June 08, 2024

CONGESTION PRICING ON HOLD


What was she thinking? 

Just 25 days before implementation, why did NY Governor Kathy Hochul pull the plug on New York City’s congestion pricing scheme in a move one pundit called “the perfect clash of governmental incompetence meets political malpractice”.

Five years in the planning and studied over and over again, congestion pricing would have charged drivers of the 700,000 vehicles that enter Manhattan each day below 60th Street for the privilege:  $15 for a car, $24 - $36 for a truck. In addition to easing gridlock, the plan would also raise $1 billion a year for the cash-strapped MTA to repair and improve mass transit.  That’s a win-win.

Just weeks ago Hochul was in Europe touting congestion pricing as the “better way” to save New York City.  She called her leadership on this issue “being bold” and said sometimes leaders have to make tough decisions and stick with them.

And then she dropped this bombshell without warning… not to members of the MTA Board, other political and business leaders and not to environmentalists.  They are all livid.

IMPACT ON NEW YORKERS

Even before the Hochul surprise, money is so tight at MTA that some capital plans have already been put on hold.  As for the extension of the Second Avenue subway to 125th St?  It is effectively dead.  So too are plans to increase access to the subways for those with disabilities.  And she claims about caring about the poor?

Of those in poverty living in the city’s outer boroughs, only 2% of them drive into Manhattan while 61% use mass transit.  Most of the poor don’t even own cars.

 

IMPACT ON CONNECTICUT COMMUTERS

For Connecticut commuters to NYC, the impact of Gov Hochul’s decision will be minimal.  Planned expenditures on new railcars for Metro-North will be paid for with state (and federal) funds, not money from the MTA. 

But even if congestion pricing had gone into effect, Connecticut commuters wouldn’t really have been impacted.  According to the MTA, 27,000 of our residents take the train to NYC each day.  Only 3100 people drive.  And under congestion pricing, those who, for whatever reason still chose to drive, could do so, probably enjoying less traffic on their journey in return for their “toll”.

Of course, even if you take Metro-North to Grand Central, your journey might then include a subway ride, and that’s where Gov Hochul’s decision will be most felt with more crowding and deteriorating service.

THE BOTTOM LINE

How will Hochul make up the lost revenue that would have come from congestion pricing?  By a new tax on businesses.  How will that improve the city’s business climate let alone repair the environment, the other big promise of congestion pricing?

Worst of all, this decision by New York’s governor will cripple her administration’s credibility and just feed everyone’s cynicism about politicians saying one thing and doing another.  How can she make any deal, make any promise or attempt to govern the Empire State after this flip-flop fiasco?

 

 

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