Drive less, but park more

It looks like New York got its federal grant ($354.5 million–oh, if only!), with a few strings. Here’s how the money is supposed to be used:

• $10.4 million to implement congestion pricing
• $213.6 million for bus facilities and other improvements
• $112.7 million to begin Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
• $15.8 million for regional ferry service
• $2 million for research

The funding from the USDOT is conditioned on actions by the New York State Legislature and the New York City Council. Congestion pricing must be approved within 90 days of the opening of the next session of the New York State Legislature, allowing congestion pricing to begin no later than March 31, 2009.

(For details, check out Streetsblog’s full post.)

Unfortunately, not all branches of the federal government are working to get folks out of their cars. From today’s New York Times:

This week, the [U.S. Department of Transportation] announced $848 million in grants to help cities discourage people from driving, in many cases by imposing new tolls or fees.

But at the same time, another arm of the federal government seems to be sending a very different message. Congress provides a tax break to many of those same drivers to help them shoulder the costs of taking their cars to work.

Close to 400,000 commuters nationwide — about half of them in the New York City area — take advantage of a provision in the federal tax code that allows them to use up to $215 a month in pre-tax wages to pay for their parking at work, according to executives at corporate benefits firms that specialize in administering the tax break.

Talk about your mixed messages. I’m still waiting for the tax break for bus chicks.

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