Congest fee gridlock
Dems ‘50-50’ on traffic charge to fuel transit retool
ALBANY — Assembly Democrats were said to be split last week when privately discussing the idea of congestion pricing as a way to raise needed money for the cash-strapped MTA.
The Assembly Dems who spoke up during the meeting were said to be split roughly “50-50,” though the degree of support varied, sources said.
Congestion pricing has strong backing from a number of Democratic members from Manhattan, but less so in the outer boroughs and suburbs, sources said.
Some gave full-throated endorsements to creating a toll to enter a central Manhattan business district south of 60th St.
Others expressed openness to the idea with the condition there be a commitment to help with mass transit and other issues in their districts, while others were dead set against congestion pricing, a concept that has proven to be a heavy lift in the Legislature in the past.
One transit advocate was optimistic about what came out of the initial Assembly conference.
“That’s a hell of a lot better than we were doing in the Assembly before, but obviously there is work to do,” he said.
An Assembly source said that “I think everyone recognizes the need to do something for the MTA, but whether it’s congestion pricing or something else, that’s the question.”
Gov. Cuomo, who wants congestion pricing passed as part of the state budget in March, said last week the choice for lawmakers will come down to approving the idea that he estimates could steer $15 billion in new money to the MTA — or balk and watch fares and tolls jump nearly 30%.
Many lawmakers at a recent state budget hearing expressed frustration that neither Cuomo nor the MTA have provided specifics as to what the congestion pricing plan would be.
Sen. Michael Gianaris (DQueens) and others have proposed hiking taxes on the wealthy in the New York City area to raise money for mass transit improvements, though there currently has been little widespread appetite to raise taxes this year in the Legislature.
As fed-up riders have rallied for a long-term transit fix, Democrats have been divided over whether congestion pricing is the solution.