BY THE VILLAGE SUN | The feds have green-lighted New York State to start moving down the road to implementing congestion pricing in New York City.
Governor Cuomo announced the news Tuesday morning.
The plan would impose a fee on vehicles entering Manhattan south of 60th St.
If congestion pricing is adopted in the Big Apple, it would join other international cities, including London, Stockholm, Milan and Singapore, where the scheme is already in use.
“This morning we received word from the Biden administration that the U.S. Department of Transportation will allow New York State to proceed with the federally required environmental assessment and public outreach for the nation’s first congestion pricing program in New York City,” Cuomo said.
“Congestion pricing is an internationally proven method to reduce traffic congestion, enhance the availability and reliability of public transportation, and improve our air quality, and it will play a critical role as New York and the nation begin to recover from the pandemic and build back stronger and better than before. This advancement is also another step forward in generating the $15 billion the state needs to fund the M.T.A.’s five-year $51.5 billion capital plan, which will transform the accessibility, reliability and convenience of the system for users of all ages and abilities.
“We thank President Biden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg for advancing this important program, and we look forward to continuing to work together to further advance our nation-leading $306 billion infrastructure plan, which is preparing the state to be globally competitive for generations to come,” Cuomo said. “This announcement, which comes on the heels of yesterday’s news that the Biden administration has approved a plan to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind nationwide by 2030, demonstrates once again the commitment of our new partners in Washington to support our efforts to move New York in the right direction.”
Three days earlier, The Village Sun had thought to ask U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer about congestion pricing at Village District Leader Arthur Schwartz’s press conference on 14th St., announcing the M.T.A.’s agreement to add subway elevators at Sixth and Seventh Aves. Schumer, though, did not take questions afterward, so the question was directed instead to Schwartz.
Schwartz, an attorney and a candidate for City Council District 3, is well versed in the ins and outs of environmental assessments and environmental impact studies. He has argued for their necessity in numerous community lawsuits he has brought over the years — including against the 14th St. busway.
“Under Trump, there was no intention of pushing it along,” he said of congestion pricing. “I think it’ll happen now that Biden is there.”
Schwartz said that, under normally required environmental reviews, the approval process could take two to three years. But he speculated that congestion pricing for Gotham could conceivably be exempted from the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, and be O.K.’d in as fast as one year.
As for the 14th St. busway, asked his thoughts about it today, Schwartz said that, ironically, he recently got a call from a neighbor asking him if he could do something about adding speed bumps on W. 12th St. since cars are speeding along the street. Neighbors, including Schwartz, who fought the no-cars scheme, charged that it would clog their side streets with traffic diverted from 14th St.
Schwartz opined that a big reason why traffic is light right now is that so many people are still working from home during the pandemic, and so not taking for-hire vehicles, like Uber, to work as they formerly did. The explosion of F.H.V.s in recent years was a key contributor to the city’s out-of-control congestion.
However, Schwartz still thinks bus stops — needed by seniors and the disabled — that were removed along 14th St. to implement faster Select Bus Service for the busway should be restored, and he currently has a lawsuit going on that issue. He also said that, in his opinion, it does not make sense for the busway to be in effect for the whole day, but that it should only be enforced during morning and evening rush hours.