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OpinionEditorial

Fast lane congestion pricing plan

State lawmakers don’t have to approve all of the pieces now. But they should create a strong enough foundation so the rest can follow.

Traffic moves along 7th Avenue in Manhattan, Jan.

Traffic moves along 7th Avenue in Manhattan, Jan. 25, 2018 in New York City. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that congestion pricing — the “idea whose time has come,” according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — is now the idea that’s stuck in a political jam.

But it’s imperative that Albany clear the road for a comprehensive congestion pricing plan.

State lawmakers don’t have to approve all of the pieces now. But they should create a strong enough foundation so the rest can follow. In the forthcoming budget, lawmakers should approve a surcharge on for-hire vehicles. The Assembly’s proposal needs tinkering; it treats companies like Uber and Lyft differently than yellow and green cabs. Uber and similar services would be charged $2.75 fee per trip below 96th Street, and $1 above, while a yellow cab would pay 50 cents for trips below 96th Street. That’s an absurd distinction. The surcharge should be the same for all, metered taxi and for-hire trips, with the revenue directed to fund improvements and repairs to public transit.

Lawmakers should not stop there. They should include initial funding — around $200 million — for the necessary environmental impact studies and infrastructure to create a cordon that would allow the state to charge personal vehicles to drive into Manhattan’s central business district — generally defined as below 60th Street.

Then there’s the simplest item on the to-do list. The governor and state lawmakers should give City Hall the go-ahead to add more traffic enforcement cameras, particularly to help curb bus lane and blocking-the-box infractions. City officials need state approval to install more cameras; the state has no reason to say no.

After this year’s budget is done, Cuomo will need to finish the job on improving traffic and raising revenue for public transportation. Cuomo has said frustratingly little about congestion pricing since his big pronouncement last summer. To make congestion pricing a reality, he and other state leaders have to be steadfast advocates for its key elements: a central business district fee structure and lower outer borough bridge tolls.

These changes are the only way to get us moving. Don’t slow down now.

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