MTA holds final public hearings on congestion pricing before plan goes into effect

ByPhil Taitt, Eyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
MTA holding final public hearings before congestion pricing begins
Sonia Rincon has the latest.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Monday was the last day for New Yorkers' voices to be heard, with two public hearings on congestion pricing.

The first hearing Thursday seemed to have a slight majority of speakers supporting the $15 toll below 60th Street because of all the improvements it promises to pay for. Friday seemed to be about evenly split.

The final two hearings were held on Monday, one at 10 a.m., and the other at 6 p.m.

Congestion pricing is set to become a reality for drivers across the city in just months. The public hearings were not likely to change the structure of tolling, which is set to get underway in mid-June

Right now, the MTA is working to button up any loose ends, with some proposed exemptions already in the works for emergency vehicles, specialized government vehicles, and disabled passengers.

"The MTA has no idea what the unintended consequences will be," said Manhattan's Alida Camp.

Qualifying low-income drivers would get discounts and tax credits.

"They give a 90% discount to all residents in that area," added Manhattan's Nancy Marta. "Why can't we do the same?"

Yellow Taxi drivers say they've already been paying two congestion pricing surcharges amounting to $3 a trip for the MTA.

"And if there's a third tax that's added to these fares and there is a loss of trips which is predicted to be at least 6%," said NY Taxi Workers Alliance's Bhairavi Desai. Drivers are not going to be able to survive."

There have been further calls for exemptions including firefighters who are asking officials to think twice before imposing tolls.

The fire union president says firefighters aren't stationary in a day's shift and this could impact their pockets.

"NYC firefighters on a regular basis will start out at one firehouse for the day and be told to go to another firehouse. They've got to pack up their gear bag and go from inside the zone, out of the zone or back and forth," a union official said. "I'm very sympathetic to their view that when they're called upon to turn their personal vehicle into a city vehicle for transportation and gear, that that ought to be thought through."

New Jersey leaders including Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco and Gov. Phil Murphy also spoke out in opposition to congestion pricing.

""They're trying to fix this on the backs of the people in New Jersey. And especially in Bergen County and I'm not going to allow that to happen," said Tedesco.

"You'll have people toll shopping and it will be not just a financial disaster for our commuters, it an environmental disaster," Murphy acknowledged.

But the MTA is defending its environmental impact studies, according to MTA Construction and Development president Jamie Torres-Springer.

"We're confident about the process that we followed and that we will be successful in the litigation that we're seeing," he said. "So the only real result of the litigation is going to be to delay critical improvements, to improve the system."

Those interested in attending can do so either in person or watch via livestream.

There is also an option to submit written comments until March 11.

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