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New York has a new, bold plan to fix the subways: Make car drivers pay for it



subway new york

If you live in New York City, or follow its dramas from afar, you know two things: The city’s subway is falling into disrepair, and the mayor and the governor do not get along. But today, it seems that the former dilemma has superseded the latter. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed to cooperate with Governor Andrew Cuomo on a 10-point strategy to fix the subway and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that manages it.

Crucial to this plan is an answer to the classic “how will we pay for it?” question. Cuomo has, since his re-election in November, been vocal about his support for congestion pricing as a means to raise money for the MTA. The scheme would place a toll on cars entering New York’s Central Business District (CBD is the part of the city below 61st Street in Manhattan), both to disincentivize car use in the area and generate a pool of funding for the city’s transit systems. Private cars would be charged around $12 per trip into the CBD, trucks around $25, and for-hire vehicles between $2 and $5. Emergency services vehicles and vehicles designated for transporting people with disabilities would be exempt.

De Blasio has spoken out against congestion pricing in the past, saying that it would increase the cost burden on working people who drive into the CBD. But, as it turns out, wealthier people are statistically much more likely to commute into the city via car, and will be the main source of funding that goes into the “lockbox” created by a congestion fee. Lower-income people, who mainly rely on mass transit to get in from the outer boroughs, will benefit from improvements to the subway and bus systems.

As of today, De Blasio and Cuomo have agreed to jointly backing a congestion pricing plan that would come into effect in 2020 and raise around $15 billion–a significant portion of the MTA’s estimated $40 billion in capital shortfall. Additional taxes on internet services sales and legal marijuana would also deliver more funds to the MTA.

In implementing congestion pricing, New York City would join other cities like London, Singapore, Milan, and Stockholm that have already rolled out similar policies. In addition to the monetary benefits it will bring to the beleaguered MTA, congestion pricing is one of those strategies that addresses several critical concerns in one fell swoop.

One is traffic: In New York City, cars in the CBD move at a glacial pace of 4.7 miles per hour–no faster than an especially quick walker, and slower than a cyclist. A fee on cars will hopefully discourage drivers from entering this morass, and in turn, free those cars that do need to pass through Manhattan to do so more quickly and efficiently.

Another is emissions: Only a fraction of a percent of of all cars on the road in the U.S. are electric, so as long as our roads are clogged with them, our carbon footprint will remain high. Removing polluting cars from city streets will help places like New York rein in emissions. Research from Stockholm has found that congestion pricing results in healthier lungs among residents. From a health and safety perspective, congestion pricing also delivers benefits to residents. Since London introduced congestion pricing, incidences of lethal crashes between vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians plummeted. In U.S. cities, where deaths by vehicle continue to rise, this type of policy will be vital for protecting people who choose not to travel by car.

On top of congestion pricing, Cuomo and de Blasio have pledged to consolidate all six of New York’s transit agencies–including the MTA, the bus network, and the regional rail networks–into one operation. This, they said in a joint statement, will streamline issues like repairs and generate new ideas for providing services to riders.

An efficient, responsive, and well-funded transit network is possibly one of the most vital aspects for a city aiming to address two of the 21st centuries most pressing challenges: climate change and inequity. New York needs to recognize that its most economically vulnerable residents depend on good and functional transit in order to exist in the city, and the city itself can no longer support the human and environmental dangers that excessive car traffic poses. Congestion pricing is a way to address both, and it’s now incumbent on the city and its leaders to make sure it works as promised.


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MTA News

Three separate homicides across city this weekend under investigation





The weekend was especially busy for homicide detectives across the city as three people were killed since Thursday night in separate murders, police said.

Police were also seeking a possible wounded person from a shooting on a Brooklyn train Saturday night.

The violence began Thursday, Nov. 14 at about 9:05 p.m. when police from the 34th Precinct responded to a 911 call of shots fire in the vicinity of Sherman Avenue and Thayer Street in the Bronx.

Upon arriving at the scene, law enforcement sources said, officers were told about a 20-year-old man who had arrived at New York Presbyterian Hospital, via private means, with gunshot wounds to the legs.

The victim, identified as Luis Dela Cruz, of 36 Arden Avenue, was subsequently pronounced deceased at the hospital. There are no arrests and the investigation remains ongoing.

On Friday, Nov. 15, at about 9:15 p.m., 17-year-old Talasia Cuffie of Vernon Boulevard in Long island City, Queens, was found stabbed in the chest multiple times along 166th Street in South Jamaica. Paramedics rushed her to Jamaica Hospital. where she was pronounced dead.

Sources said Cuffie was stabbed only hours after attending a memorial for her friend, Aamir Griffin, 14, who was shot to death on by a stray bullet 21 days earlier.

Hours later, at about 3:44 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, police in Brooklyn responded to a 911 call of male shot in front of the Lafayette Garden Houses, a NYCHA development. Officers found a 34-year-old man shot multiple times in the chest. EMS rushed him to Brooklyn Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The victim has not yet been identified, and no arrests have been made.

Shooting aboard train

Meanwhile, cops are also investigating a reported shooting on board the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in Brooklyn Saturday evening.

Police say a group became embroiled in a dispute either aboard or on the platform of the Franklin Avenue shuttle as it sat in the station at Prospect Park and Flatbush Avenue Saturday night at about 8:40 p.m. Police were checking hospitals in the borough for possible person shot, but could not confirm that anyone was hit.

A transit worker inside a maintenance room at the station said he heard a large group of teens running from the station, but he didn’t hear the shots. Police were holding the motorman after the shooting for questioning.

The suspect was described as male black, 5’9″ with a dark hoodie.

The shuttle was shut down for the duration of the investigation as evidence collection units collected spent shells and a bullet that may have been lodged in a wall of the train.

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By  Todd Maisel

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MTA News

Advocates: MTA Board Must Get Moving On Congestion Pricing Details




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In less than one year, the state-mandated Traffic Mobility Review Board can issue its nuts-and-bolts recommendations for how congestion pricing is supposed to work, what it will cost, and who will get much-desired exemptions from the toll.

Of course, there’s a few things that need to happen first — primarily Mayor de Blasio and the MTA Board have to actually appoint members to this obscure board, get it an office so it can start the work of setting those tolls and exemptions, and start holding meetings (which are supposed to be public, but might not be!).

On Friday, a coalition of 20 good government and transit advocacy groups including Reinvent Albany, the Permanent Citizens Advisory Council, the Citizens Budget Commission and the Straphangers Campaign fired the first warning shot, with a letter reminding the politicians who passed the tolling scheme earlier this year that the hard work of actually designing and then implementing congestion pricing still needs to be done before it supposed to (magically!) begin in January, 2021.

The Traffic Mobility Review Board is supposed to comprise one chairperson and five members: one appointed by Mayor de Blasio and the rest appointed by the MTA Board/Gov. Cuomo, though two members must be from the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North service areas.

Asked if the MTA Board had held any discussions about the board and who will be appointed to it, de Blasio’s MTA Board appointee Veronica Vanterpool told Streetsblog it had not. Noting that she felt it could wait until after December’s decision on the 2020 MTA budget, Vanterpool still urged the Board to prioritize the TMRB going forward.

“All eyes are on NYC for this rollout, so we shouldn’t squander time,” Vanterpool said. “January, 2021 is around the corner.”

A spokesperson for Cuomo referred Streetsblog to the MTA, and a spokesperson for de Blasio did not respond to a request for comment on potential board appointees.

Nov. 15 was an auspicious date for the good-governance groups to send the letter, because Nov. 15, 2020 is the date when the TMRB can release its recommendations, per the congestion pricing agreement that the state legislature passed this year (observers have pointed out releasing the recommendations on Nov. 15 allowed legislators to avoid any potential consequences in the 2020 election, which is a week earlier).

If those recommendations are approved by the Triborough Bridges & Tunnel Authority, the MTA can start collecting the congestion toll fee as soon as Jan. 1, 2021, although there’s no requirement that the tolling begin that soon (clearly, there is a huge potential for delay). Although the TMRB has not yet been appointed, the MTA has at least selected a vendor to design and operate the tolling infrastructure once the fee is instituted.

With no TMRB holding meetings, there’s no way to know what congestion pricing will look like or even what the price might be. For now, thanks to state lawmakers carving out exemptions, we know that emergency vehicles, vehicles transporting disabled people and drivers passing through the congestion toll zone on the FDR Drive or West Side Highway will be exempt from the fee. In addition, CBD residents making less than $60,000 per year will get a tax credit equal to what they spend on the tolls each year, and an exception is being worked out for drivers who have to move their cars in and out of the CBD border because of alternate-side parking.

Other than that though, the public is only left to speculate. At Tuesday’s state legislative hearing on the MTA’s historic $51.5-billion 2020-2024 capital plan, MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye promised that before the tolls and exemptions are set, there would be pointless kvetching sessions robust public hearings with the TMRB so that MTA Board members could be properly informed.

In September, the Regional Plan Association issued a series of suggestions as to how the congestion toll could be set. The plan that seemed to do the most good, in terms of raising money and reducing congestion during peak hours, was a fee of $9.18 to enter the CBD during the morning rush and the same fee exit it during the evening peak. That charge would raise $1.06 billion and increase traffic speeds in the Manhattan core by 15.6 percent.

The TMRB’s decisions will have enormous consequences for the success of the congestion pricing program, and for the MTA’s historic capital plan. The MTA is banking on raising $1 billion per year with the congestion fee, which they can then turn into $15 billion in bonds for the agency’s capital spending. In addition to setting the tolls and exemptions, the TMRB is also supposed to review the 2020-2024 capital plan at some point, which makes actually appointing its members somewhat urgent since next year is…let’s see here…2020.



By Dave Colon

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MTA News

Contract talks break down between TWU, MTA





NEW YORK (WABC) — Talks between Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the MTA have broken down after both sides have been meeting for the last three days, officials say.

The transit union president claims that the MTA contract demands have “only made the already tense situation worse.”

The union released a statement Thursday evening about MTA Chairman Pat Foye.

“These two days of bargaining have actually set us back,” union president Tony Utano said. “Foye presented us with a new set of demands today that are substantially worse than the insulting package he threw across the table three months ago. Foye not only appears unwilling to negotiate in good faith, he is intentionally spoiling for a confrontation.”

No new talks are scheduled.

The main issues are wages, pension and health benefits, but it all comes amid rising tensions at the MTA and accusations of widespread overtime abuse.

On October 30, members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 rallied outside MTA headquarters, from bus drivers and subway operators to station cleaners and track inspectors. All of them, working without a contract for nearly six months.

MTA officials claimed they have been bargaining in good faith. But unionized workers from the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North are also working without contracts.

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