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Western and Central Queens Legislators Generally Support Congestion Pricing, Suburban Queens Not so Much

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Delivering the State of State Address (Photo: Cuomo)

Jan. 16, 2019 By Christian Murray

Governor Andrew Cuomo urged lawmakers to pass legislation this year that would charge motorists a fee for entering Manhattan below 60th Street.

Cuomo said that the charge, known as congestion pricing, would help fund a crumbling subway system by raising $15 billion in coming years. He said it would also reduce gridlock around the toll-free entry points to Manhattan, such as the Queensboro Bridge.

“We need to do it this year,” Cuomo said during his State of the State speech yesterday. “Riders are fed up, the situation only gets worse. It’s like the old commercial: you can pay me now or you can pay me later. The system is just continuing to deteriorate.”

The elected officials who represent western and central Queens told the Queens Post yesterday that they are largely supportive of the congestion pricing concept. However, officials who represent more suburban Queens districts, which are not served by the subway, are more skeptical.

The plan, which was put together by a task force convened by the governor in 2017, would charge every passenger vehicle and truck a toll that enters Manhattan below 60th Street.

The task force, called Fix NYC, proposed a charge of $11.52 for cars and $25.34 for trucks that enter the zone. Vehicles that come in via the MTA’s tolled East River crossing–such as the Queens-Midtown tunnel—would be credited.

Cuomo said the plan would be equitable and would reduce “bridge shopping.” Currently, commuters can cross the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges for free—yet are tolled when using the Queens-Midtown and Hugh L Carey tunnels, as well as other bridges.

“I’m a Queens boy,” Cuomo said. “You can take the 59th Street [Queensboro] bridge and not pay a toll or you can go through the Queens-Midtown tunnel and pay a toll. I’m cheap, so I go through the 59th Street Bridge. But literally you are directing traffic by where there’s a toll-free bridge and where there’s not a toll-free bridge.

The Fix NYC plan would also add a surcharge to for-hire vehicles that go into the district, which would be passed onto the consumer.

While the finer points of the plan still need to be determined, many Queens legislators back the concept.

Assemblymembers Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), Catalina Cruz (D-Jackson Heights), Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) told the Queens Post that they support congestion pricing. Additionally, State Senators Mike Gianaris (D-12th District) and Jessica Ramos (D-13th District) have expressed support.

SImotas said that congestion pricing is needed since residents require a system that they can rely on. “What we have now is a broken system with awful service, chronic delays and an atrocious lack of accessibility [for the elderly and disabled],” she said in a statement.

She said that congestion pricing provides a sustainable source of funding if it is done correctly.

Fix NYC

But some Queens legislators are unsure about the concept at this point.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-15th District) said in a statement that he is still deciding. “I am looking into all the pros and cons of this initiative before I make a decision to support something as major as this.”

Assemblymember Nily Rozic (D-Flushing), who represents a section of greater Flushing that isn’t served by the subway, has not decided at this point, according to her spokesperson. She is still talking to constituents.

Assemblymember Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) said he wants to see a bill before announcing his support for or against.

Meanwhile, Assemblymember David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) is outright opposed to congestion pricing. He said that the neighborhoods in northern, southern and eastern Queens are not close to the subway and cannot afford a tax hike in the form of congestion pricing.

“A congestion tax would be disastrous for Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island residents,” Weprin said in December. “It could cost a commuter an additional $3,000 a year in expenses.”

Assemblymember Cathy Nolan (D-Long Island City) could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Cuomo said that the funds raised via congestion pricing are needed since the MTA needs $40 billion in the next decade just to modernize the subway. He said that cost, over and above what is raised via congestion pricing, should then be split between New York City and the state.

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27 Comments

Mta complain campaign

Isnt the mta privately owned?. If the mta needs more money they should pay for it them selves by raising prices or how ever they choose to. Taxing a bridge to fund a private company seems like a really bad idea. People always complaining about the subway then when they raise the toll they want to complain again. Since when New Yorkers complain about the subway? The subway always been slow, smelly full of graffiti. If you don’t like it find another way of traveling.

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Necessary change

This is one of those things that is going to happen, and when it does we will ask ourselves why we didn’t do it sooner.

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Makes sense

Price impacts behavior. Since most of us take transit, let’s imagine the following perverse scenarios.

The MTA starts charging more to take the 7 line into manhattan. The transfer points at queensboro plaza and court square would instantly see tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) transferring to the lettered lines to avoid an extra charge. Even if it’s more convenient, thousands will take an extra transfer to avoid the charge.

Let’s take it further. The MTA, after months of protest by beleaguered 7 riders, decides to make taking the 7 into the city FREE. Guaranteed that hundreds of thousands of people in proximity to the lines that serve transfer points will inundate the 7 line. The Bus lines getting people close the 7 will be packed daily. Needless to say the MTA would be skewered for messing up people’s commutes even more. Price, or lack thereof, has an impact on decisions and we need to use it carefully. Should we treat our roads differently? Absolutely not.

Transportation systems are designed to move people around efficiently. By having FREE alternatives to tolled tunnels and bridges to get into and around the city, we have unwittingly designed systems that promote inefficiency and lots and lots of traffic.

Of course many have designed their commutes or other parts of their lives around the free access to the city so the question becomes whether we preserve an increasingly strained system or how we incentivize driving in at off-peak hours, lessen fees for carpools or parking permit holders, prioritize alternative modes like bike share and electric scooters, deploy more efficient select buses with dedicated lanes, and take full advantage of the opportunities less traffic would bring.

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Choices

Congestion pricing has been in London since 2003.Traffic has only gone down 10%. Now they are going to raise it to 24 euros($27) for older higher emission vehicles. Why not raise subway fares and give lower income people a discount and also do congestion pricing.New York’s transit system should be the priority. If I can’t afford to live here ,I’ll move.I am not a victim .

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Happy to pay

I agree. Enough with the whinny, victim mentality. People should put their money where their mouth is. The investment into the transit needs multiple funding sources. I find it strange that in such a liberal progressive city, no one wants to pay more for a better quality of life.

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Anonymous

Trusting the the MTA with more funding is like trusting a meth addict with your ATM card and PIN#

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Choices

Yes, it has lowered traffic by 10% according to few articles I have read. Some stated as high as 25% traffic reduction. I have mixed feelings on it. I think multiple financial solutions are needed to have real impact in the near future. It is time to face reality. I think hard choices need to be made to lower the costs it takes the MTA to operate, addressing pensions would be a good start. Not popular of coarse. Why should we leave this mess to the generation.Our progressive leaders need to act, focusing on just taxing the rich more is just political Robin hood tactics to distract us from their ineffectiveness. They probably will be forced to during the next financial crisis.

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Theorem Ox

I guess I can eventually look forward to writing off the option of taking the Q32/Q60 home from work when the QB traffic gets exacerbated taking on extra traffic.

The MTA will probably make sure of that too as they cut back service on top.

Corruption and incompetence in this city doesn’t come cheap… The costs (in every respect of that word) keep escalating every year.

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Jesse / Sunnyside.

Idiotic. If you implement congestion pricing on cars, more people take the public transport. That means more overcrowding on the subway, and diminishing returns on the funds to repair it. Not to mention you’re taxing small businesses, freelancers, and contractors who absolutely need to drive vehicles into Manhattan.

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bxgrl

Here, since you apparently didn’t read the article:
“Cuomo said that the charge, known as congestion pricing, would help fund a crumbling subway system by raising $15 billion in coming years…”

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Jesse

Do you think $15 billion is really going to cut it? Plus, you obviously don’t understand the nature of a tax that will have diminishing returns over the years. Less people drive because of the tax = less than $15 billion.

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VVNY

Cuomo is only interested in patching the system for it to not crumble while he is in the office. Evidently he doesn’t care about long term. Look at his L train decision. He just wants to look good for the next few years and doesn’t care abut future generations. Partially why NYC infrastructure is in such disarray is because of politicians like him.

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Eurozone

Parking permits need to be introduced if this plan goes through. You’re going to have everyone from eastern queens park and ride the subway. Even though it’s probably already happening, it’s going to be much worse.

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Parking no problems

There weren’t that many spaces repurposed to improve sight lines and traffic flow. Sure 100 sounds like a lot overall but we’re talking over dozens of blocks which have between 100-200 parking spots each. Very small impact overall. Hasn’t changed my block a bit. I definitely want a parking permit.

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El loco

Businesses are against it, because truck drivers will have to pay more. They lie and make up studies saying that the little guy will be hurt. It will mean a less congested city.

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Theorem Ox

Eventually, New York will be a less congested city given enough time.

Lower Manhattan and Albany doesn’t have the good sense to know when to stop pressing their luck (much like Washington DC that they lambast).

P.S.: Detroit wants company…

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LIC Neighbor

You got that right. Less congested because many of us are planning on leaving NYC – the quality of life is going down the drain – we are being taxed into leaving this city. It’s a city for two types of people the rich and those who serve them the poor. If you are in between, you are screwed. I live in LIC own a home outright, buying my time waiting for Amazon to come in watch our property values go up even further and leave NYC , NYS and maybe leave the country altogether, move elsewhere.

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Hate Those Pols

How about you stop giving tax breaks to the richest corporations in the world and pay for it that way? Any Queens or Brooklyn politician who supports this should be dragged from office. It is nothing but a cowardly way to force people who can’t escape it to pay for something they don’t Even use! It’s disgustingly perverse.

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Kevin

It is really just a toll on the free bridges designed to give the money to the state rather than the city.

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QBoro Bridge Driver

So there will be no way to go from Manhattan to Queens without paying a toll… Great plan… Let’s hurt the working class driver more…

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xospecialk

I’d love to know how many ‘working class’ drivers actually drive into manhattan every day. People who drive into manhattan daily, dealing with all that traffic, are sadistic. Basically, everyone who don’t actually have to drive in, won’t, and there will be less traffic for people who actually need to drive (and can afford to, whoever they may be)

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dsoix

“The city that never sleeps” – Lots of night shift workers drive into the city to start their night shifts and leave in the morning. Adding tolls to get in/out forces them to take trains/buses at odd hours which run less often and are potentially dangerous.

Also some people pass through manhattan to get to the Bronx from Queens/Brooklyn (or vice versa) without paying tolls. Construction workers for example who need to get to “the shop” by 7am instead of directly to the worksite may do this trip frequently.

And there are likely other examples that I’m not familiar with of working class people that drive to/through manhattan.

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Theorem Ox

Try the blue collar workers going to their job site. You might know them as construction workers, repairmen/technicians, delivery drivers, etc.

If you thought some of them charge too much already for their products or services, then be prepared to bend over some more. Their cost of doing business in New York City is going up overall and guess what? They’re not going to eat the loss.

If you live in the Greater New York Metro, YOU will be subsidizing Congestion Zone Manhattan (even if you’re not paying for it directly).

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