Bloomberg’s New York congestion plan stalls in legislative traffic

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed Tuesday, July 17, to continue with plans to introduce a congestion charge for drivers entering Manhattan, despite suffering a setback at the state level.

The State Assembly failed on Monday, July 16, to meet a deadline to apply for federal funding for Bloomberg’s plan, which he unveiled in April this year. A number of state senators were opposed to the idea — which would impose a charge of $21 for trucks and $8 for cars to enter lower Manhattan — and used delaying tactics to avoid meeting the deadline.

Bloomberg said in a statement he was disappointed that the State Senate had failed to reach agreement despite three months of consultations. “The failure of the State Assembly to act in time on a deadline imposed by the federal government is a terrible setback for clean air and to our critical commitment to fight climate change,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg vowed to continue with plans to introduce the charge, which would be the first such fee in the United States and is modeled on a similar plan in London. “We will continue to press for real solutions,” Bloomberg said.

The American Trucking Associations, which argues that congestion pricing does little to relieve congestion and is merely a revenue raiser, applauded the developments. ATA had campaigned against congestion pricing, publishing op-ed articles and appearing in televised debates. Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, summed up the organization’s opposition to congestion pricing in a Feb. 28 USAToday op-ed article that said “congestion pricing, touted as a cure for gridlock, is unfair, ineffective and ignores the transportation needs of Americans.”

ATA opposed the New York City plan for a number of reasons:

  • Truck drivers cannot change delivery times, which are set by the shipper and the receiver;
  • Workers entering the city cannot change their shift times;
  • The plan did not increase capacity of roads;
  • Charging an additional fee for motorists who already have paid for the highway with fuel taxes and other federal and state taxes is unfair;
  • Not all can afford congestion pricing fees;
  • Congestion pricing requires tolling, and tolling is an inefficient way to fund highways;
  • Up to half of the fee is spent collecting it;
  • There is no guarantee that if you pay a congestion fee you won’t experience congestion;
  • Some view the cameras that are used to gather license plate numbers to assess the fee as an invasion of privacy; and
  • Such plans usually increase congestion and parking problems in nearby areas.
  • “The congestion pricing effort targets trucks with punitive assessments, while they are the least able to modify their schedules,” says Bill Joyce Jr., president and CEO of the New York State Motor Truck Association. “No freight can be diverted to the subways and buses. It is counterintuitive to charge more to those who have no choice. If successful, the congestion pricing plan would significantly raise costs to those residents and businesses below 86th Street while providing no measurable relief.”