Want a new pot of money for the subways that might help limit the delays and disruptions so common to your daily commute? And, perhaps, fewer cars on busy midtown streets you need to cross?
It could happen, if congestion pricing becomes reality.
A panel of experts called Fix NYC last week released a bold and promising attempt to tackle two of the city’s biggest problems — its broken transit system and its grid-locked streets. The panel hopes the idea will create a new revenue stream for subways and buses, and reduce traffic, particularly in Manhattan’s central business district.
The plan starts with basic improvements to subways and buses, enforcing existing traffic laws, such as oft-ignored block-the-box violations, and limiting parking placard abuse. But then the plan gets more ambitious. It recommends a $2 to $5 surcharge on all taxi and for-hire vehicle trips. And then it suggests creating a zone from 60th Street to the southern tip of Manhattan where any driver would pay a once-a-day fee of $11.52 during peak hours.
It’s a thorough proposal, and a very good start. But it mustn’t become a report that meets with initial fanfare only to gather dust in a drawer. Transforming ideas into reality will require constant pressure by supporters, as well as political will and compromise among state, city and MTA officials. The effort must start now, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo taking the lead.
Congestion pricing has a supporter in new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and council support will be important. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, long a congestion-pricing critic, said Friday that the report was a “step in the right direction.” He should be more open to the notion that congestion pricing is the better answer to the MTA’s revenue needs than his proposal for a millionaire’s tax.
There are, of course, concerns and roadblocks ahead. Certain changes — such as reducing tolls for outer-borough bridges like the Throgs Neck, RFK, Verrazano and Whitestone, or creating a half-fare MetroCard to help low-income riders — should be considered. But those are simply ways to build on a very good foundation.
Don’t let this plan get stuck in traffic.