New Yorkers can be sure of one thing after elected officials in Albany avoided comprehensive congestion-pricing in the state budget last week.
Traffic on our roads won’t let up anytime soon.
But there is good news: State lawmakers did take some small, but key steps, like funding the subway action plan with a mix of state and city money, providing some new bus-lane enforcement cameras, and approving a $2.50 surcharge on taxis, and a $2.75 charge on for-hire vehicles like Uber and Lyft, on all Manhattan rides below 96th Street. Those are welcome moves to boost public transit and provide a limited, but dedicated, revenue stream for the MTA.
But they’re not even glimmers of the congestion-pricing proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Fix NYC committee. The centerpiece of that plan was a cordon to charge those who drive in Manhattan south of 60th Street. Lawmakers should have included $200 million for the necessary infrastructure and environmental studies. Even that was too much when election-year politics, especially for outer-borough politicians worried about voters who would object to new tolls, trumped the urgency of the region’s transportation troubles.
To show their commitment to the issue, state officials pointed to the creation of a “metropolitan transportation sustainability advisory workgroup” tasked with making recommendations by the end of 2018.
But we don’t need another task force. We need real solutions, clear plans to fund them, and courage from our governor and state lawmakers. The existing Fix NYC coalition is a strong group of important players, and its ideas are on target. State and city leaders should work with them to address suburban concerns, while moving forward on congestion pricing. As they should prepare to toll Manhattan’s central business district, they also should look to lower tolls on outer-borough bridges, including the Throgs Neck and Whitestone.
And still, Cuomo has to take the lead and maintain the political will to move congestion pricing through the inevitable roadblocks. This year, Cuomo ran out of gas. He has to get moving again.