At a conference today organized last week the Regional Planning Association, which describes itself as a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the NY/NJ/CT metropolitan region, one topic dominated the discussion: the failure of congestion pricing.
Albany was the main focus of the conference participants’ ire.
An exasperated Edward Skyler, the deputy mayor for operations, said, “The smallest things require approval from the state. For example, if we want to put traffic cameras up, we can’t do that unless we get approval from Albany.”
Echoing a point made publicly by Mayor Bloomberg, Skyler said that the congestion pricing setback “isn’t going to stop us – it’s one of 127 other items” referred to in PlaNYC. “You as well I can take solace in the fact that only 15 of those require approval from Albany,” he added. “We are going to do move aggressively to try to do whatever we can to reduce congestion.”
Marc Shaw, the chair of the New York City traffic mitigation commission, pointed out that congestion pricing was based on the model in London and other cities that are successfully using it, but said, “Bringing ideas like that to New York is sometimes different because New York is different. It has a lot to do with the political structures.”
Shaw, a former first deputy mayor, continued: “People need to understand the way politicians work. And the way politicians act, they act rationally, in their own best interests. And their own best interests are never to support a tax or a congestion charge, whatever you want to call it, without having some say in how that money gets spent.”
Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan tried to put a gloss on the congestion pricing defeat. She described it as having brought about a “dramatic shift in the way New Yorkers think about transportation,” and called it a “galvanizing force” for making transportation improvements.
“We were able to win over a majority of the City Council,” she said, “the State Senate majority leader, not one but two governors, and about 66 percent of New York residents who said that they supported congestion pricing as along as it went to fund mass transit.”
For what that’s worth.