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Saturday, June 22, 2024

New York Indefinitely Suspends Congestion Pricing Plan


New York City congestion pricing plan, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) (pictured right) has directed the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to shelve the initiative indefinitely.

In the works for years, the plan would have helped deliver more revenue for the already-cash-strapped MTA. The plan was set to take effect later this month, but the MTA has suspended the rollout of the plan under the direction of Governor Hochul.

The MTA Board overwhelmingly approved the plan in December. Starting June 30, cars would have been charged an extra $15 to enter Manhattan at 61st Street and south, while trucks would have seen fares ranging from $24 to $36, depending on
their size.

Hochul said in a statement that her decision to call for the suspension of the plan runs in tandem with post-pandemic recovery of New York City and State, as well as the toll on regular commuters.

“A $15 charge might not seem like a lot to someone who has the means but it can break the budget of a hardworking or middle class household,” said Hochul. “It puts the squeeze on the very people who make this city go.”

The eleventh-hour move has sent shockwaves throughout New York City politics and government, with many decrying the move as a sacrifice of millions in revenue that would have gone to mass transit infrastructure improvements.

“The public should be questioning why we spent hundreds of millions of dollars on equipment that’s just going to sit there and what that tells us about the governor’s priorities,” said Rachael Fauss, a policy adviser with Reinvent Albany. Fauss said the governor is “capitulating to fear” ahead of the November’s elections, polling for which indicates a tighter-than-expected presidential race in New York, which is likely to have serious down ballot effects on Democrats’ electoral success in statewide U.S. House races and state legislative races.

Transportation Alternatives, a transit-advocacy group, lays blame on Governor Hochul for infrastructure failures in light of the decision.

“The next time your train is late, your bus is trapped in traffic, your subway station is still missing an elevator, you know who to blame: Governor Kathy Hochul,” read their statement. “Transit riders are the majority of New Yorkers – and certainly the majority of New Yorkers of color, low-income New Yorkers, disabled New Yorkers, New Yorkers with children – and today Kathy Hochul sided with powerful special interests instead – just days before this program was slated to go into effect.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) praised Hochul for suspending the plan. He said that New Jersey “fully embraces the notion that success of Manhattan is inextricably linked to the prosperity of the entire tri-state area.”

New York Mayor Eric Adams (D) said that he is “all for” exploring other alternatives to the plan.

“We have to get it right. We have to make sure it’s not an undue burden on everyday New Yorkers and we have to make sure it’s not going to impact our recovery,” said Adams. “If she’s looking at analyzing other ways we can do it, I’m all for it.”

Antonio Reynoso, Brooklyn Borough President, said that Democrats have a “lack of conviction,” while Republicans “clearly know who they are and what they want.” Reynoso likens the last-minute change as political damage control ahead of a possibly-difficult year for New York Democrats.

Suffolk elected officials weighed in on the decision.

“The decision to stall New York State’s congestion pricing plan is great news for hard-working Suffolk County families who must travel to Manhattan to make a living,” said Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) in a statement. “With inflation making it harder every day for families to make ends meet, levying yet another tax on the backs of the working class is not the answer.”

“I applaud the decision by Governor Hochul to hit the brakes by indefinitely placing a pause on the implementation of congestion pricing and the toll it would have on our Long Island residents,” said Senator Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) (pictured above) in a statement. “Though I recognize and support the need to reduce emissions for the health of our region, this goal must not be achieved by driving residents, businesses, and workers out of the city. I hope this pause will allow time to switch gears toward a more workable solution for Manhattan’s traffic woes.”

“I have repeatedly said that congestion pricing is bad for New Yorkers and supported efforts opposing this harmful policy,” said Congressman Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) in a statement. “This delay is just an election year political stunt. Governor Hochul needs to repeal congestion pricing once and for all.”

The plan has been shelved with no new date of effect set.

Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger Papers since August 2023. He is the author of the America the Beautiful, Civics 101, and This Week Today columns. Matt graduated from St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, in 2022, with a degree in Human Resources and worked for his family's IT business for three years. He's also a musician and composer with his sights set on the film industry. Matt has traveled all around the U.S. and enjoys cooking, photography, and a good cup of coffee.