Volume 22, Number 24 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 23-29, 2009
Candidates think train has left the station on traffic pricing
Last year, Mayor Mike Bloomberg tried unsuccessfully to get Albany to pass a congestion pricing plan that would have charged daytime drivers $8 to enter Lower or Midtown Manhattan. Bill Thompson supported the plan with some proposed modifications including subsidies for low income drivers. Earlier this year, a plan for MetrocCard-priced Harlem and East River bridge tolls to pay for mass transit also went down to defeat despite the strong support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Gov. David Paterson. Bloomberg did not oppose that plan, but Thompson did.
In interviews with Downtown Express, The Villager, Chelsea Now and Gay City News two weeks ago, both mayoral candidates said they were certain that the M.T.A., a state authority in which the city has a minority influence, continues to have funding problems, but neither thought congestion pricing would come back again.
“Look, I came up with a solution to the problem,” Bloomberg said. “Albany said, no, we’ve got a better idea. Okay, up to them….
“Shelly actually came up with a plan to raise money for the M.T.A. which was infinitely greater than ours. We were going to toll the bridges below … 59th St.; he was going to toll the bridges all the way around Manhattan… and that didn’t fly.”
Thompson said the focus now should be on improving services like express buses paid for with new funding sources.
“You’re not going to talk people out of their cars unless you make it easier and faster to get to work,” he said. He thinks improvements should be paid for with higher car registration fees for gas guzzlers in the city and suburban counties, and the restoration of a commuter tax, which would be an uphill fight in Albany. As mayor, Thompson said he would take the lead in fighting for federal funds for operating costs for mass transit systems across the nation.
Bloomberg said capital costs to expand the subway and bus system should be the higher priority. He also favors disincentives for drivers but did not go into specifics.
— Josh Rogers