Congestion Charging

Transportation Nation

The NYC Mayoral Transit Stakes Begin -- Stringer Backs Commuter Tax

Monday, April 16, 2012

Scott Stringer (phtoo:

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is the first likely 2013 New York mayoral candidate out of the box with a detailed plan for financing the city's transit system.  It's a a mix of solutions -- but the gist is this, there should be more financing for transit, and not just from transit riders.

Instead, Stringer wants to bring back the commuter tax, killed by Albany over a decade ago, as well as take a fresh look at congestion charging, bridge tolls, and other sources of funds for transit.

All of the taxes and fees would require approval by state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo.  In the past, leaders of both parties and Governor Cuomo have not supported congestion charging, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver brokered the deal that killed the commuter tax.

Stringer's proposals, to be delivered at a speech to the Association for Better New York Tuesday morning,  now set a bar for the other candidates -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and former City Comptroller William Thompson.

Other than Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, transit funding has not been a big part of mayoral campaigns in the past.  Stringer's speech is a sign that that there will be more discussion to come in the next 19 months.

Among his proposed solutions:

  • Dedicate the NY Mortgage Recording Tax, which currently funds transit operating expenses, to transit capital expenses. Stringer says the tax fluctuates too much to be a reliable source of year-to-year funds.
  • Instead, he wants to use the tax as the basis for a transit infrastructure fund, to draw in in union and other pension investments.
  • To replace the loss of the recording tax to the operating funds, he suggests a number of possible funding sources.
  • Bridge tolls, a la the 2010 Ravitch Plan.
  • A congestion charge, a la the Sam Schwartz "Fair Plan"
  • Letting the MTA borrow against increased property tax revenue that comes when new subway stations are built.
  • A restoration of the commuter tax, which was repealed by the state legislature in 1999.

Stringer says he'd spend the money on more bus rapid transit, light rail on 42nd street, and connecting Red Hook Brooklyn to the Navy Yard,  an AirTrain to LaGuardia, and an "X" subway line connecting Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

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Transportation Nation

Despite Controversy, SF Supes Vote to Study Congestion Pricing

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) It's a controversial plan, but the city of San Francisco is pushing ahead anyway: this morning, the board of supervisors voted to continue studying several options for congestion pricing cordons in the northeast corner of the city. The options include a $3 toll to enter and leave the cordoned area during especially busy times; alternatively, commuters who parked downtown all day would pay a $6 toll upon leaving. A third option, which would have charged drivers to enter the city from the south, was scrapped after politicians from Peninsula city councilmen to a state Assemblyman threatened a counter-toll. Don't hold your breath, though – the earliest anyone will pay to drive into the Financial District is 2015.

I interviewed Matthew Roth of Streetsblog SF about why it's so controversial to price driving; hear our conversation over at KALW News.

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Transportation Nation

NY Candidate Cuomo: Congestion Pricing "Moot"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

(New York -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo has been a bit of a cipher when it comes to transportation and transit.  He's bemoaned MTA inefficiencies, called into question an employer-tax imposed last year to help bail out the MTA, and said fares shouldn't go up. But he's said little about financing the authority over the long term.

Today, in his most extensive remarks to date on transit, he didn't add much.

The occasion was the release of his 273-page urban agenda, which by the way, did NOT include transit.  It was the kind of "urban agenda" you'd hear in the 1990's: anti-poverty, affordable housing, minority jobs. (By contrast, Shaun Donovan, the current HUD Secretary -- Cuomo's former job -- has made sustainable, walking, transit-rich communities a major plank in his agenda.)

But all the journalists there, pretty much, wanted to talk transit.  In fact, I didn't raise the subject.  A Daily News reporter did.

"There's going to be a need for more efficiency," Cuomo said of the MTA.  "More effectiveness, better management.  You can't have over $500 million in overtime. You can't have thousands of people making over $100,000 a year .  I believe the Governor should be accountable for the MTA."

My turn.  But what about funding for the MTA?  Does he support congestion pricing?  [As Mayor Bloomberg does?]  Bridge tolls? [As Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch does?]

"Congestion pricing was proposed," Cuomo parried.  "It was discussed.  It was basically rejected by the legislature.   I don't know that there's been any change in opinion.  I think it's moot.  I understand the concept.  I understand that it was rejected.  I don't think it would pass if it came up again, unless something changed."

Without offering specifics, he added. "There's going to be a number of revenue raisers. The instinct is going to be to say 'more money more money more money.'   I understand that.  Part of the discipline I want to bring is a fiscal discipline to the state and the MTA.  The answer can't always be more money."

But then Melissa Russo of WNBC Channel 4 asked (I'm paraphrasing): how could he say, if it didn't happen, it won't happen?  What about all the other things he wants to happen -- like government reform?  Isn't the problem that the legislature hasn't made them happen?

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Transportation Nation

NY Third Party Candidate Charles Barron Opposes Congestion Charging

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Sorry for the confusion, folks. It turns out that even though NYC City Councilmember Charles Barron invited George Hiakalis to speak at his rally yesterday, and that Hiakalis supports a plan for London-style congestion charging, Barron himself does not. (Take a look my post from yesterday -- Barron nowhere says he's for it, although Hiakalis's presence strongly implied he did.)

In a follow-up conversation today, Barron told me he only supports the "free transit" part of Hiakalis's plan. 

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Transportation Nation

NY Third Party Candidate for Governor's Platform: Free Mass Transit

Monday, September 27, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York's Governor's race has been roiled this year. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the erstwhile shoo-in, is getting criticism from his own party (and the New York Times) for not campaigning hard enough -- while Republican nominee Carl Paladino, the Tea Party-backed candidate, is promising to smash Albany "with a baseball bat." That's a promise that's getting some traction in an environment where one governor was caught with a prostitute, the next has been under investigation for improperly getting free Yankees tickets, and the State Senate Majority Leader is under multiple investigations for allegedly using funds designed for poor people's health projects for his own political benefit.

But now Cuomo is also getting challenged from the left -- the far left. Charles Barron, a city council member known for his radical political views, is running for Governor on the "Freedom Party" line. The key plank in his platform? Free mass transit.

"The Freedom Party today is saying to the state that we can do something about transportation. They say they don't believe in taxes, but when they raise the transit fare, that's a tax on poor working class families," Barron said at a press conference outside Brooklyn's Borough Hall, and then proceeded to lay out a plan to pay for transit (which by the way, is more than Andrew Cuomo has done.)

By raising taxes on people making more than $250,000, Barron says you could generate $8 billion, and dedicate $3 billion of that to lowering the transit fare.

Then Barron brought forward transit gadfly George Haikalis of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility who advocated a congestion charging scheme to generate revenues to make the "subways free." Haikalis says charging rates comparable to London's 8 pounds (about $15) would pay for the subways. That amount, by the way, is about double what Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated when he pushed congestion charging in 2007 and 2008.

Does Andrew Cuomo support congestion pricing? His issues "book" is silent on the issue.

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Transportation Nation

5000 Fewer Riders Using Bay Bridge as Congestion Pricing Takes Hold

Friday, August 13, 2010

Photo by

(Oakland, CA -- Casey Miner, KALW) CalTrans raised tolls on the Bay Bridge July 1 during peak hours, from $4.00 to $6.00 -- and for carpools, to $2.50, from nothing. What happened?

Five thousand fewer cars are using the Bay Bridge each day, and BART, the cross-bay commuter train, saw 4500 more riders. The full story here.

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Transportation Nation

What Will Andrew Cuomo Do on Transportation? He's Not Telling.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation). Like moth to a flame, I'm drawn to read every page when a candidate releases a 252-page briefing book. So when Andrew Cuomo sent out his "The New NY Agenda: A Plan for Action" on Sunday night, I was excited. Really.

I wouldn't be spending the campaign waiting for my interview, or listening closely to q-and-a's, or shouting out questions at press conferences. It would be all there, in black and white, the answers to all my questions. Too bad I was wrong.

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