'Marketplace' Report: Mass-Transit Funding The federal government is granting $354 million in funding to New York City to bolster a traffic-reduction plan. Bloomberg wants to charge drivers who enter and leave Manhattan during rush hour. In order for the funds to come through, the plan must be implemented by March of next year.
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'Marketplace' Report: Mass-Transit Funding

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'Marketplace' Report: Mass-Transit Funding

'Marketplace' Report: Mass-Transit Funding

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on a mission to reduce traffic congestion. He wants to charge drivers who enter Manhattan during rush hour. Today he got some help from the federal government.

MARKETPLACE'S Bob Moon has been following today's announcement, and he joins us now. Bob, what is the federal government doing for Bloomberg's plan?

BOB MOON: Well, this is a proposal that Mayor Bloomberg made earlier this year. It's drawn intense opposition from politicians who represent the four boroughs of New York outside of Manhattan and in the suburbs beyond the city. They see it as a tax on middle class commuters who live outside Manhattan.

But today's decision by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to offer the city $354 million in pilot funding, well, it certainly gives the mayor some powerful leverage now in trying to convince his own city council and state lawmakers to implement the plan.

This is contingent on the state legislature putting the plan into effect by March of next year. It was just a month ago the state legislature ended up creating a commission to study the plan and the mayor fired back in frustration then.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (New York City): And I just for the life for me don't understand how anybody is going to look the parents in the eye and say, oh, don't worry about it, we'll get to this some other time. We're going to do another study. Just have your kids breathe - don't breathe deeply.

MOON: New Yorkers do have other reasons to be frustrated about the growing congestion in their city. Vehicles cause almost a fifth of New York City's carbon dioxide emissions. And there's a study that shows the average commuter there wastes almost 49 hours stuck in traffic every year. That compares to just 18 hours at the beginning of the 1980s.

BRAND: And this will be the first program of its kind in this country, right?

MOON: That's right. The question is, will it be a pilot program for the rest of the country? That remains to be seen. But there are similar toll programs in London and in Singapore. Transportation Secretary Peters did note today this would be the first ever for this country, unlike anything we have ever tried before, as she put it. And that seems to be why the administration wants to get behind this plan. Peters says Mayor Bloomberg has put the emphasis on results, and she did praise him for being willing to take on a taboo idea.

BRAND: All right. We mentioned there's all kinds of opposition from lawmakers who represent the drivers, presumably, who'll be coming into Manhattan every day. How much would they pay under this plan?

MOON: Yeah. Drivers who enter or leave Manhattan below 86th Street would have to pay $8 a day. Trucks would pay $21 a day, and that would be on weekdays. For those driving within the congestion zone - that is, coming in from the outside area - the fee would be $4 a day and $5.50 for trucks.

BRAND: And where would the money go?

MOON: Yeah, the point here is it doesn't just reduce traffic. This would generate annual revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And that would fund large-scale transportation programs designed to further alleviate traffic.

BRAND: Well, thank you, Bob. That's Bob Moon of public radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE, produced by American Public Media.

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