New Yorkers can be sure of one thing after elected officials in Albany finalized the new state budget last week.
Traffic on our roads won’t let up anytime soon.
By avoiding any comprehensive congestion-pricing plan, state leaders paved the way for continued bumper-to-bumper traffic, and no discount on some bridges used by Long Islanders.
But there is good news: State lawmakers did take some small, but key steps, like funding the New York City subway action plan with a mix of state and city money, providing some new bus-lane enforcement cameras, and approving a $2.50 surcharge on taxis, and a $2.75 charge on for-hire vehicles like Uber and Lyft on Manhattan rides below 96th Street. Those are welcome moves to boost public transit and provide a limited, but dedicated, revenue stream for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
But they don’t go far enough, and they’re not even glimmers of the congestion-pricing proposal from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Fix NYC committee. The centerpiece of that plan was a cordon to charge those who drive in Manhattan south of 60th Street. Lawmakers should have included $200 million for the infrastructure and environmental studies necessary for that pricing plan. Even that, however, was too much when election-year politics — especially for outer-borough and suburban politicians worried about voters who would object to new tolls — trumped the urgency of the region’s transportation troubles.
To show their commitment to the issue, state officials pointed to the creation of a “metropolitan transportation sustainability advisory workgroup” tasked with making recommendations by the end of 2018. But we don’t need another task force. We need real solutions, clear plans to fund them, and courage from our governor and state lawmakers.
The existing Fix NYC coalition is a strong group of important players, and its ideas are on target. State and city leaders should work with them to address suburban concerns, while moving forward on congestion pricing. As they consider tolls in Manhattan’s central business district, they also should look to lower tolls on outer-borough bridges, including the Throgs Neck, Whitestone, Verrazano, RFK, Marine Parkway, Henry Hudson and Cross Bay.
And still, Cuomo has to take the lead and maintain the political will to move congestion pricing through the inevitable roadblocks. This year, Cuomo ran out of gas. He has to get moving again.