Commissioners warm to plan that moves congestion border south

By Alec Appelbaum | January 10, 2008 06:08PM

A state commission studying the city’s congestion-pricing plan inched today toward moving Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed congestion zone from 86th Street south to 60th Street.

At a wonky but sometimes contentious meeting this afternoon, the commission reviewed five plans and hinted at interest in one that adds a charge on taxis and moves south the zone that would charge drivers $8.

The 17 commissioners, who will make a final recommendation on the congestion pricing plan to the State Legislature on Jan. 31, have tried to remain above the political fray during their four months of work. But they might have exposed themselves to more political theater by announcing six extra public hearings during the week of Jan. 21, in the four outer boroughs and Nassau and Westchester counties. (A meeting on Jan. 16 has already been announced at Hunter College.)

“And at the end of the month,” said chairman Marc Shaw as the meeting adjourned, “we’ll figure out what we’re doing.”

Advisors with knowledge of the mayor’s strategy told The Real Deal that he will embrace any plan which meets requirements for the federal grant he sought last spring. Those terms require a plan to reduce daily central vehicle miles by at least 6.3 percent, the target in Bloomberg’s initial scheme, and to use driver tolls or fees to fund mass transit. What’s been called the “alternative congestion pricing” plan, which charges drivers only when they enter a zone rather than when they enter and exit, could meet those goals while remaining politically palatable.
In October, The Real Deal reported that most commercial and residential real estate brokers, public policy experts, transportation advocates and business industry representatives said they expected any reduction in car traffic to benefit the real estate industry, not harm it.

Experts noted that Manhattan apartments on busy avenues could benefit from reduced gridlock, and neighborhoods in the outer boroughs that are considered “choke” points for traffic coming into Manhattan could also see improvements in property values.