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White House Office of Urban Affairs: Bring congestion pricing to New York.

Friday, April 16, 2010 - 03:47 PM

Adolfo Carrion, White House Director of Urban Affairs

Adolfo Carrion, White House Director of Urban Affairs

(New York, NY - Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) -- Adolfo Carrion was once Bronx Borough President -- and may someday run for Mayor of New York City. But now he's taking a swing through Washington, as Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. And he's not being shy about pushing a policy that went down to bitter defeat in New York a couple years back.

A little history: prompted by London's success, a number of business leaders in New York began pushing a plan to charge drivers to enter Manhattan's business district. In London, the program had been a brainchild of "Red Ken," the former socialist London Mayor who saw it as a way to transfer wealth from car owners to transit riders, while reducing congestion and pollution, three goals it largely attained. 

But when it crossed the Atlantic, it became billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to restrict the streets of Manhattan to the wealthy, and went down to bitter defeat at the hands of the Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, no Bloomberg fan. Given that sour battle, it was something of a surprise to see Carrion put congestion charging on his wish list for New York, right there with a new Penn Station -- renamed Moynihan Station after the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose brainchild it was -- and a one-seat transit ride to the region's airports.

Especially given Carrion's not so hidden interest in running for Mayor of New York someday, maybe in 2013.

Its true that in the he battle over whether charging drivers to enter Manhattan's business district was good social policy that would discourage driving, lower the city's carbon footprint, and push funds towards transit -- or unfairly penalize residents of the "outer boroughs," Aldofo Carrion chose the first option.

Now Carrion is director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, promulgator of best practices, not necessarily controversy.
So it was a bit of an ear-perker to hear him add his wish for "dare I say it, congestion charging." After his remarks, reporters tried to get elaboration: what would such a plan look like? Should Bloomberg try and resurrect the proposal Assembly Speaker Shelley Silver killed and buried? Try something else? Would the Obama Adminstration endorse a plan, as the Bush Administration had, that would give New York hundreds of millions of dollars for transit in exchange for congestion charging? Carrion wouldn't elaborate, insisting that local officials and planners should develop the policy. Even though, it was pointed out, he was IN the last fight? "I wear a different hat now," he said.

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