Governor Halts Manhattan Congestion Pricing


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By Erik Uebelacker, Courthouse News Service

MANHATTAN (CN)—New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that she would be putting an indefinite halt to New York City’s congestion pricing program, which was set to take effect at the end of the month.
The city planned, starting June 30, to charge a $15 toll for passenger cars driving south of 60th Street in Manhattan during peak hours on weekdays. Supporters of the program hoped it would curb pollution and traffic in the city’s densest area, while the money raised would go toward bettering New York City’s public transportation.
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But on Wednesday, Hochul put a stop to it, claiming “circumstances have changed” since the program was set in motion five years ago.
Governor Kathy Hochul“After careful consideration, I’ve come to the difficult decision that implementing the planned congestion pricing system risks too many unintended consequences for New Yorkers at this time,” Hochul said in a video statement released Wednesday. “For that reason, I have directed the MTA to indefinitely pause the program.”
Hochul claimed the decision was an economic one in response to the rising prices of goods and the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit New York City hard four years ago.
“While our recovery has been stronger and swifter than anyone imagined, it is by no means complete and we cannot afford to undercut this momentum,” Hochul said. “And I won’t allow this delicate recovery to be jeopardized.”
Hochul said going forward with the toll could dissuade drivers from visiting Lower Manhattan, hurting businesses in the area. The Democratic governor added that she feared “one more added cost” could make residents “rethink living or working here altogether, hurting our recovery even more.”
“Given these financial pressures, I cannot add another burden to working and middle class New Yorkers or create another obstacle to our continued recovery,” Hochul said.
Hochul claimed that she still supports the goals of the congestion pricing program, such as reducing traffic and pollution, and that she remains committed to investing in the city’s public transit.
The MTA was set to receive $1 billion a year from the congestion pricing programs to help modernize its infrastructure. Without the program, it remains unclear how the agency will make up for the shortfall.
Congestion pricing has been a controversial subject for years, prompting numerous lawsuits. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance praised Hochul’s decision to put it on hold, as did the city's public school teachers' union.
"Governor Hochul heard the concerns of educators and ordinary New Yorkers that this plan for congestion pricing just shifts pollution, congestion, and costs onto already struggling communities,” Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. “As an organization that has gone to court to fight this plan, we applaud the Governor for making the right decision.”
But Hochul is also facing criticism for her decision to put the program on pause, mainly from lawmakers in her own party.
Democratic New York State Representative Jessica González-Rojas called it a mistake to delay the program any longer. United States Representative Jerry Nadler, a Democrat representing New York’s 12th District, said he was disappointed in the governor’s decision.
“We cannot allow a vocal minority of drivers who don’t qualify for exemptions or discounts to dictate our policy decisions,” Nadler said in a statement. “The MTA is the lifeline of the New York City Metropolitan Area, and congestion pricing is the best solution to getting our transit system back.”
According to numerous reports, politics played a role in Hochul’s decision to halt the program, given concerns with how Republicans could weaponize congestion pricing to win close races in New York City suburbs.
The governor denied those motives in her Wednesday statement.
“To those cynics who question my motivation, I approach every decision through one lens: What is best for New Yorkers?” Hochul said.

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