MTA to hold first public meetings for congestion pricing

The MTA’s official review of the environmental impacts of its congestion pricing program gets underway this week with virtual meetings Thursday and Friday for residents of the five boroughs and New Jersey.

The two-hour Zoom forums will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday “focused on” the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island; at 6 p.m. for the proposed Manhattan toll zone below 60th St.; and 10 a.m. on Friday for New Jersey.

More meetings focused on Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, the northern New York suburbs and Manhattan above 60th St. are scheduled for later in the month.

Toll backers expect big turnout from opponents like N.J. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who has encouraged his constituents to attend.

“Jersey residents, you all have an important opportunity to make your voices heard! Starting on September 24th, the MTA is hosting a series of public hearings so you can share their views on NY’s proposed $3,000/yr congestion tax on NJ commuters,” Gottheimer tweeted Sept. 16. “Sign up to attend these critical hearings to put a stop to this ridiculous tax on hard-working Jersey residents!”

“Haters are definitely going to hate,” said Danny Pearlstein of the pro-tolling Riders Alliance. “At the end of the day we have a traffic crisis and a transit crisis and congestion pricing goes a long way towards solving both.”

Toll backers expect big turnout at the meetings from opponents.
Christopher Sadowski for NY Post

Congestion pricing passed the state legislature in April 2019 with the backing of disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Money from the tolls to drive into parts of Manhattan will go to the MTA and other transportation projects.

The state mandated a revenue target of $1 billion per year to support $15 billion in loans for transit improvements. But they left key details to a six-member panel called the “Traffic Mobility Review Board,” which is supposed to set the toll, but has yet to meet.

A 2018 study commissioned by Cuomo proposed an $11.50 rush hour fee for cars, which would drop to $8.50 for most of the day and $5.50 between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The MTA has said its environmental review will take 16 months, putting the proposed tolls on schedule to start in 2023 at the earliest and possibly later.

A view of traffic in New York, New York, USA, 28 February 2019
The MTA has said its environmental review will take 16 months.
EPA/JUSTIN LANE

Public meetings over the next few weeks are just step one for that review, which will have to be approved by the Federal Highway Administration. Each meeting will begin with a 20-minute MTA presentation, followed by an open forum for public comment.

Another round of meetings will be held on Oct. 7, 12 and 13 for “environmental justice communities.”

Anyone who wishes to speak can register on the MTA’s tolling program website or by calling 646-252-6777. Comments can also be submitted online and by email.

Here is the full list of scheduled public meetings:

  • Thursday, Sept. 23, 10 a.m. to noon: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island
  • Thursday, Sept. 23, 6-8 p.m.: Manhattan Central Business District (60th Street and below)
  • Friday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m. to noon: New Jersey
  • Wednesday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. to noon: Northern New York City Suburbs
  • Wednesday, Sept. 29, 6-8 p.m.: Long Island
  • Thursday, Sept. 30, 6-8 p.m.: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island
  • Friday, Oct. 1, 1-3 p.m.: Connecticut
  • Monday, Oct. 4, 6-8 p.m.: New Jersey
  • Tuesday, Oct. 5, 6-8 p.m.: Northern New York City Suburbs
  • Wednesday, Oct. 6, 6-8 p.m.: Manhattan Outside the Central Business District (61st Street and above)
  • Thursday, Oct. 7, 6-8 p.m.: New York “environmental justice communities.”
  • Tuesday, Oct. 12, 6-8 p.m.: New Jersey “environmental justice communities.”
  • Wednesday, Oct. 13, 6-8 p.m.: Connecticut “environmental justice communities.”