BRILLIANT IDEA OR BAD SOLUTION?

Officials are exploring possible solutions to end gridlock and overcrowding on city streets. One idea being given serious consideration is congestion pricing, a plan that would require you to pay to enter midtown. We have the details on the plan and the politics behind it.

Aired on December 14, 2018 & January 1, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> WHAT IS THE OBSTACLE TO REBUILDING THE SUBWAY SYSTEM?

IT IS THE MONEY, HONEY.

THAT'S WHAT IT IS ABOUT.

THE ONLY REALISTIC OPTION IS CONGESTION PRICING.

WE HAVE TO GET IT DONE.

WE HAVE TO GET IT DONE NEXT YEAR.

I NEED YOUR HELP.

[ APPLAUSE ]

> THAT WAS GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO MAKING THE ARGUMENT THAT CONGESTION PRICING IS THE ONLY WAY TO PAY THE HIGH COST OF FIXING THE NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY SYSTEM.

CUOMO, WHO HAS LONG CALLED FOR THE CITY TO, QUOTE, PAY ITS SHARE FOR THE MTA, NOW SAYS THAT THAT IDEA IS UNREALISTIC AND HAS PROMISED TO MAKE CONGESTION PRICING ONE OF HIS TOP PRIO PRIORITIES.

DOES THAT MEAN CONGESTION PRICING IS FINALLY COMING TO NEW YORK CITY AND THAT OUR FRUSTRATIONS OVER THE COLLAPSING SUBWAY SYSTEM MAY BE OVER?

JOINING US WITH ANSWERS IS JIMMY VILKIND WHO COVERS NEW YORK POLITICS FOR THE 'WALL STREET JOURNAL.'

WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

HAPPY TO BE HERE.

FOR THOSE OF OUR VIEWERS WHO MAY NOT BE FAMILIAR WITH CONGESTION PRICING, I WONDER IF YOU COULD START BY GIVING US A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF WHAT IT ENTAILS?

IT'S AN IDEA THAT IS NOT NECESSARILY NEW AND HAS BEEN IMLIMITED IN OTHER CITIES AROUND THE WORLD.

DRIVERS WHO ENTER THE MOST CONGESTED PART OF A CITY, ITS CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT, WILL HAVE TO PAY A FEE FOR THAT PRIVILEGE.

THE IDEA IS TWOFOLD -- ON THE ONE HAND YOU RAISE MONEY TO INVEST IN MASS TRANSIT IMPROVEMENTS, INVEST IN OTHER MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION TO MAKE IT EASIER TO GO AROUND AND TWO YOU DETER SOME PEOPLE FROM DRIVING IN.

ESPECIALLY AT PEAK HOURS WHEN THE CITY STREETS ARE MOST CLOGGED.

YOU SAY THIS HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME.

IT'S BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME IN NEW YORK.

IT'S BEEN ON SOMEBODY'S AGENDA FOR TEN YEARS BUT NOW IT'S IN THE GOVERNOR'S AGENDA AND THAT'S SERIOUS.

THAT'S RIGHT.

THE GOVERNOR SAID THE TIME HAS COME FOR CONGESTION PRICING IN 2017 WHEN SERVICE BEGAN TO NOTICEABLY FALTER.

HE CONVENED A PANEL CALLED THE FIX NYC PANEL.

IT ISSUED A REPORT RECOMMENDING A CONGESTION FEE ON DRIVERS ENTERING MANHATTAN SOUTH OF CENTRAL PARK.

RECOMMENDING A SURCHARGE ON FOR-HIRE VEHICLES LIKE UBER, LYFTS, AND TAXICABS ON TRIPS THAT START AND END IN THAT PART OF MANHATTAN AND OTHER ENFORCEMENT MEASURES TO DO THINGS THAT WOULD EASE IS FLOW OF TRAFFIC THROUGHOUT THE CITY.

WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN LAST YEAR WAS A CONCERTED LEGISLATIVE PUSH BY THE GOVERNOR DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION.

THE COST OF FIXING THE SUBWAY HAS BEEN ESTIMATED TO BE APPROXIMATELY $40 BILLION OVER TEN YEARS.

HOW MUCH OF THAT WILL BE COVERED WITH THE REVENUES FROM CONGESTION PRICING?

IT WILL DEPEND ON THE EXACT SHAPE OF THE PROPOSAL AND THE LEGISLATION.

WHETHER OR NOT A PROPOSAL INCLUDES MONEY FOR THE CITY TO MAINTAIN THE EAST RIVER BRIDGES LIKE THE BROOKLYN, MANHATTAN AND WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGES.

WHETHER OR NOT A PROPOSAL INCLUDES LOWERING TOLLS ON BRIDGES IN THE OUTER BOROUGHS, PERHAPS THE VERRAZANO NARROWS CROSSING WHICH HAS BEEN A TACTIC TO WIN SUPPORT.

BUT THE ESTIMATE IS ABOUT A BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR COULD BE GENERATED NET FOR THE PET POLL TAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY.

IF YOU BOND THAT OUT YOU COULD GENERATE A GOOD DEAL OF MONEY BUT NOT ALL OF THE $40 BILLION YOU WOULD NEED TO FUND THE FAST-FORWARD PLAN WHICH IS BEING PUSHED BY THE PRESIDENT OF NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT.

NEW YORKERS FROM LONG ISLAND, THE OUTER BOROUGHS OR THE SUBURBS WHO RELY ON THEIR CARS TO COMMUTE TO THE CITY, THEY'VE BEEN TYPICALLY AND UNDERSTANDABLY THE STRONGEST FORCE AGAINST CONGESTION PRICING.

IT'S THE REASON -- THEY'RE THE REASON WHY IT DID TEN YEARS AGO WHEN BLOOMBERG TRIED TO PASS IT TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

IS THE GOVERNOR GOING TO HAVE BETTER LUCK WITH THE STATE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE SUBURBS AND OUTER BOROUGH THS THIS TIME AROUND?

WE'LL SEE.

THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS THEY COULD DO.

HE COULD MAKE A CON JESS PRICING PROPOSAL PART OF HIS BUDGET.

THE BUDGET HAS TO BE ADOPTED BY APRIL 1 EACH YEAR AND THE WAY THE LAW IS SET UP, THE GOVERNOR HAS A GREAT DEAL OF POWER OVER DECIDING WHAT GETS PUT IN THE SPENDING PLAN AND WHAT DOESN'T.

THERE HAVE BEEN COURT DECISIONS THAT HAVE STRENGTHENED HIS HAND IN THAT PROCESS SO IF THE GOVERNOR DECIDES AS HE DID WITH OTHER PROPOSALS IN RECENT YEARS LIKE RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE, IF HE DECIDES TO PUT A CONGESTION PRICING SBLOON THAT SPENDING PROPOSAL HE COULD FORCE LAWMAKERS TO VOTE ON IT ALONG WITH MORE POPULAR MEASURES LIKE APPROVING SCHOOL AID INCREASES.

SO AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, FOR A LONG TIME THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN CALLING FOR EQUAL SHARE OF THE EXPENSES OF THE SUBWAY SYSTEM BETWEEN THE STATE AND THE CITY.

HE'S ABANDONED THAT IDEA.

WHY?

WELL, IT HASN'T GOTTEN HIM MUCH.

AND ALSO I THINK THE GOVERNOR'S STATEMENT IS A RECOGNITION THAT HE CONTROLS THE MTA AFTER PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS WHERE HE TRIED TO SHIFT BLAME AND CLAIM HE DIDN'T HAVE CONTROL OF THE AUTHORITY THAT OPERATES THE SUBWAYS AND RECOGNIZE THAT HE NEEDS TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM.

SO ADVOCATES ARE SAYING THAT HE NEEDS TO TAKE OWNERSHIP AND THEY HAVE BEEN HEARTENED BY HIS LATEST COMMENTS.

WE HAVE ABOUT 15 SECONDS.

IS THIS GOING TO PASS NEXT YEAR AND ARE WE GOING TO SEE CONGESTION PRICING IN NEW YORK CITY NEXT YEAR?

I THINK THE BIGGEST ONUS IS ON GOVERNOR CUOMO.

THAT'S WHAT ADVOCATES SAY, THAT'S WHAT LAWMAKERS SAY.

IF HE EMPLOYS HIS POLITICAL SKILLS, IT MAY HAPPEN.

IF NOT, NOT.

ALL RIGHT, WE'LL LEAVE IT AT, THAT THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANKS, ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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