Gov. Hochul Backs Off Establishing ‘Congestion Pricing’ for Manhattan Drivers

News & Politics

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) has decided to “postpone indefinitely” the implementation of “congestion pricing” for the downtown area of Manhattan during certain hours of the day.

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“We remain fully committed to advancing all the improvements New Yorkers have been promised,” she said. This includes billions in mass transit improvements and track repairs. 

Just not until after the election. Republicans have been goring Democrats over the congestion pricing issue for months, and New York City Democrats in swing districts pleaded with Hochul to delay implementing the plan.

The congestion toll isn’t cheap. If you’re going into lower Manhattan to take in a show or the nightlife, it’s going to cost you $15 just to enter the Holland Tunnel. If you commute, it will be $15 plus the $50 in parking. 

Hochul said she was postponing the implementation of the pricing scheme because New York City hasn’t fully recovered from the pandemic, and if suburban New Yorkers decide to stay home and work rather than come to the city, it would be a disaster.

Naturally, suburban commuters were outraged, which threatened the seats of several Democrats. Hochul saw discretion as the better part of valor and retreated.

Those in favor of soaking the middle class were outraged. Hochul is leaving billions of dollars on the table just so a few Democrats don’t lose their seats.

“We’ve been blindsided,” said Kate Slevin, executive vice president of the Regional Plan Association, an urban planning nonprofit in New York. “It’s a betrayal of millions of transit riders and the future of New York’s climate and economy.”

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“Congestion pricing must move forward,” Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for the Riders Alliance, shouted outside Hochul’s New York City offices. “Congestion pricing is the linchpin of New York’s recovery. This city runs on our subway. It runs on the millions of buses we have on the street.”

The Atlantic:

Congestion pricing was always, in some ways, a small and specific goal. If the system worked beautifully—as it has elsewhere in the world, including Stockholm and Singapore—it still would make sense in relatively few cities in America. In New York, commuters, shoppers, showgoers, museum lovers, park strollers, and visitors of all kinds have other options for entering the city; in most places in the U.S., a price on congestion might raise money, but anyone disincentivized from driving would be stuck at home. The car rules America: It’s a key component of everyday life and culture.

The car rules America. And politicians forget that at their peril.

Hochul could just raise taxes on the rich to get the cash for mass transit improvements. But she’s worried about going to the well once too often. So she and her climate-hysteric friends settled on a middle-class tax increase just for the privilege of driving into the city.

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New York Times:

Officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which would have overseen the program and collected the $1 billion that it was expected to raise annually, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the development was a crushing setback to the authority, which had been defending itself from at least eight lawsuits fighting the program.

Opponents of congestion pricing cheered Ms. Hochul’s reversal. They had complained that the planned tolls would have unfairly burdened commuters who needed to reach Manhattan and that traffic would be diverted to other neighborhoods.

Congestion pricing won’t radically affect the total number of vehicles coming into Manhattan. In fact, they’re hoping it won’t. How else are they going to get their grubby paws on the $1 billion coughed up by middle-class taxpayers? 

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