As discussion and debate of the congestion pricing plank of PlaNYC has continued, it's only become more obvious how much potential it has to change New York City for the better -- by cutting the pollution that sends thousands of children to hospitals every year with asthma attacks; cutting the city's load of climate disrupting carbon dioxide emissions; creating much-needed funds for improving mass transit connections between the subways, busses, and ferries; relieving traffic jams not only in Manhattan but also in the borough neighborhoods that ring the bridges and tunnels onto the island; and stemming the vast economic losses and fuel waste caused by people and deliveries being stuck in traffic instead of arriving promptly at their destinations.
A few minutes ago, the chances that CP will become reality in NYC got a huge boost: Governor Eliot Spitzer made a firm statement in support of the plan, at a press conference that also featured Mayor Mike, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters. As Peters detailed, New York City (along with several other major U.S. cities) is in contention for hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding for a pilot launch of CP, a sort of proof of concept that will help iron out the particulars of how to implement congestion pricing, and no doubt demonstrate just how much it will improve life in NYC for everyone -- not the least of which include the vast minority of people who drive to work right now. These drivers will find their paths into the city loosened up, or even that the projected improvements in mass transit make it realistic and comfortable to leave the car at home when they commute to work in Manhattan.
(And of those drivers, it's a further minority -- those who use most of the East River bridges -- who'll be looking at a new toll. Drivers from Staten Island, Westchester and New Jersey, and those using the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, have been paying tolls for years. CP will better distribute the costs for maintaining these vital bridges and tunnels among all who use them. And the proposed CP charge won't be tacked on top of existing tolls; they'll be deducted from the total charge.)
Now it's up to the Governor and the Mayor to get the State Legislature to make the necessary votes to approve CP -- and fortunately they're not alone in that effort. The Campaign for New York's Future is a coalition of over 90 putting the heat on Albany to enact congestion pricing. Hearings began yesterday, June 8. Let's see if the New York Legislature can embrace a truly transformative vision for the city that drives so much of the state economy and culture.
(Full disclosure: I manage Waterwire.net, the web site of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a member of the Campaign for New York's Future.)