Did LaHood just extend a hint to NYC?

US Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently
spoke about Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing initiative, which would have charged drivers a fee for coming into parts of Manhattan. The city was slated to receive about $350 million in federal transportation funds to implement the plan, but it was stalled by State Assembly Democrats in Albany. LaHood said the money is still there if lawmakers change their minds. “The money that was going to be provided for that particular project is still at the Department of Transportation,” said LaHood. “If New York got its act together around that kind of opportunity, I think we would look at it.”
This $350M made-on-TV offer was oddly squeezed in after a more current story about airport congestion. Somebody in Manhattan, please start making some serious noise here!

We all know that congestion pricing is not dead in NYC, and we also know that the way it was proposed a couple of years ago was a pretty brutal approach that in some key ways mimicked the London system – a flat-rate cordon that is expensive, inflexible and while effective at first has over six years lost almost all of it absolute benefits. To be cautious, the assumption is that if it had never been installed, London would be even worse-off (relatively and absolutely), but the point is that a blunt, fixed-rate cordon is a brain-dead approach, that I would not even wish on Tehran or Pyongyang.

There is another message, here, that LaHood is giving us. The money that was ear marked for NYC two years back was forfeited after the State legislature voted against it by simply not voting at all (talk about cowardice!). But now LaHood says: “The money … is still at the Department...” Well, not exactly just sitting there in a shoe box waiting for NYC. What is happening, is that LaHood needs to find someone bold enough to start taking the advice of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Finance Commission, and start charging mileage-based fees. Mayor Bloomberg is just the man.

So what NYC needs to do is to think about a proper mileage-based scheme, instead of gantry-madness. One that can eventually manage congestion in all five boroughs, with lower rates outside Manhattan. One that would even allow Manhattan to sell gas without a gas-tax to participants in a proper ‘pay-for-use’ system.

There really is a way to abandon the gas-tax. And that technology is ready. And now even the courage that is needed is less than ever…

~~~added next day ~~~
Here is more reaction. First from Streetsblog...and secondly from Streetsblog. Huh, only Streetsblog? is anyone else awake? Oh, here is secondavenuesagas.

Considering the non-response in the press, maybe we are stimulated-out with respect to large sums of money. Or is $350M now just chump change that folks like LaHood just keeps in a wad in his drawer? Alternatively, maybe New Yorkers are so defeated by Albany that LaHood couldn't get a rise out of them. One activist sent me a comment: "
Honestly, I don't think ANYONE in NYC is going to seriously advocate for congestion pricing until something major changes in Albany."

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