The saga of New York City's deteriorating subway took an interesting new turn this week. After MTA chairman Joe Lhota released an $800 million emergency plan to fix the system, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would foot half of the bill and urged the city to cover the rest. Mayor Bill de Blasio wasn't exactly amused by this proposition but did float an income tax hike for millionaires in order to help pay for some of the fixes (that measure will almost certainly be killed in the state legislature).
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that Cuomo was coming around to another nifty idea that could fill that funding gap: congestion pricing. The concept would add tolls to the busiest areas in Manhattan, bringing much-needed revenue to the MTA, and has previously been floated by city officials. “Congestion pricing is an idea whose time has come,” Cuomo said over the weekend.
One local group, Move NY, has been pushing for congestion pricing in Manhattan's central business district for years. Their plan would add tolls to the gratis bridges over the East River and southbound streets at 60th Street. The prices of those tolls would change throughout the day, encouraging drivers to avoid the busiest areas of Manhattan during peak hours. Under their plan, the new tolls would allow for tolls on other bridges in the city (namely Throgs Neck Bridge) to be reduced.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a similar plan back in 2008, but it was eventually nixed in the state legislature, as representatives from the suburbs and outer boroughs were concerned that the tolls benefitted Manhattanites at the cost of their constituents. Now, with the subway system riddled by delays, derailments and track fires, congestion pricing may be Cuomo and de Blasio's best hope for paying for a fix.
In the meantime, New Yorkers can at least find solace in the fact that the renovations at LaGuardia Airport are going smoothly (for now).
By Clayton Guse