Congestion Pricing: Public Hearings

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The New York City's congestion pricing plan, which would charge drivers entering specific parts of Manhattan, currently under consideration in Albany, has the potential to change the way Manhattan works in a major way.  Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer held a public hearing last week to explore its pros and cons with critics and supporters of the plan.

The city's congestion pricing plan, the first of it's kind in the country, is a major source of debate, and potentially new revenue.  A fee of more than $10 or possibly more for regular passenger cars to drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan below 60th street. These funds that would help pay for repairs to the city’s subway system.  Combined with surcharges on for-hire vehicle trips in Manhattan south of 96th St. that went into effect last month, the congestion fees will generate approximately $22 billion in capital funding and potentially curb traffic by as much as 20%.  Proponents of the plan say the benefits will include: safer streets; fewer vehicle-related crashes, injuries and deaths; lower asthma rates and carbon emissions; and less wear and tear on our roads and bridges.  

On March 21st, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer held a public hearing at Cooper Union's Rose Auditorium to learn more about the proposal from the experts—and hear from New Yorkers thoughts on the pricing plan. 

Watch portions of the hearing here

After the hearing, Manhattan Borough President Brewer wrote a letter to leadership in Albany to  add exemptions for people with disabilities, discounts for residents in the proposed zone, and a hold on congestion fee currently in place on NYC yellow and green taxis.  Brewer called on Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to add exemptions and discounts for New York City residents in their proposed congestion pricing plan for Manhattan in an effort to ensure that Albany is taking into consideration the many concerns raised during the congestion pricing hearing that I hosted last week.

"I believe that people with disabilities, who either can’t use or are locked-out from our inaccessible public transit system, must absolutely be exempted from congestion pricing." Brewer said in a statement available on her website. "I believe that the $2.50 congestion surcharge levied on taxi drivers last year must be put on hold until new regulations stabilize the industry. Furthermore, while residents within the potential tolling zone do contribute to congestion when they drive their vehicles and therefore should not have a blanketed exemption, I do think they should receive a discount, as was successfully done in London.  It is my hope that the State will be working hand-in-hand with both the MTA as well as the city’s Department of Transportation in advance of congestion pricing’s potential implementation to increase public transit quality and access in all of our five boroughs. As I stated in my public hearing’s opening remarks, it is common-sense that as we begin to charge for one transit option, we must increase both the quality and quantity of alternatives offered."  Brewer finished up by listing concerns brought up at the congestion pricing hearing.

-Discounts or exemptions for people with disabilities, who may be unable to use our city’s public transit system.

-The potential removal of the congestion fee currently in place on our city’s yellow and green taxis.

-Discounts or exemptions for residents who live within the proposed zone.

-Discounts or toll credits for drivers who pass through the congestion zone as well as another tolled crossing.

-Discounts or exemptions for drivers of more environmentally friendly or space-efficient vehicles, like electric cars or motorcycles.

-Potential measures that the state will take to ensure that the MTA will spend the revenue generated from congestion pricing   responsibly.

-Earmarking of revenue generated by congestion pricing solely for the city’s subway and bus systems, also known as MTA-New   York City Transit.

-Steps the city and state must take to properly enforce bus lanes in order to ensure that alternative forms of transportation are as   useful and successful as possible.

The complete letter can be viewed here