Andrew Cuomo is not going to seize the chance to lead New York City out of its hellish traffic congestion and fund key improvements to its transit system, judging by this tweet from New York Times reporter Thomas Kaplan:
Cuomo doubts viability of congestion pricing: Last time, he says, “it went nowhere,” and nothing has “changed that political dynamic.”
— Thomas Kaplan (@thomaskaplan) February 18, 2015
Both David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer, recognizing the burden that traffic imposes on New York City, supported road pricing as governor, but neither got the opportunity to sign something into law. Cuomo, however, has never taken much interest in New York City’s traffic and transit problems.
A few things to note:
1) Contra Cuomo, road pricing has in fact made it nearly all the way through the many veto points it must overcome. In 2009, tolling the East River and Harlem River bridges had the support of the governor, the mayor, the Assembly speaker, and nearly enough Senate Democrats to make it the law, but four bad apples (three of whom would go on to leave office in handcuffs) spoiled the whole thing.
2) In 2008, the City Council passed congestion pricing and Spitzer was on board, but the Assembly speaker did not bring it up for a vote in his chamber.
3) This time around the politics are more favorable because the plan is different, with a new toll structure that distributes the burden more evenly and cuts the rate on tolled crossings in more car-dependent parts of the city. The presence of former congestion pricing opponents like AAA New York and Mark Weprin in the Move NY coalition makes this shift plain.
4) Cuomo himself could make toll reform a live issue with a solid chance of becoming law just by saying that he wants it to happen.
The governor has not out-and-out rejected toll reform, but it’s clear that at the moment, he does not want to adopt the Move NY plan as his own. To fix New York’s crushing traffic congestion and shield transit riders from steeply rising fares, that will have to change.
Updated at 3:35 p.m. with full Cuomo quote and Move NY response:
Dana Rubinstein at Capital New York has the full quote from Cuomo: