Congestion Pricing Countdown

Congestion Pricing Ad, originally uploaded by wka.

As a supporter of Congestion Pricing, I felt that this week was the time to do whatever I can to help get this legislation passed. So last Saturday I spent some time in Crown Heights (Brooklyn) asking people to take the time to compose a personal letter in their own handwriting to their local representatives (in that case State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Eric Adams). I was quite amazed at how many people were willing to do this (it’s not an easy thing to ask for!). On Monday morning I went to City Hall for the Council hearings (wearing the green t-shirt pictured below) and heard testimonies from Speaker Quinn and DOT Commissioner Sadik Khan. Yesterday morning I was part of a small group that met with an aide to City Council member Kendall Stewart, who represents the 45th District (Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands), and I also spoke briefly with Stewart himself afterwards.

What I can attest to from talking to ordinary citizens (meaning, NOT politicians) is that even those who weren’t sure where they stood on Congestion Pricing (or knew nothing at all about it) were in favor when told that the revenue would be dedicated to improving subway and bus service. A few expressed understandable skepticism that the money would actually be used for transit improvements, but were somewhat reassured when told that it would go to a dedicated lockbox.

As for our elected officials, many of them seem to be earnestly asking for the data and information that will enable them to answer their constituents’ doubts. Questions about neighborhood parking permits and whether New Jersey and Long Island commuters should pay more than those from the five boroughs seem to be sticking points for some people. But for those of us who don’t drive – a solid majority in all five boroughs – the need for better bus and subway service is not in question.

More posts on Congestion Pricing and Transit Equity in New York City:

Obama Supports Congestion Pricing!
Enrique Peñalosa on Transit Equity for NYC
A Brooklyn Youth’s View on Congestion Pricing
More Supporters for Congestion Pricing
Brooklyn and Congestion Pricing: The Numbers

7 thoughts on “Congestion Pricing Countdown”

  • Hi Anne,
    I thought I was for congestion pricing, but a friend has recently pointed out to me that the details of the Mayor’s plan don’t add up. In fact a lot of the Mayors other projects actually promote congestion. If I can get more info from him, I’ll post them. But in the meantime I am wondering about the mentioned in your post. Do you have any details about that?

  • hi rejin.

    i think the important point about congestion pricing is that it is a progressive piece of legislation whose goal is a sustainable future for NYC in terms of both the environment and the public transit infrastructure. some people are viewing it as beneficial to the rich (and some politicians are cynically spinning it that way) because it was introduced here by a mayor who happens to be a billionaire; but that is, i believe, completely missing the point.

    those who stand to benefit most from congestion pricing are middle and low income people. check out COMMUTE, “a coalition of community organizations around New York City advocating for mass-transit investment for underserved communities, funded through congestion pricing”… they spell it out pretty clearly.

    i think that residential parking permits are just one aspect that will probably need to be tweaked once congestion pricing is in place and it becomes clear which neighborhoods are or aren’t going to be targeted by park-and-riders. since the point is to improve service on buses that “feed” riders to the subway system and/or service neighborhoods with poor subway access, there may actually be *fewer* park-and-riders… it remains to be seen. but i feel really strongly that congestion pricing is our chance to do something forward-thinking to change the way new yorkers get around our city, and to miss that opportunity would be a mighty sad thing. there is nothing else on the table to address both traffic congestion and transit funding, and anyone who thinks we can continue with business as usual is deluded.

  • Christine Quinn is to be given a lot credit for risking her reputation on this. Just two days ago she didn’t have the votes but she got it done.
    She believes in what she is doing and will be a strong candidate for Mayor. Keep an eye on her.

    “Bloomberg, 66, cited council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat who shepherded the bill through months of negotiations that culminated in a 14-hour hearing last week.

    “She managed to get 30 votes when I think most people did not expect this to pass,” Bloomberg said.

    Quinn, 41, praised council members who approved the bill, noting that two-thirds of them came from outside Manhattan, including seven from the Bronx and 13 from the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, where opposition was strongest.

    `Tough Decision’

    “This is a tough decision, it’s a bold decision,” Quinn had said before the vote. “Rarely are ideas that push the envelope an easy decision.”

  • Brooklyn Responds To Congestion Pricing Plan

    Free Subway Service Proposed

    In response to the Congestion Pricing Brooklyn citizens have rallied around demanding less taxes, more control, and free subway access. Hundreds of phone calls and emails have been sent to local assembly members and city council members demanding a real answer to congestion within the city, and the city business core of Midtown, the Financial District and Downtown Brooklyn.

    Michael Richardson, a resident of Flatbush for 40 years, when discussing the City Council’s vote to tax the Brooklyn East River Bridges said, “It’s just a money grab and these politicians have been brought off by the Bloomberg administration with pet projects, campain contributions and promised pork. This is just a money grab by the MTA which keeps stealing money from every New Yorker. Instead of the MTA taking money from us for these projects, they should be paying us? Why does the MTA not pay New York City for the rights to run the train? Maybe we need a different organization or a business to take over. If they’re worried about congestion, make the subways free. We’re paying for them anyway”

    This sentiment has been stirring even more in the boroughs over the last week as the council voted for the congestion pricing plan over the strenous objections of Brooklyn and Manhattan. In fact, the map of the ovtes shows clearly the breakdown between Manhattan and the Bronx, which voted in favor of the tax plan, and Brooklyn and Queens which voted nearly 2-1 against tolling the outerboroughs. Outlined on the map you can clearly see all the middleclass and working nieghborhoods voted against the tax hikes. And the left over districts had large graft thrown their way to buy votes.

    Brooklyn is demanding Free Subways. Subways want to be free as an answer to congression. With almost half the traffic into Manhattan originating from the city proper, taxing Brooklyn and Queens for polution problems on Canal Street is unjust punishment. If the MTA gets the blank check the City Council proposes, the promised increased services will just extend the ability of the MTA to control the economy of New York more effectively, giving them a veto over city growth from her until the future. The real answer to congression is free subways, saving nearly every city resident almost $1000 a year, and encouraging outsiders to use the train.

    Politcal movement has started for the alternative Free Subway congession plan. Members of the City Council are increasing hearing the calls for a Free Subway with Free Bridges for the residents of New York. “We pay for our streets. We pay for our Trains. We pay and pay and pay and make New York the world class town it is. I’ll be damned to have to keep paying more to drive my goods in Manhattan Markets just so some fat cats at the MTA can fund their Long Island Railroad extention to Grand Central Station. Let them cut their bloated budget and let our Babylon brothers take a free subway from Penn Station to Park Avenue.”

  • Brooklyn Livin’
    Congestion Tax Hikes

    The city council today stabbed the heart of every citizen of Brooklyn and Queens last night be passing the tax hike which makes Brooklyn and Queens residents second class citizens in their own city, while giving a free ride to suburbanites. Meanwhile, a permanent blank check has been given to the Metropolitan Transit Authority by issuing this unaccountable agency vital Brooklyn and Queens earnings to pursue any crackpot idea that they come up with, even if it includes ripping up most of midtown Manhattan to ferry precious Long Island voters from their enclaves in Suffolk County to Grand Central station, because god forbid that that can’t get off their fat duffs and walk from 34th street to the east side, nor can they even dream of taking the subway.

    And for all of this, Brooklyn and Queens gets stuck with the bill. We’ve been pimped once again by Manhattan based politicians who have twisted our cash strapped city with the termination of the commuter tax, the increasing subway fare, the rising unfair burden of MTA fares, and a midwinter transit strike.

    Despite the rhetoric, Brooklyn and Queens members of the city council, members of working class areas, by fare the largest consumers of the MTA’s filthy, smelly, unreliable transit-ware, voted nearly 2-1 to defeat the Congestion tax. We hate it because its a fraud. Not since Robert Moses has the borough been raped like by Manhattan and suburban interests.

    Going back to the earliest weeks of the Bloomberg administration, a Mayor born in Boston and a Manhattan transplant, this mayor has threatened Brooklynites with a toll and the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queensboro Bridges. It’s been his overriding goal to put Brooklyn on par with Jersey city, and West Caldwell, New Jersey. This Mayor has never recognized Brooklyn and Queens residents as equal rights holders to our cities heritage. To his mindset, we are just “Bridge and Tunnel” people who haven’t been squeezed enough, despite the fact that we’re not only the largest portion of cities tax paying families, but also the city’s core population.

    Make no mistake about it. If the plan just passed increased suburban commuters transportation costs a whooping 8 dollars a pass, it would be dead in the water in Albany as surely as the commuter tax is. The burden for this tax hike, and the MTA’s ballooning budget deficits, and the coming city budget deficits secondary to the slump on Wall Street, and the stalled World trade Center reconstruction are going to land smack dab where they always do, on the dinner plates of every Brooklyn and Queens resident. This plan is crap.

    For starters, let’s look at the MTA. It wasn’t more than a few years ago that the MTA wanted to pass a referendum to have the City guarantee spending and borrowing for the MTA. The referendum failed miserably and for good reasons. The MTA is an unregulated monopoly which directly affects the lives of every Brooklyn and Queens resident and they’re completely unaccountable and crooked. The MTA for over 40 years has raped the New York City transit system while pouring increasing subsidized resource into the Long Island Railroad and Metro North. Why does New York City resident have to continue to subsidize suburban lifestyles? Do we have representation on a local level or not?

    Every important local infrastructure, the core components of our urban lives, are controlled by super conglomerates which are not only barely accountable, but also permanently politically fixed against Brooklyn interests. And nowhere is this more true than with regard to the MTA and the Port Authority. Give the MTA a permanent stream of income to the tune of billions of dollars based on the traffic entering in and out of Manhattan, the cornerstone of the city’s economic engine and the touchstone of our urban existence, without direct oversight of outer borough officials? Are you crazy? Evidently yes, our Mayor is just that.

    The last time we went through this kind of automated funding of a semi-autonomous quasi-government agency Robert Moses ripped the Bronx clean up with the Cross Bronx Expressway, destroyed the continuity of Williamsburg and Greenpoint cleaved Redhook from the rest of the Borough,of Brooklyn, nearly destroyed Cobble Hill and Carrol Gardens and wasn’t stopped until his treat to destroy Brooklyn Heights was ended resulting in the creation of the landmark and preservation committee, too little and too late to prevent the destruction of the Boroughs economy and neighborhood driven prosperity driving the city into a 30 year economic and social upheaval capped by the race riots of the Dinkens administration.

    Oh what wonders await us now with the Congestion Extortion Tax nearly upon us! Do we get a 2nd Avenue subway that can’t find its way to an outer borough despite the terrible need? Do we get to rip up Midtown Manhattan to build an Altlantic Avenue size train depot on top of a Grand Central Station which already has far more capacity then it is currently using? Do we get new Metro North lines to Newburg and Middletown to help carve out more of our natural resources , all on the Boroughs dime?

    You can bet on it.

    And things get worse. The travel tax on Brooklyn closes vehicular access between Manhattan and Brooklyn, one of the major driving forces behind the growing arts and cultural economy between the two cities. Specialized baked goods, food from the Bronx Market, and access to all of New Jersey is being taxed. Why build a new shiny office tower in Brooklyn when you can just move to Jersey City which has direct access to markets without having to pay the travel tax? The travel tax penalize any anyone trying to get out of the Borough for 12 hours of the day. This is just a continuation of the stranglehold that Manhattan has put on Brooklyn since the original skirmish over getting steam power at the Fulton Ferry in the 1830’s.

    Do you want even more proof that this Congestion Plan is really a olitically motivated tax? Just look at what a rational plan to increase mass transit use would entail. It would make the subway FREE. Yet fares have just gone up because of lack of a lack of support for city transit by suburban dwellers. It would call for rolling out full express service and expansion. Subway service has been on a decline for 50 years. It would increase tolls on the New Jersey tunnels and bridges. These tolls are being subsidized by the plan. It would add a residents only access to the free bridges. It doesn’t. It would include tolls on the Long Island Expressway, the southern State highway and the Bronx River Drive/saw Mill Parkway. These all remain absolutely free. It would prioritize trucks over cars. It does just the opposite. In a nutshell, this is a Brooklyn and Queens tax to support a suburban agenda. It’s the only thing they could pass. Its a rape of Brooklyn. It would end the government policy of subsidizing the growth of suburbs over economical and ecologically sounder plan to drive people back towards the city. It does just the opposite. It discourages living the Brooklyn and Queens by making the slow dirty commutes more expensive.

    The MTA should ditch it’s LIRR extension to Grand Central if it needs money and get serous about trimming fat. The sole leverage we have to accomplish this by having it to come to us for money from the general tax fund. This plan destroys that need.

    In fact, the entire city transit infrastructure should be returned to the city, bridges, tunnels, subway, buses and all. Let the LIRR, Jersey Tunnels and Metro North live off own communities earnings. Let all the MTA bridges go directly into city confers to use as we see fit.

    Baring this, if the Transit tax on the borough passes Albany, then clearly it is tie for Brooklyn and Queens to end the union of the greater City of New York. Brooklyn and Queens can form it’s own city, or function individually. Its time. Manhattan and Suburban planning has been carving up this town for a very long time. The time has come to end this farce. If we are destined to be “bridge and tunnel’ people, then it is long time for us to have a local government which represents our needs. the pretense that we are all equal citizens of the City of New York needs to end.

    Meanwhile you should know the devils who sold you out in the travel tax. These are the elected officials who picked your pocket and treated you like second class citinens.

    Helen Foster of the Bronx who was against the plan but failed to vote

    City Council Rats from Brooklyn and Queens:

    Eric Giola of Queens
    Sara Gonzalez of Brooklyn
    Letita James of Brooklyn
    John Liu of Queens
    Michael McMahon SI
    Hiram Monserrate Queens
    Domenic Recchia Brooklyn
    James Sanders Queens
    Kendall Stewart Brooklyn
    Albert Vann Brooklyn
    Thomas White Queens
    David Yassky Brooklyn
    These all voted to rip you from your city and money.
    Let’s get them the heck out of office.
    Queens voted against the plan 9-5 and Brooklyn voted against the plan 9-7. Manhattan and the Bronx voted 17-0 for the travel tax. Who’s bread is being buttered?

    Ruben Safir

  • How to Play Three Card Monte and Win
    The Story of a Subway Con Job


    Glossary 3 Card Monte – a game of chance often played by sidewalk con-artist where 3 cards are placed face down on a surface like a card board box where the object is for the player to try to pick which card is the Ace of Spades. If the Con-Artist lets you bet, it is likely that you lost
    Gov. George Pataki stole 220 million dollars from the MTA. Last year he took our money, which was part of the MTA’s reserve fund, and balanced the NYS budget with it. This was money earned at the MTA at the turnstile. It was money which was earned after he pushed through a 25 cent increase in the subway fare. It was money largely earned by working poor NYC residents, who paid a full 80% plus of the the operating costs of the TA by the fare box. Our suburban neighbors paid about 50% of operating costs for suburban commuter rails.

    So, make no mistake about it, last year, the working poor of New York City suffered a large tax increase to subsidize a state budget which gave Suburban New Yorkers discounted rail service.

    One late night in October this reporter was waiting at the Atlantic Avenue IRT subway station on the southbound side. Long ago the Atlantic Ave. station had 2 extra staircases on the south end of the station. Currently they are locked up with bars. Out of boredom, I walked to the end of the station to see if I could see down the stairs at the relic of a previous generation.

    I couldn’t see anything down the stair, but I noticed 10-15 large garbage bags laid out on the platform behind the fence. As I was ready to walk away, I noticed movement in the front bag 10 feet away from me. I was startled, and froze for a moment. Then I looked closer and saw that there was definitely something moving in the garbage bag. And it was big and noisy. Then from another direction, I saw something else moving. It was a rat, 2 feet long, not including the tail. He stood on hind legs and gazed at me. It decided I was no threat, and then jumped into a hole in one of the bags. Then I noticed another and another.

    Suddenly, it was like dawn breaking over the horizon, as I was able to see 15 or 20 rats behind that fence. They were brash, loud, and everywhere – just a few feet away from my position. It dawned on me that I was not safe standing where I was, and I slowly backed away from the fence, toward the center of the platform.

    I was reminded at that moment, that one of the benefits of the recent fare hike was a cutback in service. There were less cleaning crews, less token booth clerks, and the MTA was experimenting with single man operated trains. The needed capital improvement plans, which looked so promising a decade ago when Bowling Green Station was refurbished, stalled at the Manhattan side of the east river. The promised new stations at Franklin Ave. and Nevins Street are never to be done. And rats had taken over Atlantic Ave. Meanwhile, Christapher Street in Greenwich Village is brand new, and the LIRR is enjoying a city subsidized discount.

    Enter into this picture the Metro Card.

    Every good execution of three card monte needs a slight of hand and a distraction which creates the right kind of confusion in the mind of the victim. The Metro Card was introduced in NYC early this year. The immediate effect of the card was to slow the turnstile down as the mechanical device which took a token was converted to a computer registered device. The new turnstile hesitates before allowing the passenger to pass through. The days of running down the stairs as the train rolls in, throwing a token in the turnstile while in full motion, and running through the stile as the train doors threaten to close, is now as much part of the past as Ebbets Field. Now, the rider has two choices at the turnstile. He either waits for the computer to recognize his payment, which is about 1 second after entering the token, or he jumps the turnstile.

    Since most of us won’t jump the turnstile, waiting is the only option. Multiply this delay by 100,000 riders at Grand Central Station at 5 PM weekdays, and the result is delays at the station which we have already learned to take for granted.

    The Metro Card slows things down even further as a certain percentage of sweeps of the card fail, causing the rider to double or triple swipe. The MTA has accomplished what the Department of transportation has been trying to do for a generation. They have effectively ended the “Rush” in “Rush Hour”.

    The people of New York would have nothing to do with the Metro Cards. They were rejected them outright. So, in a desperate attempt to get the riding public to accept the Metro Card, The MTA offered Metro Gold – and a free Bus to Subway transfer. As a result of the free transfer, about 40% of the TA ridership gave the Metro Cards a chance. And some benefit has been seen for a few. But in the face of a 25 cent raise in the fare, steep cutbacks in service, the effective end of the Capital Improvement program, and the loss of $220,000,000 dollar to the State general fund, New Yorkers are way behind in the Subway fare game.

    Now, facing another huge surplus in the MTA budget, our very experienced City Council President, and relentless Mayor pressed the Governor to give New Yorkers a 12 for 10 fare break. This would NOT be the same as rolling the fare back to $1.25, but it would at least give working New Yorkers the same weekly commuting cost as before the fare hike and what has become know as “The Great Train Robbery”.

    The real benefit of the Metro Card to the MTA is the ease in which it will be able to raise fares in the future, and the hopeful elimination of token booth clerks, as people will be able to purchase Metro Cards from newsstands and for large quantities. It is common sense that the cost of circulating all those temporary Metro Cards will be more expensive than issuing tokens which outlive the fare price they were issued for. This is the same cost saving that the Federal Government hopes to reap by changing the paper dollar bill for a dollar coin. The coins, lasting longer, end up being cheaper. Of course, if the MTA keeps raising the fare every year, this savings is entirely lost. It ends up being cheaper to just not issue tokens at all, and issue only cheap Metro Cards. Then, when the fare is raised, the MTA has no front end cost of changing tokens. They just change the rate of reduction on the cards.

    In light of this, the new proposal by the Governor for discount fare cards becomes exposed as a slight of hand. The Governor has set in motion the president that the fare can go up and down at whim with no consideration for the rider.

    This is the Governors current plan:

    $63.00 monthly passes:
    At current fare prices a daily commuter pays $60.00 a month for commuting IF he is never sick and there are no holidays that month. In reality, the average commuter pays less than this since there are holidays in most months, and people do take personal days off.

    Also – don’t loose the card or get mugged.

    $17.00 weekly passes
    Normal weekly fares cost $15.00 a week.

    $4 daily passes
    Good for street messengers who might take the train 20 times a day delivering packages around Midtown

    Half Price passes for people over 65.
    Seniors also already get a discounted fare.

    Express Buses decreased from $4 to $3
    Wealthier upper middle class commuters who use express bus service get a no nonsense fare cut!

    11 rides for 10

    There is very little benefit, if any, in this plan by the Governor except for the 11 for 10 plan. The Mayor is correct in his assessment of the situation. We need at minimum a straight – no nonsense 12 for 10 ride plan. Even better, we should shutdown this card game, return to the riding public it’s $220,000,000 dollars, keep the bus to subway transfer, get rid of the Metro Card, reduce the fare back to $1.25 a ride, fund the needed capital improvements, give us back our token booth clerks and station cleaners, and improve service. Then the riders can be happy.

    Now, only the rats at Atlantic Ave. are happy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *