Four Lessons From Our Year of Subway Hell | Village Voice

2. Congestion Pricing Is Back
August 13 could go down as one of the most important days in city history. It was the day the New York Times announced Cuomo was putting congestion pricing back on the table. Somewhat famously in transit circles, he called congestion pricing an idea “whose time has come.”

“Clearly, everybody was surprised by the governor’s announcement in all of this,” congestion pricing expert Charles Komanoff tells the Voice. “Nobody saw that coming. No one. That [was] such a welcome surprise, obviously.”

Congestion pricing has the potential to correct many of the city’s transit ills. By charging drivers to enter a predetermined zone of Manhattan, traffic will be reduced and buses will move faster (which could direct some riders away from the overcrowded subways). But, perhaps most important, the revenue raised can be redirected back into transit improvements, solving many of the MTA’s budgetary woes.

This remains hypothetical for now, because Cuomo has not said much on congestion pricing since the August Times story. In October, he created a panel to study the issue. Is Cuomo willing to spend political capital to get congestion pricing passed in Albany, or is it something he has proposed simply to leave languishing in the legislature?

Still, the very fact that congestion pricing is back in mainstream policy conversations — after years of being limited to transit advocates pushing proposals such as MoveNY’s plan — is a win in itself. Dani Simons, vice president for strategic communications at Regional Plan Association, which has advocated for congestion pricing in one form or another since the 1990s, recalls her early days working for the Department of Transportation back in 2007 when then-mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to forward his own congestion pricing plan. One of her first jobs was to present the plan to community boards. “That meant explaining congestion pricing night after night and getting some rather heated feedback at times,” she says. The plan later died in the state legislature.

Over the past decade, Simons says, it has sometimes felt “like this is a good idea [whose] time will never come. But this year I learned that you can’t keep a good idea down. Especially when the transit system is in crisis.”

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Four Lessons From Our Year of Subway Hell | Village Voice.