Report: Panel to pass congestion pricing

Would be less ambitious plan to Bloomberg's
January 25, 2008 8:28:01 AM PST
Nearly half the members of a commission studying ways to tame city traffic said the panel would likely recommend imposing fees for driving into the most congested part of Manhattan, a newspaper reported Friday. The commission's choice will likely be a less ambitious version of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to charge cars $8 and trucks $21 to drive into Manhattan below 86th Street on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., The New York Times reported.

Eight of the 17 Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission members said they expected the group would emerge with a modified take on Bloomberg's plan, the newspaper said. A leading possibility, according to the Times: making the cutoff for entry at 60th Street, and not charging drivers for trips within the fee zone.

An estimated nearly $500 million a year in proceeds would pay for mass transit improvements.

The eight members included commission Chairman Marc V. Shaw and members Kathryn S. Wylde and state Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky - the last of whom staunchly opposes the idea, known as congestion pricing.

"I don't think there's any doubt about it," he told the Times. "They're driving this toward the mayor's plan with a few small modifications, most of which make it worse."

But Wylde - the president of the Partnership for New York City, a business group - said five months of study and hearings had "resulted in a much better proposal than the original one."

Bloomberg broached his congestion pricing plan as part of a broad environmental initiative announced last year. The federal government has pledged $354 million toward the plan, but it faces vigorous opposition from many drivers and some elected officials.

The Times' report on the commission's leanings quickly drew condemnation Friday from Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free, which describes itself as a group of community and small business leaders, civic groups and labor organizations.

"Only the millionaires living in Manhattan will be exempt from paying a drivers tax, while the seniors citizens and hardworking people in Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn will be unfairly charged," spokesman Walter McCaffrey said in a statement.

The mayor and state Legislature formed the commission to study Bloomberg's concept and other possibilities for reducing traffic. The commission is set to vote on its recommendation Jan. 31; the plan would ultimately need City Council and state Legislature approval.

Besides congestion pricing, the commission has looked at such options as creating tolls at all the East and Harlem river crossings, raising prices for street and garage parking, and banning vehicles from entering part of Manhattan on certain days based on a digit on their license plates.

A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month showed that 58 percent of New York City voters opposed Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, with 37 percent supporting it and the rest undecided. But 60 percent said they would support the proposal if it generated money to improve mass transportation, with 37 percent opposing.

The poll surveyed 1,162 registered New York City voters between Jan. 3 to 7. Its margin of error was plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.