NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio hopped on board the congestion pricing train on Wednesday, literally, as opposition to charging a fee to enter Manhattan’s Central Business District mounts from some members of the Legislature.
Hizzoner had never felt congestion pricing in his kishkas — his guts — but having suddenly found religion, the recent convert was out proselytizing with a vengeance.
“We want to keep what’s good and improve and fix what’s broken,” the mayor said.
Think about it: The mayor of the city of New York, the big kahuna who usually travels solo by big black SUV was handing out flyers on the R train.
WATCH: Mayor de Blasio rides the congestion pricing train:
And while Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given lofty speeches before large groups of the city’s movers and shakers, advocating congestion pricing, the mayor button-holed New Yorkers one by one.
“My message to all the straphangers was this is the last best chance to get something done,” de Blasio said. “The governor and I have a plan.”
That plan, announced just Tuesday, was a huge switch for the mayor, who has always insisted the only way to get cash for mass transit was to tax the rich — a millionaires tax.
De Blasio said Albany lawmakers, who must approve congestion pricing, can no longer use his opposition as an excuse for voting no.
“They are gong to see the unity between the governor and I,” the mayor said.
Apparently, some lawmakers did not get his message. Six Democratic senators from Long Island said they can’t support the Cuomo-de Blasio plan because it focuses too much on the subways and does little to help Long Island Rail Road riders.
“If we are asking Long Islanders to get out of their cars and to take mass transit, we want to know that the Long Island Rail Road and other forms of mass transit are going to be dependable,” said Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who represents Nassau County.
In addition to more money for the LIRR, the senators want drivers who take the RFK Triborough Bridge to get a toll exemption or offset to congestion tolls.
CBS2’s Kramer asked Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member Fernando Ferrer if he thinks the way the congestion pricing plan is weighted should be changed to give more money to the commuter rails.
“I’m not the one who puts bills before the Senate and the Assembly. Again, that’s way above my pay grade. What I can tell them is we need the money,” Ferrer said.
And while tens of thousands of drivers are expected to pay the congestion fee, a Cuomo spokesperson argued it’s only a small percentage of the people who ‘live in the outer boroughs and the suburbs.
The governor’s office offered no estimates on what percentage of people who drive to work will be affected.