The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Friday, March 28, 2008

NY State's new Governor backs congestion pricing for NYC

Updated, 9:45 p.m. | Gov. David A. Paterson threw his support today behind the idea of charging drivers to enter the busiest parts of Manhattan, introducing a bill in the State Legislature to establish the controversial program and rescuing it from the brink of death.

The turnaround came after an impassioned pitch to the governor from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg behind closed doors at City Hall on Wednesday, when Mr. Paterson privately expressed support for the proposal, city officials said, but warned he needed first to tell Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has shown little inclination to approve it. Mr. Paterson’s blessing, which came as Bloomberg aides have been furiously lobbying the city and state lawmakers who must approve the program, could prove crucial in making the proposal to charge most drivers $8 to enter the zone below 61st Street a reality. Mr. Paterson said in a prepared statement:

Congestion Pricing addresses two urgent concerns of the residents of New York City and its suburbs: the need to reduce congestion on our streets and roads, and thereby reduce pollution and global warming; and the need to raise significant revenue for mass transit improvements. We expect that revenue from the Congestion Pricing plan will support more than $4.5 billion in needed capital improvements for mass transit and meaningfully reduce traffic into the Central Business District of Manhattan. Before the constructive process of deliberation proceeds in both the City Council and the State Legislature, transparency requires that the public fully see what the system envisioned by the Commission will entail. While Commission Report highlighted other issues which need to be resolved, introducing this bill allows the City Council and Legislature to examine the details of the proposal and make an informed judgment on the Congestion Pricing program.

Winning the support of Mr. Paterson, who has far more experience and good will among state lawmakers than his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, represents something of a coup for Mr. Bloomberg, who has made congestion pricing an important element of his second-term agenda.

But it by no means guarantees that any form of the bill will ultimately pass since it must find favor not only with the City Council, where many members are currently opposed or undecided, but also with Mr. Silver, who has been unafraid to stymie Mr. Bloomberg’s ambitions in the past.

Advocates of congestion pricing immediately applauded Mr. Paterson’s move. Michael O’Loughlin, Director of the Campaign for New York’s Future, a coalition of business, environmental, labor and other groups that support the traffic charges, said in a statement:

At a time when New York urgently needs enlightened leaders to take courageous action on big challenges, Governor Paterson has today boldly demonstrated his dedication to a better future for New York. By introducing legislation to enact congestion pricing for better transit, he is advancing a truly historic and visionary plan to reduce gridlock, improve the bus and subway system 7.5 million New Yorkers count on, and clean the air we all breathe. This is an important step forward, especially for the millions of working-class New Yorkers who overwhelmingly rely on mass transit as their sole means of commute and daily travel. With so much at stake, we are confident that our city and state leaders will join Governor Paterson in working together during the critical days ahead to resolve any remaining issues so that New York can receive $354 million federal dollars for immediate transit improvements and begin building the transit system we need to keep New York moving forward in the 21st century. Thank you, Governor Paterson.

Gene Russianoff, a lawyer for the Straphangers’ Campaign, an advocacy project for subway and bus riders that is part of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement:

Right on, Governor! The Straphangers Campaign applauds Governor David Paterson’s announcement of his support for congestion pricing. This is great news for New Yorkers who want better subways and buses, cleaner air and a stronger economy with fewer traffic jams. The Straphangers Campaign looks forward to working with state and city elected leaders to craft the fairest and most effective congestion pricing bill possible.

Andrew H. Darrell, regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement:

Environmental Defense is very pleased that Governor Paterson is moving congestion pricing forward — our air quality and the city’s subways, buses and ferries depend on it. This legislation will address important issues raised by elected officials over the past year. The majority of New Yorkers support this plan, and we are confident their elected officials will represent their interests and pass this plan. When they do, New York City will soon after see less traffic, cleaner air and better transit.

Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a leading business association, said in a statement:

The Partnership for New York City congratulates Governor Paterson for his leadership in submitting a program bill to the State Legislature that creates a congestion pricing zone for the Manhattan central business districts. This is a major victory for New York City and if passed will bring an immediate $354 million in federal funding and $500 million in annual revenues to support mass transit. The Partnership found in its 2006 report, Growth or Gridlock, that vehicles going to and from this economic hub generate the excess traffic congestion that causes over $13 billion in annual costs and revenue losses to people and businesses across the entire region. With the Governor’s support, congestion pricing will ensure that New York City will be prepared for future growth and economic development in this increasingly competitive global environment.

On Friday afternoon, the groups opposing congestion pricing had not issued any public statements, but information about their positions can be found at the Web site of their coalition, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free. In the evening, Walter McCaffrey, a former City Councilman who is the group’s spokesman, issued a brief statement: “Even Governor Paterson’s good name on Good Friday cannot resurrect this flawed and unfair tax legislation called congestion pricing.”

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