parking spot is 200 square feet, give or take. That’s $300 per year the city should charge for an RPP out here is eastern Queens. It’s going to be a heck of a lot more in parts of the city closer to Manhattan. Vooch’s $800 a month might not be completely out of line if you look at it that way.

    Also, what cities have done historically is moot. We’re facing a global crisis where we have to reduce car use. We’ve also historically subsidized car ownership in the past but there’s no reason to do so in the future. In NYC there’s no public good associated with subsidizing car ownership. Charge market rates for car storage, let the owners decide if it’s worthwhile to own a car.

  • walks bikes drives

    Yes, but that is a guaranteed spot. An RPP does not guarantee a spot. Nor does it eliminate ASP restrictions. Nor does it give an added level of protection against theft or vandalism. Nor does it avoid shoveling it out from snow, or any other of the benefits of a garage.

  • Joe R.

    Actually, it’s not a garage. It’s a parking lot. My friend’s car is still exposed to the elements, although everything else you mentioned is true.

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  • Larry Littlefield

    And be done for soon.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/telemigrants-are-coming-for-your-white-collar-job-and-a-wall-wont-stop-them-2019-02-25

    Think of these as 21st century migrants — telemigrants — who are competing for American white-collar and professional jobs without ever setting foot in the U.S. This tidal wave of talent is coming straight for the good, stable jobs that have been shielded from globalization. America’s middle class won’t welcome this new competition, and a wall on the southern border won’t stop them.

    Telemigration is growing at an explosive pace. Employers find these workers convenient and flexible as well as low cost. These talented foreigners are happy to work for much less than American workers with the same skills since they live in countries where $5 an hour will buy a middle-class lifestyle.

    They aren’t covered by the same labor laws, or health, safety, or environmental regulations. They don’t ask for severance pay, paid holidays and maternity or paternity leave. Nor do they contribute to Social Security, help pay for medical insurance, pensions, or any other advanced economy social policies.

  • Frank Kotter

    Sounds good. I just find your suggested permit price way, way too low. I mean the cost of the space alone in NYC is multiples more than this per month. Why the massive handout for you to store a car on public property?

  • Vooch

    Sounds like $300/month might be too low to start off with.

    Perhaps we should return to the tried and true NYC law that storing private property on the street overnight is illegal.

    BTW – people who store their private property on the street are a distinct minority on the UWS.

  • Vooch

    Joe,

    I think you mean a per MONTH charge

    🙂

  • walks bikes drives

    Because higher than that would be an unwinnable fight. Getting the permit structure in place is low hanging fruit. Charging 25/year is easy as pie. Getting to 200 would require a lot of convincing, but it’s possible. More, would be impossible. I know people tend to focus on ideals and principles all the time here, but 200 is practical.

  • spikex

    Exempting placard holders would be a disaster. Right now it costs placard holders nothing to come into Manhattan, so they all drive. There is no incentive to car pool for city employees with placards. I had hoped they would toll the east river bridges too, which would also inflict some cost to commuting employees, but it sounds like that is gone from the plan. I think they should at least set the East River Bridge tolls equal to a cost of a round trip subway ticket. Very disappointed with the current plan.

  • John French

    Shit, if I could have secure storage for my bikes (and some space to work on them without getting grease on my kitchen floor) for the price of a residential permit…

    I didn’t know how much they cost so I looked it up, $136 here in San Francisco. Wow, only $136 per month for an extra 160 square feet to store stuff?

    Wait… that’s PER YEAR!?

    The handouts we give to motorists are even crazier than I realized…

  • Joe R.

    If we charged something close to real estate taxes for the same square footage, in most large cities the RPPs would easily be four figures annually.

    As for the grease, it’s a good idea to keep a large piece of cardboard to put under the bike while you’re working on it, especially when doing anything with the chain. It saves a lot of cleanup afterwards. Ditto for wearing disposable latex gloves. Chain grease takes multiple washings to get completely off your hands.

  • Camera_Shy

    Thanks! Seems that is an area of about 10 sq miles (my estimate). London’s Congestion pricing area is about 7 sq miles (my est). London charges about $15 per day to have a vehicle in the congestion zone.

    “the governor’s broad congestion pricing framework would raise around $15 billion”

    So, one billion car-days, at $15 per car-day.

    750K people in Manhattan, but less than 25% of them own a car. So, maybe 200,000 cars for people who live there. Double it?? to get the daily total that includes cars coming into the area. That makes $2B per year, so 7-ish years to get to $15B.

    This is of course a wild estimation attempt on my part.

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