Chicago Loses NYC’s Congestion Pricing Money

chicago_buses.jpgWill Chicago get a second chance at federal funds for better bus service? Photo: celikins/Flickr
Looks like New York legislators aren't the only ones willing to pass up big money for transportation improvements if it means putting a fair price on private auto use.

Back in April, the feds withdrew a $354 million grant to New York City because Albany failed to pass congestion pricing. Chicago would have received $153 million of that for BRT pilot routes, but as Crain's reports, the city failed to hold up its end of the bargain:

The administration this week quietly pulled back a pending ordinance that would have hiked fees and taxes for off-street parking in garages and on surface lots downtown by as much as $8 a day. The measure was supposed to be the stick for a big carrot: a $153-million federal grant announced last spring to begin a pilot express transportation system known as bus rapid transit.

But the measure, which arrived in the wake of large hikes in parking-meter fees, drew strong opposition from business groups. And even if the mayor had put down the opposition, the ordinance was not approved by the Dec. 31 deadline mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

With only a few days left in the Bush era, U.S. DOT Secretary Mary Peters, who initiated the Urban Partnership Agreement to spur initiatives like this, has indicated that she won't cut Chicago any slack. Which means this story could turn into an early test for incoming secretary Ray LaHood. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley still hopes to get the new parking policy through City Council, and if LaHood continues the urban partnership program, the city may not lose the federal funding after all.