Paterson Backs Pricing, Introduces Bill in Albany

David Paterson is going to do right by his old State Senate district after all. New York's new governor settled any doubts about his position on congestion pricing this afternoon, introducing a bill that follows the recommendations of the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission. The Daily Politics has the scoop:

"Congestion pricing addresses two urgent concerns of the residents of New York City and its suburbs: The need to reduce congestion on our streets and roads, and thereby reduce pollution, and the need to raise significant revenue for mass transit improvement," Paterson said.

Paterson also said that by introducing the bill, the City Council and the Legislature will be able to "examine the details" and "make an informed judgment" going forward.

It has yet to be determined if the Paterson bill differs at all from the bill that surfaced in Albany earlier this week. However, highlights of the legislation described in the governor's statement match the contents of the earlier bill. The full statement, as well as press releases from Mayor Bloomberg and pro-pricing groups, after the jump.

GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR TRAFFIC MITIGATION PLAN

Governor David A. Paterson announced today that he has submitted a Governor’s program bill, that follows the recommendations of the New York City Traffic Mitigation Commission report of January 31, 2008 to allow for the City Council and State Legislature to consider a bill that meets the requirements of the United States Department of Transportation Urban Partnership Agreement, which contributes $354 million in federal funds.

“Congestion Pricing addresses two urgent concerns of the residents of New York City and its suburbs: the need to reduce congestion on our streets and roads, and thereby reduce pollution and global warming; and the need to raise significant revenue for mass transit improvements,” Governor Paterson said. “We expect that revenue from the Congestion Pricing plan will support more than $4.5 billion in needed capital improvements for mass transit and meaningfully reduce traffic into the Central Business District of Manhattan. Before the constructive process of deliberation proceeds in both the City Council and the State Legislature, transparency requires that the public fully see what the system envisioned by the Commission will entail. While Commission Report highlighted other issues which need to be resolved, introducing this bill allows the City Council and Legislature to examine the details of the proposal and make an informed judgment on the Congestion Pricing program.”

Highlights of the bill include the following provisions recommended by the Commission:

The Congestion Pricing zone would include any roadways in Manhattan south of and inclusive of 60th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for certain public holidays.

Establish the fee as recommended by the Commission, including a surcharge on taxis and livery vehicles.

Eliminate the Manhattan long-term parking tax discount for vehicles parked within the zone.

Set out privacy protocols based on existing EZ Pass privacy controls.

Provide exemptions for authorized emergency vehicles; safety, traffic and parking control, and inspection vehicles; sanitation vehicles; school vehicles; and privately operated over-the-road buses.

Prescribe a residential parking permit program.

Lay out the environmental review process for Congestion Pricing which follows the Commission’s recommendation.

The City will oversee a monitoring program for traffic, air quality, noise, parking and other environmental impacts and release annual reports; a preliminary report will be available to the public within six months of the operation date.

The funds raised by the fee will be used, after deducting for the cost of operations, to support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) capital plan, which was released at the end of February. Priority for funding will be for areas in need underserved by transit.

Capital expenditures will be subject to approval by the MTA’s capital program review board, and a representative of the New York City Council Speaker will have the same rights and privileges of the board members appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Senate Minority Leader and the Assembly Minority Leader.

For capital expenses derived from Congestion Pricing, the MTA will follow all legally applicable prevailing wage laws.

Any increase in parking fees by the City, as recommended by the Commission, will go into a “transit enhancement fund” to be used exclusively for additional transit, pedestrian, bicycle and parking management improvements, including ferries.

The statute passed last July that established the Traffic Mitigation Commission, requires the Mayor to request the State Legislature to consider the plan where such request has been approved by the City Council by a majority vote on a resolution. It is expected that the City Council will consider such a resolution shortly.

Press release from the Mayor's office:

STATEMENT BY MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON GOVERNOR PATERSON'S SUPPORT OF CONGESTION PRICING

"Today, Governor Paterson has demonstrated true leadership by submitting a  congestion pricing bill to the Legislature that will meet all of the objectives we've set – cutting traffic and reducing pollution to improve our economy and public health, and raising revenue to fund much needed projects included in the MTA Capital Plan.  The bill is a giant step forward, and its timely passage will ensure that New York gets $354 million in federal money that we've been promised.  Those funds will allow us to make immediate transit improvements.  We will work with the Governor and our partners in the State Legislature and the City Council to address outstanding issues - including reducing the impact on lower income drivers, and concerns about commuters who use Port Authority crossings contributing to the MTA Capital plan. Together, I'm certain we can pass a bill that will improve the lives of New Yorkers."

Statement from Michael O’Loughlin, Director of the Campaign for New York’s Future:

“At a time when New York urgently needs enlightened leaders to take courageous action on big challenges, Governor Paterson has today boldly demonstrated his dedication to a better future for New York.  By introducing legislation to enact congestion pricing for better transit, he is advancing a truly historic and visionary plan to reduce gridlock, improve the bus and subway system 7.5 million New Yorkers count on, and clean the air we all breathe.  This is an important step forward, especially for the millions of working-class New Yorkers who overwhelmingly rely on mass transit as their sole means of commute and daily travel.  With so much at stake, we are confident that our city and state leaders will join Governor Paterson in working together during the critical days ahead to resolve any remaining issues so that New York can receive $354 million federal dollars for immediate transit improvements and begin building the transit system we need to keep New York moving forward in the 21st century. Thank you, Governor Paterson.”

In related news, the Drum Major Institute released a statement today urging the City Council to pass pricing because it benefits New York's middle class. Here's an excerpt:

With the New York City Council poised to vote on congestion pricing on Monday, March 24th, the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (“DMI”), a New York-based think tank dedicated to promoting the interests of current and aspiring middle class Americans, once again reminded the Council that “standing up for congestion pricing and standing for the interests of average, hard working New Yorkers are one and the same.”

Last year, DMI issued a report entitled “Congestion Pricing: Good Policy For New York’s Middle Class,” [PDF] which concluded congestion pricing would greatly benefit current and aspiring middle-class New Yorkers in a multitude of important ways.  After Mayor Bloomberg’s original plan was revised by the New York City Traffic Mitigation Commission, of which DMI Executive Director Andrea Batista Schlesinger was a member, Ms. Schlesinger said, “I am delighted with the results of the Commission’s work.  What started out as an excellent plan has evolved into something even better.  Literally millions of average New Yorkers will benefit significantly from the adoption of congestion pricing.  It would be a tragedy for the City and State not to pass it.”