Christine Quinn won’t touch congestion pricing (anymore)

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The front-runner to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg in City Hall next year said today that she doesn't see much of a future for one of his signature, failed initiatives: congestion pricing.

"I don't anticipate congestion pricing coming back around," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told an audience at New York Law School today, when asked about its near-term future. "It didn't do well and I don't expect that proposal to come back around in that way."

Quinn once supported it vigorously.

"I stand here today strongly in support of congestion pricing," said Quinn in 2007. "It is a tough choice and it is a bold idea."

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The Bloomberg proposal that Quinn supported, but that the mayor failed to get through Albany, would have charged drivers to enter Manhattan's central business district, in part by levying tolls on East River bridges, and would have used the ensuing revenue to prop up the M.T.A.

The M.T.A.'s finances were fragile then and remain so now.

But the politics, from Quinn's standpoint, have changed irrevocably.

Quinn will need outer-borough support for her mayoral bid, and during the mayor's push for congestion pricing, outer-borough support for the measure was relatively hard to come by.

None of the other major contenders for mayor have come out in support of congestion pricing either, not even Joe Lhota, who used to run the M.T.A.

Following her talk this morning, my colleague Azi Paybarah asked Quinn if she would like to see congestion pricing return.

"I think that is just not going to happen," she said.

UPDATE: At the 44-minute mark in this clip, you can see Quinn's exchange at New York Law School this morning with audience member, Roger Herz, about congestion pricing.

Herz, a supporter of congestion pricing, makes it clear he considers Quinn an ally, and the state legislature as the obstacle to be overcome.

"I want to thank you for your earlier and strong support" for the proposal, Herz said, before noting that state legislators decided not to even vote on the matter.

Herz's question was rather open-ended: "How do you project the next couple of years on that subject?"

For the record, Azi's question wasn't. He asked Quinn whether she wanted to revive congestion pricing, and she gave her answer, and then he followed up to make it clear he was asking whether she supported the policy, not whether she thought it could become law. She repeated her answer.

UPDATE: Through a spokesperson, Quinn emailed the following statement to Capital: "I supported congestion pricing. I support congestion pricing. I do not see it coming back in Albany but my support for congestion pricing has not changed.”