For Now, No Congestion Pricing in NYC

Andy DarrellThis post is by Andy Darrell, vice president of the Living Cities Program at Environmental Defense Fund.

Yesterday, the New York State Legislature failed to pass congestion pricing for New York City (see NY1 report), thus forgoing $354 million in federal funds.

Today more than ever, New York and America’s other big cities need solutions for clean air and better transit – our health, climate and economy depend on it. Over the past year, an extraordinary majority of New Yorkers came together to support congestion pricing, and of course today’s setback is very disappointing. But I believe that New York will continue to strive for innovative solutions, and Environmental Defense Fund is dedicated to working with leaders from across the state to help make those solutions real.

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  1. Posted April 8, 2008 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Not a big deal. If it’s a good idea, it doesn’t need $354 million in federal money to make it so. Can congestion charges work without subsidies?

  2. Posted April 8, 2008 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    The city needed state approval to go ahead with the plan, and didn’t get it.

  3. quentinp
    Posted April 8, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Just a ridiculous decision. It seems that personal politics was more important to the Democrats in this decision than doing good for the State, the country, and the environment. They managed to claim (without a vote) that massive investments in public transport were somehow ‘regressive’ because the precious suburban middle class would have to pay to drive into ‘our’ city.

    So thanks to this decision it’s still their city – and a city that continues to smell, pollute, and be a city the middle class can all be equally ashamed of. If they’d moved things forwards it still *would have* been their city, and one that would have been a leader for the country in quality of life, availabliity of transport, smell, noise, cleanliness, low pollution, and in fighting global warming.

    It would not ever have been a leader for the world, because London and Singapore – I think – are already using congestion pricing. Now we have to wait even longer for a US city to join the 21st Century.


  4. frankjhariton
    Posted April 9, 2008 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    All political outcomes are subject to simple analysis, but sometimes more understanding may be gained by a closer review. I think that the political leaders who rejected the idea and many individuals, myself included rejected it over lack of trust regarding its implementation.
    The source of this lack of trust is multi faceted and involves historically long periods. However, a recent example stands out. Several years ago a group called CFE won a court victory that required that New York State spend more on New York City Schools. The court found that at least an additional $1.9 Billion must come from the NY State to NYC every year. Almost immediately after the court decision, the Mayor announced that since Wall Street had a good year he would reduce Real Property Taxes in NYC by $1.2 Billion. If Wall Street had a good year and the City had extra money perhaps it should have been spent on education or mass transit or other infrastructure issues rather than on a real property tax reduction. As a member of a suburban school board I raised a few eyebrows among my colleagues by saying that the concept of the CFE lawsuit was not evil even though we might suffer as our State aid for our schools was reduced.
    The NYC administration proposing fees for traffic congestion are the same guys who took the $1.9 from CFE and redirected two thirds of it away from education to property tax reductions. Why should I trust them? If there were congestion pricing, I would have to pay the freight a few times a year – that much I know is certain. Thew fees will be collected from me. Whether anything beneficial would be developed would be very problematical. I would anticipate excuses, delays etc. and very little to show after a few years. I do not doubt that congestion pricing has merit, but I do not trust the smooth talking NYC administration to do anything more than take the money and hand it over to their favorites like the real estate operators as they have elected to do in the past. In short I wont be fooled again.

  5. quentinp
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    “I do not trust the smooth talking NYC administration to do anything more than take the money and hand it over to their favorites like the real estate operators as they have elected to do in the past. In short I wont be fooled again.”

    No, you won’t be. And you won’t achieve anything either.

    There are more elightened ways to deal with lack of trust or betrayal. Kind of like the “closer review” you advocate.

    Consider responses such as:

    – Am I in an identical situation as before. Or not?
    – If I have valid reason to mistrust is the downside greater than the upside?
    – Can I control or limit or affect the downside? Maybe I can use publiciity, alternative suppliers, alternative arrangements, caps, restrictions, caveats, stage gates, control points, reviews, audits, public opinion to exert control and oversight.
    – By moving things forwards today am I ceeeding all my future leverage, or can we progress while I continue to evaluate and put into place any controls I may deem necessary?

    Or I can make a simple ‘binary’ decision and throw the whole opportunity away. I may not achieve anything, and I may not be a leader, but at least I won’t be fooled.