With more than $350 million in federal funding on the line, Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan drew criticism from two of its biggest detractors yesterday at the first meeting of the committee that must approve the plan.
The mayor's plan to charge cars $8 and trucks $21 to enter Manhattan south of 86th Street during peak hours already has the support of Governor Spitzer, and it needs the approval of the state Legislature to be considered for federal funding.
The 17-member traffic congestion mitigation committee, which will meet several times, is required to vote by majority on the implementation plan by January 31, 2008. The mayor, the governor, and the speaker of the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver, each appointed members to the committee. Mr. Silver has said he is undecided about the plan.
At the meeting yesterday, held at Baruch College, Assemblyman Herman Farrell, a Democrat of Harlem and an appointee of Mr. Silver, said the ultimate goal of the traffic plan is unclear. "Are they trying to decrease the amount of cars coming in or increase the amount of money we're getting?" he asked.
The director of the Bloomberg administration's Long-Term Planning and Sustainability Office, Rohit Aggarwala, presented details of the mayor's plan, focusing on the projected impact on gridlock in the central business district. Mr. Aggarwala said the average speeds in the area are often between six and 10 miles an hour. After discussing the projected air quality and revenue benefits, he said London's congestion pricing scheme has worked well. Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat of Westchester and another appointee of Mr. Silver, said later that the London example proved to be successful only after an additional fare hike was implemented, and he said the planned $8 charge could lead to greater hikes.
The Bloomberg administration predicts that congestion pricing would raise an estimated $390 million a year, which would be invested in public transit improvements. Mr. Brodsky yesterday expressed concerns about how exactly the money would be appropriated.
Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, another committee member, said her district, which includes Long Island City, could become a "parking lot" because of drivers avoiding the fees.
Mr. Aggarwala said such a situation could be avoided by introducing more muni-meters and residential parking permits.