In a deadening blow to a breathe-easy future for New York, the State Assembly has just shot down Mayor Bloomberg’s implementation plan for congestion mitigation. The proposal would have mobilized $354 million in federal grants to simultaneously tackle two dire transportation problems, alleviating inner-city traffic while providing a steady source of income for the funds-starved Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Early last week New York’s City Council had approved of the plan with a 30-20 vote, but it was snuffed by a secretive vote conducted by State Assembly higher ups. Last Monday it appeared as though Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s green dream was going to be a reality. March 31st’s City Council victory showed an encouraging round of support, with 20 votes pouring in from outside of Manhattan, where resistance to the plan has been strongest.
Speaker Christine Quinn lauded this victory, stating “people who were elected to represent the New Yorkers who live in our five boroughs are sick and tired of our streets being clogged with traffic, we’re sick and tired of the children who live in our city literally having to fight to be able to breathe, and that we see congestion pricing as a solution to this problem.”
The proposal for a congestion pricing system was first outlined by Mayor Bloomberg in April 2007, and has seen a year of heated division and debate. The plan would have created an $8 fare for most motorists who enter Manhattan south of 60th Street, reducing inner-city traffic congestion and other related health and safety issues within the city of New York. This would in turn have produced an estimated $4.5 billion over five years, providing a steady source of funding for much-needed MTA improvements.
Debate had provided the bill with a flexible framework of provisions that sought to please nay-sayers while tightening its focus and directing all revenue into the city’s over-stressed mass transit system. Tax breaks were suggested for working drivers with low incomes, and an express bus system was proposed to service the outer boroughs. Still, despite resounding support and the bill’s green credo, Jill’s Earth Day Wishlist may contain one more dream deferred.