Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1985 Sun, 18 Aug 2019 03:14:14 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) The Path Forward for Cuomo's 'One Real Answer,' Congestion Pricing https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7999-the-path-forward-for-cuomo-s-one-real-answer-congestion-pricing https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7999-the-path-forward-for-cuomo-s-one-real-answer-congestion-pricing gov cuomo congepric

Cuomo in the midst of his ABNY presentation


One major issue that hung over the 2018 state budget season was congestion pricing, a plan to charge a fee to all motor vehicles entering parts of Manhattan and diverting the revenue toward funding the beleaguered subway system. Governor Andrew Cuomo directed a panel to study the issue, which determined that a congestion pricing scheme should be implemented and offered options for what it could look like, including a three-year, three-phase proposal. Activist groups applied significant public pressure on the governor and the Legislature. Newspaper opinion pages endorsed the idea.

But in the end, only a small part of the plan came to fruition in the budget: a surcharge on for-hire vehicles, including traditional taxis and app-based rides, entering the Manhattan business district. New charges on other cars and trucks did not come to pass. Activists excoriated Cuomo, while the governor blamed the Legislature. Cuomo said that an important first step had been passed and that he would work on additional steps in the future. That process would be led by a budget-created advisory “workgroup” made up of appointees from various stakeholders, including the governor, legislative leaders, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Since the March budget deal, the chorus calling for congestion pricing -- both to reduce street traffic in Manhattan and to secure a steady revenue stream to help support repair of the faltering subways -- has only grown, in number and volume.

Now, supporters of congestion pricing, from activists to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and many others, want to ensure that it makes it into the next budget. They see a potentially more favorable environment, though a lot will be determined by the results of November’s elections, and by the pressure they put on those running.

“It's my impression that pretty much everyone running for office right now at least in the city supports congestion pricing, so I think that puts us in a position to win this year,” said Rebecca Bailin, the political director of the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, referring to candidates for state Assembly and Senate.

Riders Alliance is a part of a new coalition, announced earlier this month, consisting of a diverse group of advocacy organizations, including those focused on the environment, immigrants, social justice, low-income communities and communities of color, and others, organized to push congestion pricing over the finish line. Between now and budget season, the groups will engage in both public demonstrations and private meetings with legislators in an attempt to steer the Legislature and governor toward implementing a full congestion pricing plan.

“We are all so reliant on our subways and buses,” Bailin said. “It is a social justice issue because it can either be a barrier or an entryway to economic opportunity, to cultural access in this city, to all the things that the city has to offer.”

The results of the recent primary elections have renewed hope that 2019 could finally be the year.

Discussion of congestion pricing and funding and fixing the MTA was a centerpiece of the Cuomo-Cynthia Nixon primary, with the governor regularly pointing to congestion pricing and the new Fast Forward plan put forth by MTA leadership to upgrade the transit system. Six of the eight members of the recently-defunct Independent Democratic Conference of the state Senate were defeated by insurgent Democrats who largely staked out more strongly supportive positions on congestion pricing than the incumbents.

Some of those defeated, like Senators Jesse Hamilton and Jose Peralta, were supporters of the scheme and were replaced by other supporters; on the other hand, cautious supporter John Liu defeated a vocal opponent, Senator Tony Avella, who is continuing his run in the general election on the Independence and Women’s Equality lines. Even Republican Senator Martin Golden of Southern Brooklyn, a perennial foe of transit and street safety activists, calls himself a supporter of congestion pricing.

"The Senate, whether controlled by the Democrats or the Republicans, is always a complicated picture,” said Alex Matthiessen, the founder of the Move NY campaign, whose comprehensive congestion pricing plan has served as a model for legislative proposals since 2015, in an email. “But the replacement of the IDC and many of its members with a crop of progressive, hungry and decidedly pro-congestion pricing senators-in-waiting portends well for this effort. But regardless of partisan control of the legislature there’s one constant: city transportation is a disaster and it’s on lawmakers to act.”

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the likely majority leader if the Democrats take the Senate, represents a suburban district and does not have a clear position on congestion pricing. A report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign found that only 3.9 percent of Stewart-Cousins’ constituents, those driving alone into Manhattan’s proposed congestion pricing zone, would be affected by the charge. Stewart-Cousins’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

In the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx is a supporter of congestion pricing, though some advocates criticized him last year for not pushing hard enough for the proposal. Heastie’s office also did not respond to a request for comment.

Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, who served as deputy minority leader prior to the reunification of the IDC and may return to a deputy leader role in January, was once a skeptic of congestion pricing, but is now a supporter. He also supports Mayor de Blasio’s millionaires’ tax proposal, which he says can help fill the gap left between what’s funded by congestion pricing and what a comprehensive transit fix will actually cost.

“A Democratic Senate would certainly prioritize the stability and funding of the MTA, which the Republican Senate has not done,” Gianaris said in an interview. “So I think it’s a prerequisite to get to a realistic end to have a Democratic Senate. As for whether the Senate would embrace congestion pricing, beyond those of us that already do, I can’t speak for others. We’re gonna have to have those conversations. I don’t even know which senators I’m going to be looking at, because we’re hoping to pick up a lot more senators in a couple weeks.”

Cuomo, too, has only attached himself more to congestion pricing. At an event hosted by the Association for a Better New York on October 4, Cuomo said that since neither God, the city, nor the state would cough up $33 billion needed for the Fast Forward plan, “the only realistic option is congestion pricing, we have to get it done, we have to get it done next year, I need your help.”

For now, Cuomo has activists somewhat convinced.

“I am optimistic based on what he said about the need to fund the MTA,” Bailin said of Cuomo’s ABNY remarks.

Cuomo’s FixNYC panel recommended, in a January report, a broad but “phased” congestion pricing program. The for-hire vehicle surcharge, phase 2, passed, but other parts and phases of the plan did not, leaving many boosters disappointed, and some accusing Cuomo of a “bait-and-switch.”

“The Governor single-handedly revived the idea of congestion pricing and succeeded in passing the first phase of the FixNYC plan including a fee on for-hire vehicles that will go into effect next year as well as empaneling a new MTA advisory group that will provide recommendations before end of year as we develop the executive budget proposal,” Cuomo spokesperson Peter Ajemian said in a statement. “The Governor has been clear congestion pricing is the most realistic way to help fund the NYCT modernization plan and will continue leading the charge to convince legislators to pass it next year.”

The new advisory group is the MTA Sustainability Advisory Workgroup, which formally met for the first time last month and is tasked with coming up with a comprehensive plan for funding a major transit overhaul plan like Fast Forward by December 31. Though created in the enacted budget that passed in March, the panel’s members were not named until August, after Riders Alliance publicly called for the appointments. The group’s fairly tight timeline is compounded by the sheer immensity of the task before it.

But, the workgroup represents a much broader array of perspectives than FixNYC, which was an entirely Cuomo-appointed panel. The panel consists of two Cuomo appointees: CEO of the Partnership for New York City Kathryn Wylde and Metro North Commuter Council member Rhonda Herman; two appointees of congestion pricing skeptic Mayor Bill de Blasio: former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Senator Gianaris; one appointee of MTA Chair Joe Lhota: Vice Chair Fernando Ferrer; two from the Senate: former City Council Member Andrew Eristoff and former DOT engineer Michael Shamma; and two from the Assembly: Assemblymembers Amy Paulin and Michael Benedetto.

“It is a group of well-meaning individuals who are trying to make recommendations to solve the MTA’s funding crisis,” Gianaris said. “And the MTA crisis in general, regardless of funding. I think efficiency is one of the other things we’re going to be looking at as well.”

Even de Blasio appears to be warming to the idea of congestion pricing, evidenced by his appointment of two supporters to the panel.

The panel has met three times so far, and Wylde, the chair, says that the meetings will occur weekly or biweekly until the end of the year, when a set of recommendations must be produced. The initial focus has been determining what the funding needs of the MTA are and how congestion pricing could form part of a solution, but the panel is empowered to go well beyond that in its recommended solutions.

“FixNYC was really focused on congestion pricing and how to implement it,” Gianaris said. “That is just one element of what this group is doing.”

Wylde elaborated on that point.

“It may be funding mechanisms, it may be reforms,” Wylde said in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “Structural and other reforms in how the MTA raises its own revenues. And then all the issues associated with congestion pricing: 1) to build support, and 2) to achieve the dual goals of new revenue generation and traffic reduction. So those have been the focus of the conversation so far.”

New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s much-talked about Fast Forward plan to modernize the subway system has been projected to cost roughly $40 billion over ten years, though Cuomo has used the $33 billion figure. Wylde said that unanimity on a true cost does not exist on the panel, and that part of the panel’s focus is in determining what it would be.

Congestion pricing remains the crux of the negotiations, and its status as a major part of the long-term transit solution appears to be agreed upon. But most analysts agree that congestion pricing would not alone cover the massive cost of fixing the transit system, and that other mechanisms are necessary as well. Estimates for annual congestion pricing revenue vary, and depend on what the program actually looks like, but have been in the $1 billion range.

The new advisory panel’s recommended solutions could, theoretically, include any of a variety of measures beyond congestion pricing -- including labor reforms, changes to the MTA’s budgeting process, an added surcharge to high-income earners’ taxes, fare hikes, or value capture -- to address long-term funding and spending issues.

“We will be careful about mission creep,” Wylde said. “The primary goal here is to identify the gap and make specific recommendations on how to deal with it, and most specifically, it’s to try and resolve an approach to congestion pricing. And so, I think that’s the focus, and to the extent that the gap exceeds the revenues that one can project from congestion pricing, looking at other sources of funding or cost reduction.”

The panel’s work will be informed by that of outside experts and advocates, and by previous plans such as FixNYC and Move NY, as well as by the expertise that the panel members themselves have from work on these issues. Political questions will come into consideration as well, especially considering the presence of three current and two former elected officials. The nature of the panel’s makeup -- that numerous stakeholders, rather than just one, appointed its members -- may allow for a broader consensus to be formed in such a way that is palatable to all parties.

“To date, I don't think party politics are playing a role,” Wylde said. “Obviously, the political sensibilities of all members of the group play into what they think is realistic and what can be accomplished. So, it's a politically sophisticated group, but not one that's just gonna be at the mercy of party politics.”

The November elections will, of course, hold significant influence over what happens in the next budget season, though Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive, does support congestion pricing. However, if Republicans maintain the majority in the State Senate, they may put the brakes on the momentum toward implementation.

Advocates are, at present, optimistic about the panel and prospects despite the initial hiccups.

“It’s important there’s a panel in place that represents the interests of various government entities whose constituents are affected by our transportation crisis,” Matthiessen said. “As long as the Workgroup delivers the report by the December 31 deadline, the group’s work will be worthwhile.”

And though the December 31 deadline may seem tight for such a complex assignment, the stakeholders are confident that it will get done.

“It may be a broad topic,” Wylde said, “but it’s not a new topic.”

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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The Path Forward for Cuomo's 'One Real Answer,' Congestion Pricing Tue, 16 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
What's The [DATA] Point? $1.5 billion https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7131-what-s-the-data-point-1-5-billion https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7131-what-s-the-data-point-1-5-billion whats the data point


What's The Data Point? Episode 9 -- $1.5 billion, [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

For this episode of the podcast, we were joined by Alex Matthiessen, President of Blue Marble Project and Campaign Director for Move New York, the "congestion pricing" plan that aims to help repair and improve the city's mass transit, roads and bridges, while reducing traffic and creating more equity in tolling around the city.

Matthiessen expains the details of the Move New York plan and its place in this new, unique political moment -- Governor Cuomo has recently said that he's looking at some version of a congestion pricing plan and there is immense attention on how the city and state can improve mass transit, reduce traffic congestion, and repair, sustain, and expand the subway and other transportation options. Matthiessen addresses the next steps for Cuomo, whether Mayor de Blasio should come around to back Move New York or some version of it, and where things are heading for a new paradigm in New York transit.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis (@MariaDoulis) of CBC (@cbcny), and special guest Alex Matthiessen (@MoveNewYork). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's The [DATA] Point? $1.5 billion Thu, 17 Aug 2017 01:16:01 +0000
Calls for Small & Large Fixes to City Congestion, Transit Woes https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6975-calls-for-small-large-fixes-to-city-congestion-transit-woes https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6975-calls-for-small-large-fixes-to-city-congestion-transit-woes trottenberg chan mccarten

Cmsr Trottenberg, right (photos: John McCarten/City Council)


The New York City Council Committee on Transportation held a hearing Monday to discuss sources of, and solutions to, traffic congestion in the city.

City Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez, chair of the committee, began the hearing by lamenting New York City’s heavy traffic. “As most New Yorkers can tell you, our streets look like parking lots,” said Rodríguez, a Democrat from upper Manhattan. In addition to economic impediments and general inconvenience, the Council member framed congestion as a safety issue as well. “More cars in our road means more dangerous conditions for cyclists, pedestrians and other street users,” he said -- Rodriguez has been a champion of the city’s Vision Zero street safety program.

Council Member Mark Levine, also an upper Manhattan Democrat, agreed with Rodríguez’s characterization of the situation and highlighted its urgency. “Congestion is at crisis levels in this city,” he said. “This is a threat to our economy, our environment, it is a safety threat and frankly, for drivers, it is driving them crazy to be stuck in traffic.”

The Council members attributed an apparent recent dramatic increase in congestion to the prosperity of various home-delivery and app-based car services alongside longstanding New York City issues such as double parking and placard misuse.

However, a portion of the uptick in clogged New York City streets is a product of some unavoidable, as well as wholly positive, developments, argued new York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who was the main representative of the de Blasio administration at Monday’s hearing.

In conjunction with population growth, tourism to the city and a booming economy have contributed, Trottenberg said, citing a 68% increase in visitors since 2000 and an addition of 4.3 million jobs in New York City since before the recession. ”While on the one hand, increased congestion is a sign of a thriving economy, we hear loud and clear from community boards, elected officials, businesses, and New Yorkers who drive, are stuck on the bus, or use crowded sidewalks, that they are frustrated by congestion and are asking the city for answers,” Trottenberg said.

Trottenberg discussed the two most impactful ways to address the issue: congestion pricing, which would create a new tolling system to, in part, disincentivize driving in the city, especially into Manhattan, and subway expansion, which would encourage more people to choose a train over a car. The commissioner did not indicate that the de Blasio administration is supportive of a congestion pricing plan -- Mayor de Blasio himself said Monday that it has no hope of passage in Albany, so it is not worth fighting for. The de Blasio administration also has little control over subway expansion, given that the MTA is a state-run authority, but could pursue some additional stops if it chose to make that a priority, which it has not.

With a handful Council members, Trottenberg discussed secondary areas over which the city has direct control, such as car placard abuse, which take up parking spaces or block traffic, large truck deliveries which often block streets, and bus lane enforcement, to prevent slowing MTA buses.

Council Member Margaret Chin, for example, floated the idea of imposing harsher penalties on placard abusers and those that unlawfully veer into bus lanes. NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas M. Chan acknowledged Chin’s concerns, adding that his department is exploring ways to court additional officers to the approximately 3,200 officers tasked with enforcing traffic law. De Blasio recently announced a new crackdown on placard abuse that coincided with his decision to allow tens of thousands of placards to school personnel.

But not all Members were on-board with shifting focus towards small fixes over the meat and potato endeavors to ameliorating New York City’s traffic woes.

Council Member Corey Johnson, a Democrat representing the West Side of Manhattan, said the city’s proposed congestion-fighting efforts to which it has shifted attention amounted to mere “tinkering around the edges.” Council Member Brad Lander, Democrat of Park Slope, Brooklyn, took issue with the less ambitious approach as well, declaring that anything that did not include transportation investment would be “fooling around at the margins.”

Mayor de Blasio, for his part, threw cold water on the city taking action on ambitious as well as extensive and long-term issues, stating that the political climate in Albany is not ripe for passing a congestion pricing program while continually, and accurately, noting that potential MTA augmentations and fixes fall under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s jurisdiction. Instead, on transit the mayor has favored an approach more immediately implementable steps that do not rely on state approval.

When asked at a press conference Monday morning if, absent investment in new subway stations, the city could properly address congestion, de Blasio articulated his approach. “This is going to have to happen in phases over years [in] how we address the problem,” said the mayor. “We need to first think about the things we can do right now…” he said, name-checking expanded ferry service, Select Bus Service, and the BQX lightrail streetcar as the types of New York City mass-transit successes he’s unveiled. “Those are the things that are going to have a big impact for people’s lives right now,” de Blasio said.

Though de Blasio said that there is a “real possibility” that New York City would have to build more subways 10 to 15 years down the road, “The things we’ve done right now, are the things we could do right now,” he said. The Select Bus Service “is a real workhorse,” he said while answering a follow-up question.

In a similar vein, in lieu of congestion pricing, de Blasio favors other measures to free-up traffic. “There are people who double-park in an abusive manner that blocks up the street for everyone else. There should be enforcement of that,” he said. He doesn’t want overly-strict, nit-picking tickets, he said, but “ticketing that is about keeping the flow of traffic...I want to ticket those that are blocking traffic on a  prolonged basis…I want to ticket people who block the box.”

Like for much else in New York City politics, the ongoing feud between de Blasio and Cuomo loomed in the background of the transportation hearing and the mayor’s Monday morning press conference. Although the hearing focused on congestion, the MTA’s woes and traffic issues were treated as inextricably linked even without Cuomo being blamed by name for the MTA’s terrible state of disrepair.

While Council Member Donovan Richards, a Democrat from Southeast Queens, noted that it is indubitably Cuomo’s responsibility to manage and adequately fund the MTA, he stated that finger-pointing would not cut it moving forward. Richards said his constituents call his office about transportation and don’t care about whose jurisdiction the MTA is. Thus, it was his position City Hall must take it upon itself to solve the city's transportation crises.

One way would be to push for a congestion pricing plan without state government approval, by citing a 1957 state law that allows cities home to over a million people to implement their own bridge tolls. This proposal, as reported by the Wall Street Journal Sunday, was brought to the forefront by Move NY, an organization that has the most popular current congestion pricing plan, and New York University Law School Professor Roderick Hills. New York City DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel dismissed the proposal, telling the Journal “...legal experts in both the current and previous administrations determined the city does not have this authority.”

When asked about the idea during a press gaggle following the Monday Council hearing, Trottenberg echoed Gastel, saying, “I think the city has determined it’s a losing legal fight...In this case, unfortunately, we just don’t have that legal authority.”

Furthermore, Trottenberg insisted that piecemeal congestion-fighting proposals have begun to flow from the administration and that more are coming; she did not answer directly whether what she had described reflected the mayor’s anti-congestion positions. She also said that the anti-congestion plan the mayor promised in his February State of the City speech are already partly in process and soon to be more clear.

“It’s one of the first elements of it,” Trottenberg said regarding the enforcement pieces she laid out. “I think the congestion plan, it turns out, is going to be kind of a rolling plan, you’ve heard the first pieces of it today, and there will be more to come in the coming weeks.“

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Calls for Small & Large Fixes to City Congestion, Transit Woes Mon, 05 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Cuomo Makes Transit a ‘Personal Priority,’ Advocates Want More Funding Details https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6466-cuomo-makes-transit-a-personal-priority-advocates-want-more-funding-details https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6466-cuomo-makes-transit-a-personal-priority-advocates-want-more-funding-details cuomo prendergast mta

Gov. Cuomo & MTA Chair Prendergast (photo: Philip Kamrass, Governor's Office)


Governor Andrew Cuomo has made mass transit a major focus of late, holding a series of events over the past year regarding airport redevelopment, railroad expansion, new transportation hubs and vehicles, and more. Early last month he described the Metropolitan Transit Administration (MTA) as a new “personal priority” and announced an effort to modernize the agency, beginning with the purchase of over 1,000 new subway cars.

This, with the accompanying significant funding allocation toward the MTA, is something of a change of course for Cuomo, who has a history of diverting money from the MTA. Now, the governor’s ambitious transit plan includes updating the MTA, repairing tunnels and bridges throughout the New York metropolitan area, building a new Tappan Zee bridge, rebuilding LaGuardia Airport and Penn Station, and creating a new tunnel under the Hudson river.

With federal corruption convictions having toppled two recent leaders in the state Legislature, among other former Albany lawmakers, and investigations into his own administration, Cuomo appears to have seized on a concrete, quality-of-life issue in mass transit that has also been brought into focus by the dire state of the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Cuomo’s commitment came after calls from transit advocates, business people, and lawmakers urging the governor to allocate funding to the MTA’s five-year Capital Program in the state’s budget to meet the staggering needs outlined by the authority. After spending $1 billion in the first year of the Capital Program last year, Cuomo agreed to provide an additional $7.3 billion last fall. New York City will provide $2.5 billion, and the MTA, a state body whose chair is appointed by the Governor, will itself provide $17 billion.

Cuomo did not finalize the spending plan for the Capital Program until late May, but has widely publicized his support of the program since. The state’s contribution to the Capital Program is included in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, providing $2.9 billion in the coming year on top of the $1 billion provided in Fiscal Year 2016.

At a June event celebrating groundbreaking at “the new LaGuardia Airport,” Cuomo put the magnitude of his “$100 billion infrastructure program” on display, calling it “the largest reinvestment in New York’s infrastructure in modern history,” which, he said, was “long overdue.” A key part of it, the governor said, “is a $27 billion investment, largest capital investment in history in the MTA because that is going to be the future. Moving more and more people through mass transit rather than through cars and I am proud to be the governor who made the largest investment in the MTA’s history.”

While some transit advocates view the governor’s recent embrace of the MTA as a victory, not all are reassured by the promise of capital funding.

“It was a great win in many ways that the governor said he would allocate the necessary funding at least this year to the capital plan,” Masha Burina, an organizer for the advocacy group Riders Alliance, told Gotham Gazette. “But our major concern going forward that we still have and that we're going to be pushing for in our campaign is to get a sense of where this money is coming from.”

Burina said the push to secure budgetary funding for the Capital Program was aided by Assembly member James Brennan, a Democrat from Brooklyn, who penned a letter signed by 35 other Assembly members and sent to Cuomo in February. However, Burina added that Cuomo has not detailed how the state will pay for the capital program.

Without a new source of funding, the state—or the MTA—will have to borrow. The MTA is already over $35 billion in debt. Because one of the only revenue generators within the MTA’s control is passenger fares, Burina said she is worried going further in debt would make a looming fare hike to $3 even more likely (the current cost of a subway or bus ride is $2.75).

But the Fiscal Year 2017 budget stipulates that the state can only provide its share of the funding via a revenue stream or direct payments, which means no debt related to the state’s contribution to the Capital Program can be passed on to the fare-payer, according to Morris Peters, a spokesperson for the New York State Division of the Budget.

Peters also touted the $3.9 billion state contribution already signed into law as part of the past two years’ budget, pointing out that this places the state ahead of schedule in providing its $8.3 billion pledged contribution.

“Through the Enacted Budget, the state’s commitment of $8.3 billion in new funding for the MTA is now law. Anyone who thinks this isn't a priority clearly doesn't know what they're talking about,” Peters said in an email to Gotham Gazette.

Nonetheless, transportation advocates are likely to continue questioning where exactly the money is coming from and pressuring Cuomo as they have in the past, urging the governor to find ways to pay for the capital plan, according to Burina.

“It's great that he's come out and stepped up saying that these are his priorities, but we want to make sure that this doesn't translate into unsupported debt borrowing,” Burina said.

Several possible options for funding exist, but none have yet been embraced by the governor. One possibility is raising motor fuel taxes, which brought in $503 million for the state last year. But Nicole Gelinas, the Searle Freedom Trust Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said raising the gas tax is unlikely to provide enough funding for the Capital Program.

“I don't think we'll get much from a higher gas tax,” Gelinas said in an email to Gotham Gazette. “We could double it, and take in another half billion [dollars], but that doesn't solve the MTA's problems.”

Increasing motor fuel taxes has not been endorsed by Riders Alliance and has drawn skepticism from elected officials who support increased transportation spending, especially since motor fuel tax revenue is expected to decrease by $9 million in the coming year.

“All our public policy is, quite properly, aimed at saying ‘use fewer gallons of gasoline.’ We want to be more energy efficient, we want to have less fumes and we want to have more miles per gallon,” Jerrold Nadler, a Democratic congressman from Manhattan, said at “On Transportation,” a forum hosted by City & State NY at the New School on Tuesday. “So the amount of revenue in real terms from the gasoline tax is going down steadily, and we have to substitute for it.”

Riders Alliance has, however, endorsed the Move NY Fair Plan, which would increase tolls in areas of high transit availability like major East River bridges and decrease tolls in areas of low availability, including bridges over the Harlem River. But the plan would generate “only” one billion dollars per year for transit projects through 2019, as well as $375 million per year for road and bridge improvements during that time.

“The Move NY is a much better plan, except that even it is not a panacea,” Gelinas said by email. “It buys us the debt for one five-year capital plan, at most. But we're now two years into that five-year capital plan. So what do we do in three years' time?”

As advocates continue to push for a source of funding for the MTA, Riders Alliance hopes to use Cuomo’s “prioritization” of transit to gain momentum for more specific causes they’ve spearheaded in recent months, including compiling a plan to support commuters affected by the L Train’s upcoming closure, subsidizing fares for low-income New Yorkers, and updating the subway signaling system, which would allow for expanded countdown clocks and more trains per track.

And while some have been bolstered by Cuomo’s pledge to be an advocate for transportation, others are less satisfied. New York State Senator Leroy Comrie, a Democrat from Queens who serves on the Senate’s infrastructure committee, said that regardless of its sources of funding, the Capital Program neglects parts of his constituency.

“I represent Southeast Queens, which is a transportation desert. The MTA five-year capital plan addresses no solutions for Queens other than repair and maintenance of the existing bridges that are there,” Comrie said at the City & State forum on Tuesday. “The project for LaGuardia was necessary and important, there’s no access for our community to actually get to work.”

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by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

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Cuomo Makes Transit a ‘Personal Priority,’ Advocates Want More Funding Details Wed, 03 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000