Politics And Assembly Report Appear To Doom NYC Congestion Plan

<p>In a bizarre unfolding of political events in Albany, it appears that the London-style congestion pricing plan proposed by Mayor Bloomberg will be replaced by a simplified TDM approach including telecommuting incentives and funding for express buses.</p>
July 11, 2007, 6am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"An alternative to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan emerged in the State Assembly yesterday (7/9), as approval of his plan by the Democrats who control the chamber seemed increasingly unlikely."

"The new proposal by Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman, a first-term Democrat from Queens, sent to Assembly members on Sunday (7/8) night, would attempt to ease traffic congestion with tax credits for businesses that encourage employees to telecommute, for employees who use car pools and for commercial drivers who enter Manhattan before 6 a.m. and after 9 p.m. A $500 million program to expand express bus service outside Manhattan is also included in the bill."

"Also released yesterday was a sharply critical Assembly report that described congestion pricing as a regressive tax that would disproportionately affect poor and middle-income drivers, and questioned the plan's feasibility."

"I think the mayor's plan, certainly in its current iteration, is not going to happen," Mr. Lancman said in an interview. He said that state legislators had "a genuine desire" to tackle congestion problems, but that the mayor's proposal offered few public transportation alternatives for the influx of commuters who would leave their cars at home."

"But supporters of congestion pricing are facing a Monday deadline, set by the Bush administration, to clinch support from state lawmakers. Federal officials say they are unlikely to provide the city with as much as $500 million in funds if Albany does not offer a green light."

"Several groups that support congestion pricing said yesterday that the report was flawed and did not address the environmental benefits of the mayor's plan. "Perhaps the most important thing about this report is what it doesn't do - namely, evaluate the cost to our environment if Albany doesn't act immediately," Marcia Bystryn, the executive director of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement."

From NYT editorial:
"If the three men (Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno), and (Assembly Speaker Sheldon) Silver in particular, fail to rise to the occasion, they will have squandered a chance to greatly improve transportation and quality of life for their constituents. That isn't overstating it. In London and Stockholm, congestion pricing unclogged streets and reduced toxic tailpipe emissions, which can cause respiratory diseases.

An Assembly report is expected to echo the criticism that labels the congestion fees a tax on working people. But that ignores the fact that only 5 percent of city residents drive to work in the congestion zone. And the plan, done right, would offer them alternatives."

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Published on Tuesday, July 10, 2007 in The New York Times
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