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Gov. Cuomo Considers Congestion Pricing Plan For Manhattan

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is putting together a proposal to charge motorists more for entering the most congested parts of Manhattan.

The proposal would impose congestion pricing, an idea increasingly popular around the globe that aims to discourage vehicular traffic in dense urban areas while also raising money for mass transit.

The governor hasn’t released any details yet, but any congestion pricing plan will likely face big political challenges, especially from representatives of New York City’s outer boroughs and the suburbs.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed his own congestion pricing plan that would charge drivers $8 to get into Midtown Manhattan during peak hours several years ago, but it quickly fell apart under opposition in Albany, as reaction from one of Cuomo’s allies in the capital indicates the plans may run into a dead end real quick.

“No, the time has not come,” State Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) tells CBS2’s Tony Aiello. “I think we have to see what the Governor is talking about. I mean, there have been no specifics. But I think a lot of elected officials from the outer boroughs are going to have some serious problems.”

The key to most congestion pricing plans is to charge drivers for entering the most congested part of the city — the central business district. One plan that has some support in Albany is called “Move NY.”

In addition to putting tolls on East River Bridges, the Move NY plan would set up an automated toll system, charging drivers $2.75 to cross 60th Street going north or south.

Over the course of an average work year, that adds up to $1,265.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, many drivers give the idea of congestion pricing a thumbs down.

“I don’t think we should be charged to go over our own bridge,” said one driver as he waited to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. “Why doesn’t the governor use some of the money that they’re wasting? They’re wasting a lot of money on lights and all that crap that we don’t need.”

“I would stop taking the bridge,” another driver said.

“It’s not fair, it’s going to hurt the cab drivers,” one taxi driver said. 

City and state officials are considering several approaches to fixing the city’s beleaguered transit system, now beset by mounting delays, outages and other problems.

With his back against the wall, Cuomo now says that putting tolls on East River Bridges — the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Ed Koch Queensborough bridges — should be explored as part of congestion pricing plans to raise money to fix the subways.

“I think the governor is showing real courage. He’s recognizing the problems we have not just below the ground, we have an enormous problem above ground. Traffic and congestion is at its worst ever,” Schwartz said.

“A lot has to do with Uber, Lyft and the other for-hire vehicles that have popped up,” he told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb. “They are gravitating toward a central business district, toward our wealthier neighborhoods.”

‘Gridlock’ Sam Schwartz has been proposing some version of a congestion pricing plan for years. It never got a serious hearing until former Mayor Mike Bloomberg offered his own version on Earth Day in 2007.

“We really need a comprehensive plan, the governor has stepped up to the plate, and I think he’s gonna hit a grand slam,” Schwartz said.

It went nowhere, with lawmakers from the outer boroughs and suburbs saying it simply wasn’t fair to make their constituents pay to get into Manhattan.

To raise mass transit funds Cuomo is now willing to put his considerable powers of persuasion behind it.

“Bottom line, clearly congestion pricing is an idea whose time has come and we need to be discussing all options so we can invest in our system long-term,” spokesman Jon Weinstein said.

There are a lot of options to help win support including a tax on for-hire vehicles like Uber so Manhattan residents chip in, stepped up bus service for under-served riders in the outer boroughs, and reduced tolls on MTA bridges and tunnels.

“Lower every single toll dramatically for Staten Islanders, for people in Brooklyn going to the Rockaways, all five Queens bridges go down, all four Bronx bridges get slashed,” Schwartz said.

Queens Assemblyman David Werprin said he’s against congestion pricing.

“It’s really just a tax on middle class people, many from Queens and Brooklyn. It’s also a proposal that would disproportionately affect small business,” he said.

Cuomo plans to unveil the plan in January. Mayor de Blasio is backing a millionaires tax to fix the subways which senate republicans say is DOA.

Last week, the mayor said he wouldn’t support congestion pricing, now his spokesman says he’ll look at any ‘serious and viable’ plan proposed by cuomo.

Republican opponent Nicole Malliotakis said she’s willing to discuss Cuomo’s plan because things have ‘gotten so bad.’

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio has offered a so-called “millionaire’s tax” to raise money for the MTA. His office says the mayor wants to learn more about the governor’s congestion pricing plan, the specifics of which are expected in early 2018.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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