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Congestion Pricing

Komanoff: For Congestion Pricing, I’ll Eat Crow

Our congestion pricing columnist backed an opponent to his Assembly member in 2022 — but now he's making a heartfelt plea for her to do the right thing.

Another reminder of what would improve if congestion pricing is implemented.

What do you do when your state legislator knows you backed an insurgent trying to unseat her in 2022, but you need her to stand tall for congestion pricing — which youve fought for forever but which shes never quite gotten”?

Well, longtime Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff knows that exact feeling. But as the planet’s top congestion pricing modeler, Komanoff knew he needed to reach out to his Assembly Member Deborah Glick (D-West Village) and order up a heaping helping of crow. Here's the email he wrote to the lawmaker this morning.

The Editors

Subject: Please vote NO on revenue alternatives to congestion pricing
To: AM Deborah Glick (AD66)
From: Charles Komanoff

Dear Deborah —

Eat crow lately? I have. It doesn't taste good.

I'm referring not just to the governor's disgraceful last-minute pullout from congestion pricing but also my support for your opponent in the 2022 primary. You could ignore this note and I wouldn't blame you. But please give me, a constituent, a listen.

Why did I devote the past several decades to shaping and enacting congestion pricing? Because of scenes like this:

Charles Komanoff with Evelyn Cancel In 1998.Photo: Damon Brandt

That's me with Evelyn Cancel in December 1998, on a barren block of Wales Avenue in the South Bronx, where I led a crew from Right Of Way in stenciling a street memorial for her 6-year-old son Dante, who was killed by a speeding driver. 

Photo: Charles Komanoff

Amy Cohen of Families for Safe Streets, whom you graciously sat down with in late 2018 in the runup to the congestion pricing legislation, met Evelyn in 2014. Amy's son Sammy had been killed a year earlier by a speeding driver on Prospect Park West, as you know. As we left Evelyn's East Harlem apartment, Amy told me how overwhelming Evelyn's enduring grief felt to her.

Deborah, I could go on and on about congestion pricing's benefits to transit users (subway station elevators, more reliable trains) and even to drivers themselves because of lighter traffic. My vaunted Excel spreadsheet (160,000 equations!) tells that story in numbing detail.

But at the end of the day, what motivates me, Amy and, I hope, you to demand congestion pricing is its power to act as a counterweight to cars and trucks and driving and traffic. 

True, Sammy and Dante were run over miles from the congestion zone. Still, their deaths and the ongoing 100-200 pedestrian and cyclist deaths in New York City each year are connected to congestion pricing by the tolling plan’s ability to empower citizens and allow government to reconfigure our streets and city to bring about less driving and greater safety for all.

Congestion pricing's $15 billion worth of transit improvements isn't incidental, of course. At this point, it's what is keeping congestion pricing alive. There is no painless revenue alternative ... certainly not another hike in the Payroll Mobility Tax, which would be the second in 18 months and would be regressive (unlike congestion pricing — just ask David Jones who heads the Community Service Society and serves on the MTA board). 

Your NO vote on raising the PMT will help keep congestion pricing in play. Please be that ray of hope, as Right Of Way tried to be in 2014 when we returned to Wales Avenue with Evelyn and made this heaven-pointing memorial.

Photo: Charles Komanoff

Thanks for listening.

— Charles

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