Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) When, in 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg first signed on to the idea of congestion pricing -- charging private motorists to drive in parts of Manhattan during peak periods -- he took on one of the biggest battles of his administration. Congestion pricing was widely derided by drivers, never gained traction in the legislature and was killed in Albany.
But every idea has its time. In New York and San Francisco, the idea of congestion pricing is getting bandied about again. San Francisco County Transportation Authority holds hearings about that city's plan starting next week. And in New York, Stephen Goldsmith, Bloomberg's new Deputy Mayor for Operations and the former Mayor of Indianapolis, gave one of the administration's biggest pushes for the idea in years, in an interview with NY1 television. (The discussion starts about 9 minutes in).
"It's not just the revenue from congestion pricing that makes it so exciting," Goldsmith told Inside City Hall host Elizabeth Kaledin. "You've got a limited number of transportation mechanisms and different ways to get around ... And congestion pricing causes people to think differently about how they consume those roads and consume those bridges and so it's a very important signal to the populace."
Full transcript here:
Elizabeth Kaledin, NY1: What about Albany? Specifically let's talk about it in relation to congestion pricing. You are on record as saying you like the idea, you're in favor of it. It was a knock-down fight between Mayor Bloomberg and Albany. Many of the people representing our suburban residents were extremely angry about the idea and it went down in big defeat for the mayor. Is there any chance that congestion pricing could be brought back and do you have the political stomach to deal with the crew up there?
Goldsmith: Well let's think about this. Yes, I thought and think it's a good idea. I thought what the Mayor did would be a terrific thing for the city and would have avoided, had it been implemented, a number of the really painful MTA cuts that are occurring now. I think the fact that there are so serious cuts raises the possibility of it being considered again.
I'm not a New York City -- let alone New York State -- political expert. So I can't make the decision about whether the mayor should expend political capital to try it again. I'm willing to play my part, if he decides to, and try to work through the negotiations of how it could be in everyone's best interest and how it could be rounded off a little bit. Whether or not he decides to take it on we haven't had that explicit discussion. I'm happy to help but it's not my political reputation that would be on the line.
Kaledin: Would you recommend he expend the political capital and take it on?
Goldsmith: I can't make that evaluation. My recommendation would be -- it was a very valuable policy suggestion on his part, it's even more valuable now. I don't have the political background in New York to say "let's make the case."
Kaledin: But as an urban planner and someone who's interested in the future of cities and their development, would you say this kind of thinking is the kind of innovative thinking that makes cities better places to live? And makes them grow economically?
Goldsmith: Absolutely, it's an imperative. Congestion is an issue. It's not just -- it's not really to me even just the revenue from congestion pricing that makes it so exciting. The issue is you've got a limited number of transportation mechanisms and different ways to get around. Both how you get around and where you are driving or what subway you are taking or what bus you are on. And how New Yorkers use those resources will have to be very efficient for the infrastructure to maintain the number of people. And congestion pricing causes people to think differently about how they consume those roads and consume those bridges and so it's a very important signal to the populace.