As the battle over congestion pricing builds toward hearings in the State Assembly at the end of this week, the MTA — a state agency not always on the same page as City Hall — is starting to look like a Bloomberg ally. At a hobnobbers' breakfast this morning, MTA chief Elliott Sander offered his warmest words yet for what he adroitly renamed "value pricing." Staring at potential operating deficits of more than $1 billion annually by 2010, Sander acknowledged the plan's alluring promise of revenue and predicted that his agency could "align demand with supply" to accommodate riders who ditch their cars.
If Sander's behind it, that means his boss, Eliot Spitzer, is, too. But when hearings begin Friday in Manhattan, you can expect reluctant state lawmakers to claim that the city government isn't unified on the plan. "The mayor's people are saying do it now, trust me, but they've admitted to me privately that it won't necessarily reduce congestion," city councilmember David Weprin, who represents a transit-impoverished swath of Queens, told us this morning. "For them it's a revenue source. Well, you've got a $6 billion surplus, so do the public-transit improvements." —Alec Appelbaum
CORRECTION, June 5: This item original said the Assembly hearings will be held in Albany. In fact, they'll be held in Manhattan.