MTA says congestion pricing lawsuits could delay rollout of new open subway trains

Thursday, February 1, 2024
Gov. Hochul launches new subway train amid congestion pricing battle
Kemberly Richardson has more on the new subway train and local reaction.

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan -- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul launched the first open gangway train into service on Thursday morning amid the ongoing battle over congestion pricing.

Though the new additions are considered the trains of the future, they are one of the many innovations that are being threatened by lawsuits opposing congestion pricing.

The new R211T trains have an accordion connection between cars, much like MTA buses, that are designed to speed up boarding and reduce the amount of time that trains sit in stations.

Riders can move seamlessly between the cars on the C line as the two new trains will run between Washington Heights and East New York.

Hochul's inaugural ride marked the first time an open gangway train has operated in the modern history of subways in the United States.

"This will be the first time ever these cars have been deployed in North America, now if you travel across the pond, you go to Europe, you go to London, you're going to see this experience, but we've never done this before in North America," Hochul said.

But the money needed to pay for the new trains and other MTA improvements is in jeopardy. That's because the funding for the trains and to improve signals on the A line that runs through Rockaway and Brownsville would come from congestion pricing, officials say.

"We want to make sure we can properly fund our five-year capital plan and that hinges on the continuation of the plan to go forward with congestion pricing without further delays," Hochul said.

MTA CEO and Chair Janno Lieber says New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and other officials have filed what he called frivolous lawsuits that could derail the new trains and other projects.

"If it gets held up by litigation, that'll be unfortunate because people who ride the A train deserve a train that's as fast and reliable, as frequent as the L train. We cannot put in new signals, a $2 billion project, because we don't have the certainty about when congestion pricing will allow us to collect that additional revenue," Lieber said.

New Jersey Transit is also in need of funding and has proposed a 15% fare hike.

"In New Jersey, they're focused on drivers, but they haven't solved the fiscal crisis and the only solution so far is to hit the riders for 15 percent more fares without dealing with the whole scale of a 25 percent budget crisis," Lieber said. "Phil Murphy is not on the ballot in Brownsville, he's not on the ballot in Rockaway, he's not on the ballot in Washington Heights, but those people aren't going to get the quality of railroad service, of subway service, that they ought to have because New Jersey doesn't want us to be able to toll our own roads like they toll their own roads."

Public hearings for the congestion pricing plan are expected later in February.

Another new feature on the trains is something many have been pushing for -- security cameras built into the trains.

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