Closing system

A lifeline or a “cash grab”? Speakers speak on MTA congestion pricing

The first public hearing on the MTA’s congestion pricing plan, an effort to ease congestion on Manhattan’s gridlocked streets and boost revenue by charging up to $34.50 in daily tolls, drew speakers endorsing the plan like a lifeline and others dismissing it as “cash” draining the wallet. to input.”

Thursday’s virtual hearing began at 5 p.m. and was the first of six over the next week on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s central business district toll plan, all broadcast on the MTA’s website. It drew 391 registered speakers and was scheduled to continue past midnight.

The hearings seek comments on the recently released environmental assessment for the pricing plan, which, if approved by federal regulators, could come into effect by the end of 2023. Under the proposal, motorists would be charged new tolls for driving inside Manhattan’s “Central Business District”. which is below 60th Street.

Although the amount of tolls has not been determined, project officials said drivers using E-ZPass could pay as little as $5 to drive through the toll zone at night and up to $9 for drive between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. pm On the high end, E-ZPass tolls could reach $12 at night and $23 during peak hours, according to the report.

For non-E-ZPass customers, tolls could reach $34.50 during peak hours, according to the EA.

Speaker after speaker, they took to the virtual podium on Thursday evening. Some, like Bob Friedrich, who lives in Glen Oaks, said many seniors in his eastern Queens community depend on vehicles to get to medical appointments in Manhattan. He said the proposals would bring them a “financial crush”.

“Have you lost sight of the fact that we are going through very difficult economic times and are just coming out of a pandemic?” Friedrich asked the panel from MTA and other transportation officials who presided over the hearing. “Our elderly could be your grandparents, and we shouldn’t punish them or make their visits to the doctor any harder than they already are.”

MTA officials are counting on the new tolls to generate $1 billion in annual revenue that would be used to fund infrastructure improvements throughout the transit system, including on the LIRR.

Although there were few representatives from Long Island at Thursday’s hearing, the first speaker, State Senator Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills) offered her conditional support for the congestion pricing plan, which, she noted, would commit under the law 10% of the toll revenue to the Long Island Rail Road.
Kaplan said the funds “will enable transformative investments to take place for our local infrastructure, such as buying desperately needed new train cars.”

Many New Yorkers opposed the proposal, including some who live inside the Manhattan toll zone.

“For you guys to tell me there’s going to be $23 every day I need to get my car out of my driveway is outrageous,” said Colette Vogel, who lives in Midtown and relies on her car to bring their children. after school activities.

But other New Yorkers supported the plan, including Pedro Rodriguez, a Forest Hills resident, who said the new tolls are needed “now more than ever”, not least to reduce traffic accidents.

“Reducing the number of cars on our streets will not only save countless lives, but it will also help fund our city’s lifeline, which is the MTA and our public transit system,” Rodriguez said. “Without this, workers will not be able to go to work. The children will not be able to go to school. Elderly New Yorkers will not be able to attend their doctor’s appointments.

Manhattan resident Evan Ferrer also said he had “lost friends to road rage” and was “desperate” in support of congestion pricing.

“Let me tell you plain and clear. There are too many cars on the streets of New York,” Ferrer said. “Congestion pricing is not just another toll, and certainly not a tax on the poor. It is a means by which we will finance the future of our infrastructure.

The amount that motorists will pay will depend on the number of people who will have to pay. Various exemptions are being considered, including for buses, taxi drivers and other rental vehicles.

MTA President Janno Lieber, in a Sunday interview with WABC-TV/7, said the plan would also bring several other benefits by discouraging driving in Manhattan.

“Congestion is bad for New York and New Yorkers. It’s also bad for the region because the central business district has to work to help stimulate the economy. We have to fix it. It’s a way to start doing that,” Lieber said.