For Congestion Pricing, Against Bridge Tolls

Among the elected officials who came out at a press conference yesterday against the Ravitch Commission’s recommendation to raise revenue for the M.T.A. by tolling the East River bridges was Senator-elect Dan Squadron.

It’s interesting because while Squadron opposes tolling East River Bridges, he is in favor of congestion pricing.

Squadron, though a spokesman, emailed to explain:

"As we try to close a historic MTA budget gap without breaking the backs of straphangers, we need innovative funding solutions that also clean up our environment and cut down on commerce-choking congestion. Instead of dividing the boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens from the rest of the city by throwing inflexible, permanent tolls on east river bridges, we need a solution that deals with the problem: more funding for public transit with less pollution and congestion, especially at peak times. Unlike the bridge tolls proposal, congestion pricing, market-rate street parking and variable weight (or MPG) charges for automobiles would accomplish those goals."

UPDATE: Here's the point-by-point response to the Ravitch Commission report that Squadron released yesterday:

1) Review of the MTA's operating budget and capital needs

ON TRACK: · The report rightfully identifies the way that over-reliance on self-supported capital debt depletes the MTA operating budget.

· The report points to the need for improved bus service, a necessity for retaining ridership, serving seniors and helping New Yorkers in underserved areas obtain access to transportation.

MIND THE GAP:

· The report lacks a comprehensive review of the MTA's real estate holdings and areas for short or long-term cost-savings.

· The report lacks a clear prioritization of projects within the capital program, including short- and long-term cost benefit analysis, in case the dedicated funding streams come up short.

2) Fare policy ON TRACK:

· The commission recommends against the proposed 23% fare increase, which would be a hardship on straphangers. · The report is reluctant to adopt a set, arbitrary "fare ratio" formula.

MIND THE GAP:

· If the MTA does adopt an inflation-pegged biannual fare increase structure as recommended, it must create a new, more stringent process for out-of-cycle increases.

· If an out-of-cycle increase is required, there must be true accountability for poor planning by the Chairman, Executive Director and Board if such an increase is required. · The process for determining fares biannually must allow for fare decreases as well.

3) New approaches and funding sources to meet the MTA's needs ON TRACK:

· Creation of the Mobility Tax for those who benefit from the MTA's service but don't contribute, to be put into the new Capital Finance Authority.

MIND THE GAP:

· The proposal for East River tolls, which would divide Manhattan from the rest of the city, ignores preferable alternatives for a vehicle-based revenue stream, such as congestion pricing, variable vehicle weight charges, MPG rating charges or market-rate street parking.

4) Additional regional mass transit needs ON TRACK: · The report recognizes the dire need for an investment in Bus Rapid Transit. MIND THE GAP:

· The report lacks discussion of other alternative transit options, including "people movers," monorails and the role of bicycling on our overall transit picture.

5) Governance changes

ON TRACK:

· The recommendation to rationalize the roles of the Chairman and Executive Director would improve accountability and independence at the MTA.

· The report correctly identifies issue expertise among board members as a valuable asset for the MTA and offers a valuable recommendation that such expertise be required.

MIND THE GAP:

· The report does not consider the appropriate balance of board appointments among the Mayor, the Governor, riders and other constituencies.

· The report offers no recommendations about rider experience beyond operational concerns. 6) Transparency and accountability

ON TRACK:

· The report recommends increased web access for MTA reports and audits, which would help make the authority more transparent to New Yorkers.

MIND THE GAP:

· There is no mention of an independent process for assessing the performance of the Chairman, Executive Director and board based on accuracy of financial projections and rider satisfaction.