Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Non-Profit Quietly Pushes to Bring Congestion Pricing to NYC
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A private, non-profit group has been quietly organizing to bring congestion pricing to New York City.
Environmentalist Alex Matthiessen, the former Hudson Riverkeeper and a former Clinton administration aide, has been silently meeting with potential supporters of the plan for the past six months but there is no formal budget, list of supporters or definite state proposal on congestion pricing.
Matthiessen founded a group devoted to finding a regular and replenishing stream of mass transit funds for the New York City region called the Sustainable Transportation Campaign.
The last time New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed congestion pricing, it foundered in the state legislature.
"If they're working on it, I happen to think it makes some sense, but I'm going to stay out of it," Bloomberg said at a press conference Wednesday. "We've done everything we can. We had an idea. We did all the work to implement it and explain it to people. But unfortunately it was like jumping 95 percent across the Grand Canyon -- it didn't work."
Other groups that have supported congestion pricing in the past say they are still behind the concept, but are waiting to see a specific proposal from Matthiessen.
Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said she believes relieving congestion is a key priority for business in New York, but said there's no proposal to support. The Working Families Party said they also were waiting for a specific plan, but they hadn't signed off on anything.
Governor Cuomo expressed skepticism during the campaign about congestion pricing. Speaking in Poughkeepsie last week, he said a payroll tax passed last year to fund the MTA was "erroneous" and he was open to a "better way" to fund the MTA — but he didn't say what that would be.
Manhattan State Senator Daniel Squadron supports the idea of congestion pricing and is floating the idea in Albany, though neither legislative leader has come out in favor of it.