Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed today a ten-point plan to transform the MTA and to fund New York City’s crumbling subway system. Part of their solution: congestion pricing. 

The announcement comes one day after transportation advocates and local elected officials including Brooklyn State Senator Zellnor Myrie rallied at East New York’s Broadway Junction, calling on the governor and the state legislature to pass the surcharge fee for driver and to include it in the 2019 state budget.

“While New York’s public transit system used to be a point of pride, it is now an embarrassment,” said Senator Myrie on Monday. “New Yorkers are forced to deal with constant delays, overcrowding and service interruptions that hit poor and working families the hardest. It’s time to make comprehensive investments in the MTA.”

De Blasio’s and Cuomo’s proposed traffic congestion fee would charge drivers traveling into or within heavily-trafficked zones like Manhattan’s central business district, south of 61st Street.

The revenue from the congestion pricing tolls would be supplemented with a portion from the new NYC internet sales tax, and a percentage of the state’s and city’s cannabis excise tax. The proceeds would then be put toward crucial updates to the city’s subway and bus system, as well as to expand transit availability in the outer boroughs that have limited mass transit options.  

“The proposal we’re announcing today addresses concerns I’ve raised related to a lockbox for transit, fairness to the outer boroughs and accommodating hardships,” said de Blasio. “Among all alternatives, congestion pricing has the greatest prospects for immediate success. In light of this reality, it is my hope that critics of congestion pricing will join me in acknowledging its necessity.”

Advocates that attended Monday’s rally in East New York, organized by the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, stated that generating funding through congestion pricing to fix the subway and bus systems will overwhelmingly benefit low-income communities who mostly depend on public subways and buses. According to data organizers shared, African Americans and Latinos make up 53.3 percent of all transit riders, and New Yorkers who earn $35,000 or less per year depend most on public transit. 

Renae Reynolds, transportation planner for the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, addressing the crowd at Monday’s rally. Photo courtesy NYC-EJA

“As the overwhelming majority of subway and bus riders, NYC’s low-income communities and communities of color would be the primary beneficiaries of a better-funded mass transit system,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “We know that without the passage of congestion pricing the MTA’s budget deficit will continue to grow, and they will continue to ask people who are making the least to pay the most. It’s time to end the cycle of unfair fare hikes by passing congestion pricing and fix our subways and buses now.”

De Blasio and Cuomo have not yet announced how much drivers will have to pay if congestion pricing indeed will be implemented. However, the fees will fluctuate based on the time of day and will be paid electronically, once the electronic infrastructure is in place, Cuomo explained.

The two lawmaker’s plan also proposes that the MTA will undergo an independent audit to determine the agency’s actual assets and liabilities. In an effort to make the MTA more cost-efficient, they propose that the transportation agency will develop a reorganization plan to consolidate its six existing entities — NYCTA, LIRR, Metro-North, MTA Capital Construction, MTA Bus, SI Railway – which currently operate separately.

“Mayor de Blasio and I issued a joint plan today that will bring management reforms to the MTA and congestion pricing to the MTA as an ongoing funding stream,’ said Governor Cuomo. “We have to consolidate the functions at the MTA, bring in a different culture, make the board functional and operational so we know that we’re getting efficiency. But we also need a long-term funding stream that we can rely on, and I believe that’s congestion pricing. The alternative to congestion pricing is really a fare increase.”

To see the complete plan, go here. 

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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