NEW YORK | Congestion Pricing

As MTA seeks $15.2B, could congestion pricing return?

Ken Valenti, 8:26 a.m. EDT September 25, 2014

Could the search for $15.2 billion to pay for the New York City region’s transit needs mean a new look at congestion pricing?

Thomas Prendergast, chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Wednesday that the idea, which fizzled out in Albany after a fervent push in 2008, could still be on the table.

The agency, working with politicians and others, will look at various ways to find the second half of the funding for the $32 billion, five-year capital plan.

That could be one of them," Prendergast said when asked about congestion pricing, adding, "There’s a whole list that we’re going to take a look at.”

The idea of charging tolls to drive south of 60th Street in Manhattan during the work week was pushed hard at the time by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It died when state legislators would not bring it to a vote.

John Corlett, legislative committee chairman for AAA New York, said a congestion pricing plan would hurt many commuters.

“They’re already killing people with tolls,” he said.

Yet, Corlett said a similar plan proposed by a group called Move NY was worth considering because it would pair the new tolls on East River crossings and to drive south of 60th Street with reductions in tolls on bridges connecting areas where transit options are more scarce.

Richard Barone, director of transportation programs with the Regional Plan Association, said the planning organization supports Move NY’s idea. Barone said the MTA’s capital plan was not a “wish list,” but mainly covers the transit giant’s core needs.

“Our city, or region is completely reliant on this system,” he said. “If we don’t make the improvements we need to maintain it then, it’s going to start failing us.” […]

In M.T.A. Capital Budget, a Reappearing Cash Gap


In 2008, a plan for congestion pricing pushed by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg died in Albany. The plan would have charged drivers $8 to enter a congestion zone in Manhattan during peak hours, with the revenue going to the transportation authority.

The capital plan now goes to the Capital Program Review Board, which has 90 days to review it. The gap in the last five-year capital plan was closed mostly by reducing the size of the program and by increased borrowing, according to a report issued in July by the New York State comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli. He warned in the report that additional borrowing could increase pressure to raise fares and tolls.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo, Dani Lever, declined on Wednesday to discuss how the governor would address the funding gap. But the state’s financial picture is brighter compared with recent years: As a result of large settlements with banks, New York expects to have a one-time surplus of about $4 billion to divide up in the negotiations over next year’s state budget. In a speech to a business group last week, Mr. Cuomo cited “rebuilding the aging infrastructure” in New York as one possible use of some of the windfall. But when he raised that idea, he emphasized the infrastructure needs of upstate New York.

I’m against this. Its already expensive enough, eight extra dollars a day can hurt over time. Especially truckers, who already have sky high fuel costs. This only would only slow down the economy. I don’t see this happening either way. Might work in London, but there would be to much outlash in NYC and from commuters in NJ and Long Island.

1 Like

I agree, it will hurt many residents around the area the most.

Minding the Transit Gap


…Mr. Prendergast’s assessment, was the prelude to a plea to city, state and federal officials for more money. The system, which serves 8.7 million customers a day, has many needs, from improved safety mechanisms on suburban trains to new subway cars, additional stations in the Bronx and an extension of the unfinished Second Avenue line north to Harlem. The whole system needs more funds for protection against the next Hurricane Sandy.

All that comes with a $32 billion price tag over the next five years, about $15 billion more than the M.T.A. has on hand. Filling that gap will require new thinking about how to cut costs and raise revenues on top of the regularly scheduled fare increases of about 4 percent every two years. The M.T.A. has yet to offer proposals, but its board is expected to ask the city for more than its paltry $100 million annual subsidy.

The state may have to increase revenues beyond the real estate and payroll taxes that are levied in the regions where the M.T.A. operates. There may be other useful strategies, like establishing public-private partnerships to help run stations and getting the city to revive a congestion pricing plan to charge for vehicles entering Manhattan during rush hours and diverting some of those revenues to mass transit. Charging on toll-free East River Bridges and using that money for mass transit is another good idea, long overdue but politically difficult.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode the subway last week to demonstrate how safe it was in the wake of reports that Islamic State terrorists had targeted subway systems here and in Europe. A better measure of his support would be an infusion of state money to keep the M.T.A. running smoothly.

Trottenberg: Federal Cuts Could Make MTA Funding Gap Even Bigger

By Stephen Miller, Friday, October 17, 2014

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said today that the MTA is making “optimistic assumptions” about federal funding as it plans its next five-year capital program. The agency has identified only half the funds to cover the projected costs of the plan, which maintains, upgrades, and expands the transit system. At a panel with top-level city agency heads this morning, Trottenberg, who sits on the MTA board, warned about a possible cut in federal support, which would further widen the funding gap.

A drop in federal funds would supposedly increase pressure on Governor Andrew Cuomo, who controls the transit authority, to support new sources of revenue. So far, the governor has opposed any new revenue for the MTA.

This morning’s panel, which kicked off the annual meeting of the American Planning Association’s New York Metro chapter, featured Trottenberg, City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod, HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, and EDC President Kyle Kimball. It was moderated by Regional Plan Association Executive Director Tom Wright.

Trottenberg, who was a top U.S. DOT official before moving to NYC government, questioned the assumptions the MTA is making about the federal contribution to its capital program. “At the moment, they have half the funds in hand,” she said. “I’m not even quite sure that they have that money in hand, because it does make some optimistic assumptions perhaps about what’s happening at the federal level.”

After the event, I asked Trottenberg why she thought the MTA’s assumptions are optimistic. She took a long pause before answering. “There is a big question mark about what the federal funding picture is going to look like in the next few years, and understandably when you’re doing a capital budget you have to take a guess at a number,” she said. “But I think there’s a chance that the feds are going to be even less supportive on the transit front than they have been in the past.”

Many political analysts expect Republicans to gain control of the Senate in November, which could disrupt the current stasis in federal transportation policy.

While Trottenberg raised the possibility of a decrease in federal support for transit, the MTA expects those funds to remain steady.

It may not happen after all… lets see what the MTA reinvention committee came up with

MTA: Cost-cutting efforts will help pay for expansion projects

By Gloria Pazmino 5:11 p.m. | Nov. 3, 2014

Top officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority told the City Council on Monday they have figured out how to pay for more than half the agency’s $32 billion in planned expansion projects.

“I’m pleased to report, [the funds] will come from savings we’ve realized as we continue the most aggressive cost-cutting in our history,” William Wheeler, director of special project development and planning at the M.T.A., said during a hearing about the city’s transportation infrastructure with the Council’s transportation and economic development committees.

Those cost-cutting measures include a reduction in operating costs and staffing levels, as well as savings achieved through new labor agreements without raising fares or tolls so far.

1 Like

Thank goodness. Definitely no for congestion pricing. I’m all for a heavily pedestrian focused city, but its too expensive, and driving shouldn’t be penalized even more.

1 Like

As MTA hunts for money, group touts support for plan to add tolls on East River bridges

By Dan Rivoli on December 17, 2014

As state and transit officials figure out how to pay for fixing and expanding the transportation system, a group says it’s got the plan that will do the job and has the support of New Yorkers.

Move NY, a group pushing a congestion-pricing-style bridge toll plan from transit guru Gridlock Sam Schwartz, wants to raise $1.4 billion a year from new tolls on the city’s four free East River bridges and Manhattan below 60th Street, as well as a surcharge on taxi rides.
In exchange, less-trafficked outerborough bridges that have large cash tolls, like the $15 to enter Staten Island on the Verrazzano Bridge or $7.50 per ride on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, would get a substantial cut.

While past ideas for congestion pricing and East River bridge tolls have been politically toxic, Move NY said 45% of voters in the city and the surrounding counties back “balancing” bridge tolls, while support grew to 62% when details of the tolling plan and its benefits were provided, according to a memo for a Global Stategy Group poll done for the group and TransitCenter, a research organization.

“If New Yorkers are presented with a comprehensive, fair plan for improving our city’s roads and bridges and transit system, they’re going to be on board,” said Move NY campaign director Alex Matthiessen.

City and MTA officials have said publicly they are aware of the Move NY plan from Schwartz, a former city transportation commissioner, but have never come out in support. But officials are now talking about the need to find new, consistent streams of revenue, while easing the burden on the riding public that funds about half of the cost to run the entire system – the biggest share in the country compared to other cities’ mass transit systems. Tolls and fares are already set to increase in 2015 and 2017.

I am certainly pro-congestion pricing, if done the right way, though if there are other ways to raise funds to maintain the infrastructure, I’d certainly be for that as well. Bottom line, the money has to come from somewhere, and driving in NYC is not a necessity for most residents.

Reducing or even removing the toll on the Verrazano would make sense to me though, as long as it gets picked up on the East River crossings. Staten Island residents have limited options in terms of public transportation off the island already.


Proposed ‘congestion pricing’ for free bridges blasted at protest

By Reuven Fenton on March 1, 2015 | 9:32pm

Queens assemblyman David Weprin called the proposal “highway robbery.”

Elected officials and civic leaders blasted a congestion pricing proposal Sunday that would slap tolls on all four of the city’s free East River crossings in order to reduce tolls on other bridges.

The MOVE NY plan calls for the Ed Koch, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges to impose a toll of $8.00 or $5.54 with EZPass.

“I can think of no better example of actual highway robbery,” Assemblyman David Weprin of Queens said Sunday at a protest near the Ed Koch Bridge.

“It is nothing but a renewed congestive pricing initiative,” he added.

The plan, which is supported by transportation advocates like the Straphangers Campaign, would also call for a reduction of the tolls on the Whitestone and Verrazanno bridges by $2.50 each way.

The plan over here:

1 Like

Crowds and Long Delays Fray Subway System and Riders’ Nerves

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons on March 19, 2015

…On Sunday, the base fare will rise to $2.75, from $2.50, the latest in what the authority has said will be regular — and necessary — increases.

Transit advocates say that while they understand the angst over another fare increase, they are focused on securing money from state and city officials for the authority’s capital plan, which includes many of the very upgrades that would bring meaningful improvement to commutes. The plan proposes $32 billion in spending over five years, but it is $15 billion short — the largest funding gap ever and a striking sign of the difference between what the system needs and what the authority can afford.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has called the plan “bloated” and has not addressed the funding gap, instead publicly drawing attention to other infrastructure projects, including a new Tappan Zee Bridge and his proposal for an AirTrain to La Guardia Airport. But the authority’s chairman, Thomas F. Prendergast, has argued that the measures outlined in the capital plan are essential, such as replacing aging cars and tracks, modernizing the signal system so more trains can run and beginning the next phase of the Second Avenue subway.

For most riders, their only regular connection to the agency’s budget is the money they load onto their MetroCards. While some believe the authority makes a profit by charging more than the ride costs, the system is, in fact, heavily subsidized, with fares making up about 40 percent of its operating revenue. Experts have called for a more sustainable source of funding; one proposal, by Move NY, would establish tolls for drivers on the East River bridges in Manhattan, an idea that was rejected in Albany in 2008.

…Mr. Brecher has called for other measures to improve service and shore up the authority’s finances, including higher subsidies for the agency from drivers’ tolls and fees. Move NY organizers say their plan, which also lowers tolls on some other bridges, would fully finance the capital program.

As he rode the No. 6 train on a recent afternoon, Scott Singer, 62, a lawyer who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, said he supported the tolls plan because the authority was too dependent on fare revenues.

“I think we should have done it 35 years ago,” he said. “I’ve always thought it was insane there were no tolls on those bridges.”

For now, riders are bracing for the fare increase. Many commuters who use the 30-day pass say they can absorb the extra $4.50 a month while it will be harder on riders with low incomes.

1 Like

Mayor Does Not Include Congestion Pricing in Sustainability Plan

By Ross Barkan on April 22, 2015

The Brooklyn Bridge would be hit with a toll under a new congestion pricing plan. (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to consider building a subway line down Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, a new connection between the L and 3 lines in East New York and expanding the number of Select Bus Service routes. One way he’s apparently not looking to fund any of these upgrades is with congestion pricing.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, notably did not mention the “Move NY Fair Plan” in the sustainability agenda he unveiled today in the Bronx. In fact, as he did before, Mr. de Blasio insisted he still hasn’t read up on the pricing scheme, which would place tolls on the East River Bridges, charge motorists to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street and lower tolls on other outer borough crossings.

“I think it is a productive contribution to the discussion,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters. “We are going to sit with all of our partners in the region and talk about a way forward because it has to be dealt with.”

“That will be one of the ideas on the table, but that is a long process, and I can’t conclude anything about the way forward until we have those discussions,” he added.

Mr. de Blasio’s sustainability plan, known as “One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City,” is a rebranding of his predecessor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC. Mr. de Blasio, who is legislatively mandated to update the plan, is focusing more on eradicating poverty and income inequality, but was criticized by some observers, including the New York League of Conservation Voters, for offering relatively little details in the plan.

On the transportation front, Mr. de Blasio’s ambitions will meet the harsh realities of an underfunded Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a sprawling system in need of extensive maintenance and possibly expansion. Mr. de Blasio has not said yet if the city will actually increase its annual contribution to the MTA, which has been stuck at about $100 million for three decades.

Mr. de Blasio admitted today that there “is a reckoning that has to happen in terms of where we’re going with the MTA.”

“In this plan, we do not provide all those answers, because we don’t have them all yet, but it’s something we’re going to be working on,” the mayor said. “As I said, you get this plan, you get the capital budget, but then there’s going to be a lot happening after the capital budget, including on the question of the MTA.”

A Pack of Queens Democrats Oppose New Congestion Pricing Plan

By Ross Barkan on 04/27/15 5:24pm

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. (Photo: Ross Barkan)

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and a host of fellow Democrats announced this afternoon they are opposing a new congestion pricing plan, pitting themselves against a slew of Manhattan elected officials, including the island’s borough president.

More than a dozen Queens lawmakers, encompassing members of the Assembly, Senate and City Council, said the pricing scheme, known as the “Move NY Fair Tolling Plan,” is unfair to Queens residents and does not guarantee the borough will see mass transit improvements. Under the plan, tolls would be placed on East River bridges connecting Manhattan and Queens and motorists entering Manhattan south of 60th Street would be charged. In turn, tolls would be lowered on other outer borough crossings.

But as critics have pointed out, there would be no guarantee the toll revenue would be redirected toward any particular transit upgrades–or even that it would be used to lower tolls elsewhere.

“It is fundamentally unfair to charge residents a fee to travel within one city. It is certainly unfair to the families who live in the transit desert of Queens as it would landlock our Borough,” the Queens Democrats said in a statement.

“The ideas in the proposal for mass transit improvements are great. But without any direct connection between the revenues generated from the proposed tolls to those very improvements, there is simply no guarantee that this proposal will actually yield anything tangible or amount to anything more than just that: an interesting idea,” they added.

In addition to State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman David Weprin, two lawmakers who have loudly opposed congestion pricing, the statement was jointly issued by Assembly members Jeffrion Aubry, Barbara Clark, Vivian Cook, Phillip Goldfeder, Ronald Kim, Michael Miller, Michael Simanowitz and Michele Titus; And State Senators Joseph Addabbo, Jr., Tony Avella, Leroy Comrie and Toby Stavisky; City Council members Karen Koslowitz, Rory Lancman, Daneek Miller, Paul Vallone and Ruben Wills.

Many of the elected officials represent more suburban portions of southeast and northeast Queens where subway access is nonexistent and many residents own automobiles. The Queens Democrats pushed back on a provision of Move NY that would slash tolls on other outer borough bridges, including some that connect Queens to the Bronx, arguing that it’s inherently unfair to levy “different charges for different residents of different boroughs.”

“We recognize it is critical that we find more stable transit funding sources other than from the driving and riding commuters’ pockets to fill deep budget gaps,” the Democrats said. “But we reject the notion that there is only one way to generate additional monies for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and our region’s infrastructure.”

How do you feel about the pricing evening?

1 Like


1 Like