Transit Riders to Cuomo: Stop Tip-Toeing Around Congestion Pricing and Pass It

Cuomo is wasting his opportunity to reform New York's dysfunctional traffic and transit systems.

Council Member Jumaane Williams and advocates outside Governor Cuomo's Manhattan offices last night. Photo: David Meyer
Council Member Jumaane Williams and advocates outside Governor Cuomo's Manhattan offices last night. Photo: David Meyer

Governor Cuomo has called congestion pricing “an idea whose time has come,” and the Fix NYC panel he convened produced a serious plan to make it happen. But with the governor himself failing to introduce concrete legislation, Cuomo is wasting his opportunity to reform New York’s dysfunctional traffic and transit systems.

Last night transit riders rallied outside Cuomo’s NYC offices, calling on him to lead the way and get a congestion pricing plan through Albany before the state budget deadline at the end of March.

Chanting “Congestion pricing now!” and “No more Status Cuomo,” the crowd demanded that Cuomo stop dragging his feet.

“Our transit system is in a crisis,” said Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin. “We need Governor Cuomo not only to use his words, but to take action — to fix public transit and to unsnarl the congestion that is making life in New York so difficult.”

In January, Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel put out a solid plan to reduce traffic jams with congestion tolls and surcharges on for-hire vehicle trips. The more ambitious versions of the proposal would significantly reduce congestion in and around the Manhattan core while raising more than $1 billion annually for transit.

But since then Cuomo has sat on his hands and has yet to put forward actual congestion pricing legislation. Instead, the governor’s office is pushing to grab city property tax revenues to fund transit, a proposal that good government watchdogs have universally panned. State legislators have filled the vacuum with a weak Uber and taxi surcharge that would have little effect.

All the while, car and truck traffic continues to choke city streets, and subway and bus service continues to stagnate.

“I know the governor is very good at lip service, what I have not seen him good on is leadership,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, who is running in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor against Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul. “There are millions of people depending on the leadership that is not happening,” he said.

If the governor decides to take the lead on congestion pricing, a broad coalition of business and labor groups is ready to make the case to legislators.

The environmental-labor coalition ALIGN-NY and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance were both at yesterday’s rally.

“The bottom line is if the subway system doesn’t work, our city doesn’t work,” said Environmental Justice Alliance Executive Director Eddie Bautista. “This is a problem that could have been fixed ten years ago, had they passed congestion pricing when we started pushing for it. Time is running out.”