New York lawmakers call for more free buses before rolling out congestion pricing

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, February 9, 2024
NY lawmakers call for more free buses before rolling out congestion pricing
N.J. Burkett has more on the debate over congestion pricing.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Lawmakers are rallying in favor of New York City's congestion pricing plan Thursday, but they are also calling on Albany for greater investment for buses before rolling out the program.

Sen. Mike Gianaris and Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani helped push through the funding of five free bus lines -- one in each borough -- as part of a pilot program.

They now want that program to expand to 15 free bus lines before congestion pricing goes into effect later this year.

The two lawmakers believe congestion pricing will increase bus ridership, and the state can get ahead of that by creating cheaper alternatives for commuters south of 60th Street.

"We're just a matter of months now from this going into effect," Gianaris said. "Now, what we need to do is make sure that everything surrounding this concept is done right."

The expansion in buses would cost $45 million. The lawmakers also looking for an additional $45 million to strengthening existing bus service and reliability.

They said they came to the conclusion after studying cities that have put congestion pricing tolls in place, including London and Stockholm.

Some roadblocks could slow down the MTA's initial congestion pricing plan. The agency previously said it could start this spring, as soon as mid-April or as late as early June.

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber insists that the first tolls will be collected in June.

"We're going to be ready to go, obviously, when those lawsuits are resolved, I believe, before the end of May," Lieber said. "And we'll be able to start and see the benefits of congestion pricing hopefully this summer."

The license plate readers and EZ-Pass sensors are already going up, despite the fact that the plan is the subject of half a dozen lawsuits over things like equity and air quality.

A lawsuit sitting in New Jersey courts against congestion pricing is expected to get underway on April 3. The state is suing over environmental and economic impacts.

A federal judge in Newark still has to rule on whether it gets a green light by June.

Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, has also filed suit, claiming teachers and students outside of Manhattan will suffer from worsening air quality, as traffic is shifted elsewhere.

"What are we going to do when there's more congestion outside of the zone and all of the areas are going to be affected," he said. "What's the plan for that?"

New York City Mayor Eric Adams also weighed in on the conversation, saying the city should have a greater voice in the congestion pricing roll out.

"So, what I argue is that the state should have given the authorization to the city. These are our streets. We should have had the right to move forward in the city to implement this," Adams said. "And I think we would have had a different version. We'd have taken so much more into account. But I don't, I do not have a say so in this. This is not, although it's our street, it is being controlled by the MTA and their determination."

It appears the lawsuits against congestion pricing will set the timetable for when drivers will be charged.

There will also be four public hearings. They will be accessible online at these dates and times:

  • Thursday, Feb. 29, at 6 p.m.
  • Friday, March 1, at 10 a.m.
  • Monday, March 4, at 10 a.m.
  • Monday, March 4, at 6 p.m.
  • ALSO READ | Newark holds first lottery to pick residents who can buy houses for $1

    Toni Yates has the story.


    * Get Eyewitness News Delivered

    * More New York City news

    * Send us a news tip

    * Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

    * Follow us on YouTube

    Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

    Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.