Public weighs in on NYC's congestion pricing plan at 1st public hearing

Nearly 400 people signed up to speak, and 81 actually got a chance to do so.

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Friday, August 26, 2022
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Derick Waller reports nearly 400 people signed up to speak, and 81 actually got a chance to do so.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The MTA is giving New Yorkers a chance to weigh in on its controversial congestion pricing plan.

The agency held the first of six virtual public hearings Thursday night, and while nearly 400 people signed up to speak, 81 actually got a chance to do so.

The agency's plan calls for tolling drivers between $9 and $23 a day to drive south of 60th Street.

During off-peak hours, the toll would be between $7 and $17. Overnight, the rate would drop to between $5 and $12.

It is part of a plan to raise a billion dollars for subway and bus improvements while also limited congestion in the heart of Manhattan.

Thursday night's virtual public hearing was jammed with drivers and others, most of whom blasted the idea and demanded discounts and exemptions.

The hearing started at 5 p.m. and stretched nearly seven hours, finally wrapping up at 11:40 p.m.

Here's a sample of what MTA officials heard:

"It's going to be the death of lower Manhattan, and all the businesses are going to move out anyway," said NYC resident Suzette. "If you guys are gonna tell me I need to pay $23 to take my car out every day, it's outrageous."

"We do not have adequate mass transit service and yet we're expected to pay for your bloated and out of control agency," said Assemblyman Mike Lawler from the 97th Assembly District.

"I think that this plan will be able to save lives by decreasing the levels of traffic violence currently in our streets, streets that are belong to the public and belong to all of us," said Felipe Castillo.

"We're trying to get more people to come back to our city, and I think this is going to have a detrimental impact on that," said NY Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis.

"Congestion pricing is set to be a win-win-win for the city economy, transit system, traffic reduction efforts and overall safety," said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.

Taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers are begging Gov. Kathy Hochul for some relief, worried they will be run out of business if the plan goes into effect.

Motorists on FDR Drive and the West Side Highway would be exempt.

The question remains: who else would get an exemption?

The MTA's plan is based on London's congestion pricing model. All residents in that city's congestion zone can get a 90% discount on the toll.

As of now, there is no such exemption in New York City's plan.

All of this comes as the MTA struggles to bring back riders after the pandemic.

About 40% of people who took the subway before COVID hit have not returned.

REMAINING PUBLIC HEARINGS

Here is a list of the MTA's remaining congestion pricing hearings. All will be held online, accessible via the project's website.

--Saturday, Aug. 27, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

--Sunday, Aug. 28, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

--Monday, Aug. 29, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

--Tuesday, Aug. 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

--Wednesday, Aug. 31, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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