With Mayor Bloomberg on the hunt for congestion pricing votes, City Council members are holding out for specific mass transit improvements they can take back to their districts before signing on to the mayor's plan.
"I know what my issues are — northern Manhattan," Council Member Robert Jackson of Harlem, who said he is undecided about the mayor's plan, said yesterday. Mr. Jackson said his wish list includes more express bus routes and support for building a cross-harbor rail tunnel that would reduce truck traffic in the neighborhood.
"They want me to vote yes, but I want some assurances for the people I represent," Mr. Jackson said. He added that he is in talks with the mayor's office on local concerns and is leaning toward voting in favor of congestion pricing.
Council Member James Vacca of the Bronx, who attended a press conference with Mr. Bloomberg yesterday to announce new express bus service in his district that is contingent on the passage of congestion pricing, said local level negotiations are a strong factor in lawmakers' decision to support the bill.
"I think a lot of people at a city and state level are asking about their communities and I think they have every right," Mr. Vacca said. "I'm a district councilman and a city councilman and definitely both are important to me."
Council members say the mayor has made progress in winning over undecided lawmakers by including a residential parking program and a fund dedicated to transportation improvements in a proposed draft of his bill, addressing two frequently voiced concerns.
One unresolved issue that could sway votes involves New Jersey commuters, who would not pay any more than they already do in bridge and tunnel tolls if congestion pricing is approved, a feature some lawmakers say is unfair. Bridge and tunnel tolls would be deducted from congestion pricing fees drivers would be charged when entering parts of Manhattan. Mr. Bloomberg said it would be unconstitutional to charge New Jersey drivers more to enter the city than residents of other states, but those raising concerns about it say they want the subject addressed.
"The New Jersey issue is a significant one," Council Member David Yassky said.
Mr. Yassky wrote a letter last month that was signed by 19 council members asking Mr. Bloomberg to make sure New Jersey commuters pay in some way for city transportation improvements.
Mr. Bloomberg has said he will address the issue and is expected to propose a possible fix soon.