Nine Democrats Back New Congestion Pricing Plan

East River bridges would be tolled under the "Move NY" congestion pricing plan. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

East River bridges would be tolled under the “Move NY” congestion pricing plan. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A coalition of city and state Democratic elected officials is lending their support to a new congestion pricing plan, urging the state’s top lawmakers to use the potential revenue stream to expand full-line reviews of the transit system.

In a letter signed by three state senators, four assembly members, five city council members and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the group said that the pricing scheme, known as the “Move NY Fair Plan,” is a “promising” way to improve transit service. (Of the 13 signatories, nine are new endorsers of the plan.)

“To fund this expansion of Full-Line Reviews and associated improvements, and ensure the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) can fund a sufficient capital plan, we support the Move NY Fair Plan,” the elected officials, who belong to the “A and C Train Review Working Group,” wrote.

The elected officials–State Senators Daniel Squadron, Brad Hoylman and Adriano Espaillat; Assembly members Richard Gottfried, Jo Anne Simon, Walter Mosley and Linda Rosenthal; City Council members Mark Levine, Margaret Chin, Donovan Richards, Corey Johnson and Laurie Cumbo–noted that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has conducted reviews of the F, L and G trains since 2009 and is currently reviewing service on the A and C trains. The Democrats, all representing city districts, said full-line reviews “must move faster” and the revenue generated from the pricing plan, which would place tolls on East River Bridges and charge motorists entering Manhattan south of 60th Street, would give the MTA the resources it needs to implement the findings of the line reviews, as well as conduct them at a faster pace.

The congestion pricing plan, similar to a proposal that died in the Assembly seven years ago, would also slash tolls on other outer borough crossings like the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In the letter, Mr. Squadron, Mr. Hoylman, Mr. Mosley, Mr. Gottfried, Ms. Rosenthal, Ms. Cumbo, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Levine and Mr. Richards backed Move NY for the first time.

“The MTA should review service on every subway line once every five years, and must have the resources necessary to enact the review’s recommendations,” the Democrats wrote. “That is why we support the Move NY Fair Plan to implement tolls on some New York City crossings and to reduce tolls on others, making driving more fair and producing more than a billion dollars each year for public transportation.”

The pols argued that congestion pricing could fund other improvements to mass transit, like additional countdown clocks, improved public address systems and expanded bus service. “We have a great tool in the Full-Line Review to improve service regularly and to modernize an aging system, but we are hampered by a dramatic lack of the necessary funds to conduct the reviews and take advantage of their findings,” they wrote.

But many challenges still remain for Move NY advocates, even as support for the plan continues to grow. After passing the City Council, where a majority of members still haven’t taken a position on the pricing scheme, the plan must pass the Democrat-dominated Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate before Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has not expressed support for the proposal, signs it into law.

Suburban and upstate Republicans are unlikely to back any measure that imposes new fees on commuters. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, like his predecessor Sheldon Silver, has not been receptive to placing tolls on East River bridges. (Mr. Silver was believed to have backed the old plan but never brought it up for a vote because his conference was opposed.)

Spokespersons for Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos did not immediately return requests for comment on the letter.

View the full letter below:

Dear Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Skelos, and Speaker Heastie:

As elected officials who helped convene the A and C Train Review Working Group and advocates for better transit service, we are writing to urge that Full-Line Reviews be implemented across the entire subway system at least every five years, and that recommended improvements be quickly implemented. To fund this expansion of Full-Line Reviews and associated improvements, and ensure the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) can fund a sufficient capital plan, we support the Move NY Fair Plan.

Since 2009, the MTA has completed three of these reviews: on the F, L and G trains. The MTA is currently conducting a Full-Line Review of A and C train service. The Review has consistently proven itself an effective way to make measurable improvements that make a dramatic difference for riders who need them most. But the system-wide Full-Line Review schedule must move faster. At the current rate, it would take more than 20 years to review every subway line in the system. And while reviews have led to major service improvements, some of the strongest recommendations from each review are often not feasible to implement because the MTA lacks critical resources. The MTA should review service on every subway line once every five years, and must have the resources necessary to enact the review’s recommendations.

That is why we support the Move NY Fair Plan to implement tolls on some New York City crossings and to reduce tolls on others, making driving more fair and producing more than a billion dollars each year for public transportation. This promising proposal would provide more than enough funds to accelerate the schedule of Full-Line Reviews, including the possibility of expanded application to buses. It will also allow for implementation of the improvements that make a significant difference in commuters’ lives: trains that run more frequently and break down less often, countdown clocks that allow riders to know when their trains will arrive, public address systems that can alert riders to changes in service, and other important improvements that are overdue in New York.

New York City’s subway system is the backbone of our city’s economy, and it provides economic opportunity and mobility for millions of New Yorkers. We have a great tool in the Full-Line Review to improve service regularly and to modernize an aging system, but we are hampered by a dramatic lack of the necessary funds to conduct the reviews and take advantage of their findings.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Nine Democrats Back New Congestion Pricing Plan