Two Ways of Looking at the Politics of Congestion Pricing

A day before Michael Bloomberg goes up to Albany to testify [Sorry--editing error] testifies here in the city about the merits of congestion pricing, both sides are coming with some novel arguments to bolster their case.

Eliot Spitzer and Bloomberg told reporters today that, in a way, New York already has the concept in place.

Said Spitzer: "We already have congestion pricing in New York State. Most people are not aware of it. But the EZ-Pass across the Tappan Zee Bridge are calibrated, in particularly for truckers during rush hour. And so this is a technology — the EZ-Pass technology has permitted us over the past number of years to put in place this concept."

Bloomberg added, "Keep in mind, we have congestion pricing in New York City. Residents of Staten Island pay a different rate to cross the bridge that connects Staten Island with Brooklyn, the Verrazano, than people from outside New York City, or other boroughs."

The argument, in other words, is that by supporting congestion pricing, legislators would merely be expanding something that's already in place.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester is making a federal issue out of it. “I am not surprised that the Bush administration wants to put cameras in Manhattan and spy on the people of New York,” he just told me. He said he was surprised that Bloomberg and Spitzer would “adopt the Bush philosophy.”

Brodsky said the plan “puts 1,000 cameras on the street and photographs people,” which he finds potentially disturbing. Asked whether he thought that information could be used for something other than congestion pricing, he said, “It certainly seems to have happened in other areas.”

Brodsky also said that at his suggestion, the city is researching an alternative plan to congestion pricing called congestion rationing. Under that plan, driving in certain parts of Manhattan would be restricted based on a vehicle’s license plate. For example, cars ending with an odd number would be banned on Mondays.

“That would reduce traffic, but it will reduce it fairly,” he said.