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Friday’s Headlines: Congestion Pricing Punching Bag Edition

It's open season on congestion pricing for New York City news editors. Plus more news.

Congestion pricing will make 17 percent of cars and trucks in Manhattan’s Central Business District disappear overnight, but to the Times the more interesting story is “growing opposition.”

It's open season on congestion pricing for New York City news editors.

The latest wide-eyed "congestion pricing 101" piece comes from the New York Times, which on Thursday offered up a run-through of the latest anti-toll pearl clutching with little insight into what lies ahead.

The Times piece — "As Congestion Pricing Nears Reality, It Faces Growing Opposition" — has a lot for congestion pricing haters: Disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo reneging on his past promotion of the policy. Beloved New Yorkers, actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg. Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella's across-the-aisle partnership with the UFT. An Uber spokesman admitting his company supports the new tolls in part because it will lead New Yorkers to take more for-hire vehicle trips. The story gives its last word to a congestion opponent who suggests — erroneously — that the tolls will add pollution and congestion "to other parts of New York City." While the MTA forecasts additional truck traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway, the agency is also undertaking a multi-million dollar effort to reduce pollution in the Bronx — something the Times conveniently fails to point out.

Also missing are positive voices for the tolling plan's expected reduction in car traffic. The MTA forecasts 17-percent less traffic in the tolling zone (Manhattan below 60th Street) and 9 percent less traffic regionally, as the Times notes. That means cleaner air, more room for pedestrians and cyclists and faster buses — none of which get a mention in this piece. The piece mentions that 60 percent of comments the MTA received in advance of the toll's implementation, but neglects to quote any of those comments.

The story plays into the misperception — conveyed by Goldberg last week on "The View" — that the MTA's plan seemingly came out of nowhere. While the Times acknowledges that the State Legislature passed congestion pricing in 2019, it refers to that legislation as "little more than a vague outline." But that's simply not true: The 2019 legislation set a revenue target and specific parameters that have guided the MTA and policymakers since. The prices proposed by the Traffic Mobility Review Board reflect that revenue target — including in the panel's decision not to offer any toll exemptions beyond what's required by law.

With no shortage of opponents and naysayers, congestion pricing presents an easy punching bag for news editors in search of drama. Here at Streetsblog, we're actually excited for these tolls to finally happen. It's been a long road to this moment — starting back in the mid-2000s when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg embraced the policy. The possibilities for safer streets and faster buses are endless with 9 percent or more fewer cars on the road. We hope Times editors choose to tell that story before their fixation on anti-toll outrage squanders the chance those possibilities can be realized.

In other news:

  • Eric Adams's mayoralty "might be heading toward a crack-up," according to the Atlantic (with a nod to reporting from Streetsblog).
  • NYPD leadership hit the subways on Thursday to "collect rider feedback" (Daily News), which invited some obvious snark:
  • Popular Penn Station bar Tracks opens Grand Central Madison outpost. (NY Post)
  • City Limits digs into the city's $61-million EPA grant to electrify its school buses.
  • A 77-year-old man was "seriously injured" while walking on the Upper East Side. (Upper East Site)
  • Street safety advocates in Greenpoint pointed out that the blocks near McGuinness Boulevard need redesigns, too:
  • Billy Joel abandons his helicopter for the good ol' Long Island Rail Road. (Newsday)
  • More coverage of Citi Bike's inauguration at Citi Field. (Streetsblog, amNY, Daily News)
  • Queens Assembly Member Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, who survived car crash as a pedestrian, makes a "personal" plea for Sammy's Law. (QNS)
  • Broadway Association boss unloads misinfo and excuses in latest "I support congestion pricing, but..." op-ed. Someone remind New York City's wealthy business leaders that their employees overwhelmingly commute by transit. (Daily News)
  • ICYMI: Daylighting momentum earned some favorable coverage from Patch.
  • And finally, per Clarence Eckerson of Streetfilms, garbage bins are the latest source of NYC NIMBY myopia (if ever there was a time to say "Now do cars," this is it):

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