Hidden costs to the congestion charge?

NY1: “MTA Finds Hidden Costs In Mayor’s Congestion Pricing Plan” (October 8)

MTA officials say Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan project would wind up costing hundreds of millions of dollars more than originally thought in transit service upgrades.

A commission created to evaluate the plan estimates the agency would need to spend more then three quarters of a billion dollars over the next five years. That money would go toward new buses, subways, and station renovations to accommodate the thousands of commuters, who are expected to take public transportation to avoid paying $8 to enter portions of Manhattan.

The MTA’s concerns come as the agency is trying to raise support for a fare hike on trains, buses and subways.

The commission’s recommendation on congestion pricing is due in January. The measure requires support from City Hall and Albany.

NY Times: “M.T.A. Says Mayor’s Plan to Ease Traffic Will Cost $767 Million to Accomplish” (Robert D. McFadden, October 8)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in a report to a commission created to evaluate the mayor’s plan, estimated that expanded transit service and capital improvements for city and suburban riders who would give up their cars to get into Manhattan over the next five years would cost $767 million.

The total, the authority said, comprised $284 million in 2008 and 2009 for 367 new city and suburban buses, 46 new subway cars and many station renovations and service enhancements; $163 million for other subway and bus improvements from 2010 to 2012, and $320 million for two new bus terminals in Queens and Staten Island.

Citing congestion pricing projections provided by the city, the authority said 78,000 motorists in the city would shift to mass transit, while only 2,500 from the Mid-Hudson region served by Metro-North and 3,500 served by the Long Island Rail Road would take trains. It said it was premature to estimate how many of the 170,000 commuters who crossed bridges and tunnels each day would give up their cars.

I wonder why this comes as a surprise actually. We knew we’d have to upgrade service sooner or later. It just now happens to be sooner.

This puts NYC in an interesting dilemma though. Much of our rail transit actually runs at capacity, at least according to current guidelines, which means that adding more people to the services means overloading the system.

There is, however, the obvious fact that this “unfunded” spending will at least be made back. It’s times like these when it’s responsible for the City or State to take out debt.

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