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NYC congestion pricing backers rally ahead of first MTA hearing

by Staff

Big Apple congestion pricing supporters rallied for the MTA to follow through on its plan to charge drivers $15 to enter some of Manhattan’s busiest streets ahead of a highly anticipated hearing on the contentious tolling program Thursday evening.

A few dozen demonstrators chanted “Better transit is our goal” outside MTA headquarters, as one backer told opponents the plan is “not the end of the world” and NYC Transit President Richard Davey also made his case for the plan.

“If you like accessible stations, if you like reliable signal systems like we have on the 7 and the L (lines), then you have to like congestion pricing because the dollars we’re going to raise will be directly invested in public transit for the five-and-a-half million New Yorkers who use public transit,” Davey told The Post.

MTA chairman and CEO Janno Lieber arriving at the first public hearing for the congestion pricing plan on Feb. 29, 2024. James Keivom
A woman who was struck by a vehicle speaking during the public hearing on Thursday. James Keivom

“I might be the most unabashed supporter of congestion pricing in the city because I run the transit system and we need to invest in it.” 

Other New Yorkers who back the plan also made their voices heard during the pre-hearing rally.

“How often do you drive into the congestion zone? A lot of people are catastrophizing the congestion pricing. They think they’re going to go broke over this,” said Park Slope resident Michael Ring, who argued most people won’t face a heavy burden from the extra toll.

“But with this money, the subway system will run better, less people will have crime, and the people who have to drive will have less congestion,” said Ring, a former car owner. “I just want to urge all my fellow New Yorkers to do some math and see how much this would really cost you. It’s not the end of the world.”

Queens resident Samuel Santella, 30, said he was the “kind of person that elected officials and policymakers are fighting for when they oppose congestion pricing.”

A member of the community arguing against congestion pricing while holding a sign. James Keivom
The opponent of the toll was later escorted out by security. James Keivom

“I don’t drive and I don’t take Ubers. It is so stressful just to be able to access those things today,” he said, adding, “I value my mental health too much to stress out over driving and parking.”

“And I want to be a good steward of the Earth given the climate change crisis and the traffic violence crisis,” Santella continued.

The first of four hearings held in Lower Manhattan Thursday night comes as the transit agency has faced an avalanche of legal challenges since it rolled out the plan to charge drivers a fee to get into midtown Manhattan.

A map of the MTA’s planned congestion pricing for Manhattan.

It also comes after an MTA conductor was slashed in the neck in an unprovoked Brooklyn subway attack earlier in the day that led to hours-long delays on two major lines Thursday morning.

Transit officials and supporters of the plan insist the extra toll would encourage some commuters to take the train into the Big Apple while raising an additional $1 billion each year in new funds for the MTA.

The financial windfall is expected to go toward various improvements on trains and buses, including a Second Avenue Subway Extension, new computerized signals and station upgrades.

But opponents argue congestion pricing is just a cash grab that will squeeze working-class New Yorkers further and could divert traffic and pollution to outer boroughs.

Motorists traveling south of 60th Street will be hit with a toll, with truck drivers facing higher costs to get into Manhattan’s central business district.  

The once-a-day $15 fee for passenger car drivers would be in effect on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. with peak hour set between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends. Outside of rush hour hours, the toll would be $3.75.

Lieber and other MTA officials listening to community members. James Keivom
A woman offering her opinion during the MTA’s hearing. James Keivom
A man speaking during the congestion pricing hearing. James Keivom

While drivers on the FDR Drive, the West Side Highway and the Battery Park underpass are exempt from the tolling program, they will be charged if they exit onto a street in the congestion zone.  

There is no official start date, but an MTA lawyer hinted the rollout could start as soon as mid-June.

After Thursday night’s public comment session, another hearing will be held Friday morning with the final two forums scheduled for Monday morning and then again on Monday night.

The public can also send in written comments to the MTA sounding off on the plan through March 11. 

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