There’s still more work to do on NYC’s transit and traffic problems


After months of political hinting that the time for “congestion pricing” had come, the 2019 New York State budget has passed with mixed results. Reading between the numbers, state legislators authorized some parts of the FixNYC report recommendations and paved the way for future implementation, but stopped short of authorizing the full comprehensive congestion pricing package.

Here are a few things that have been approved:

A for-hire vehicle congestion fee – $2.75 fee on for-hire vehicle trip, $2.50 fee on taxis, and 75 cents on pooled rides that start, originate, or run through Manhattan south of 96th Street (excluding 96th Street). The fees will take effect in January 2019.

A separate, “lock-boxed” transit fund – (to be known as the “New York city transportation assistance fund”) which shall be kept separate from any of the MTA’s other funds.  This lockbox fund will support three accounts:

1. “subway action plan (SAP) account”,
2. 
“outer borough transportation account”; and
3. the “general transportation account”

The Subway Action Plan (SAP) account will fund half of the MTA’s $836 million SAP needs and requires New York City to fund half of plan in order to make immediate repairs to improve subway performance and maintenance.

The outer borough transportation account can pay for transportation services and projects within Bronx, Kings, Queens, or Richmond counties, or services to Manhattan

The general transportation account will receive revenue from mobile bus cameras installed by the MTA. Funds may be used for “a toll reduction program for any crossings under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan transportation authority or its subsidiaries or affiliates.”

A New York City Bus camera program expansion, increasing the time of day such camera program (from 7am-7pm to 6am to 10pm), and the installation of at least 50 new traffic monitoring cameras to enforce bus lane violations that impede mass transit service and create congestion. It directs the MTA to equip New York City Transit SBS buses operating below 96th Street with at least 50 new traffic monitoring cameras to enforce bus lane violations. Cameras will only be put on buses on already authorized bus SBS routes. The clause will still sunset in 2020 (which is unchanged from the previous authorization language).

Though the budget bill has planted small seeds for congestion pricing, advocates will need to continue to push for the plan to actually take root and bloom. This year’s state budget offers – as Robin Chase’s piece in the New York Times points out – just forty percent of the time savings and less than forty percent of the revenues a full congestion pricing plan would offer. The need for congestion pricing hasn’t gone away and will only continue to grow as transit delays and traffic congestion continue to undermine the economy of our city and the health of New Yorkers.

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