Congestion pricing becomes the GOP’s most aggressive political tool against the Democrats at key midterm races in New York.
Republicans are trying to use the controversial plan to impose a hefty fee on motorists entering Midtown Manhattan, beating Dems in races for governor, the legislature and even Congress.
Increasing battles over toll exemptions have only fueled the attacks.
“Instead of this Hunger Games-like fight for special exemptions from the new congestion fare scam, the better solution is to just stop this hochul hike altogether.” GOP gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin tweeted August 28th.
According to the MTA’s tentative congestion pricing plan, drivers could pay peak-hour fees ranging from $9 to $23 to travel to parts of Manhattan through the end of 2023.
Disgraced Ex-Reg. Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat-led legislature in 2019 authorized toll drivers to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street to curb congestion and raise $1 billion annually to fund mass transit.
The plan puts some commuters in a bind. Many motorists in the outskirts and suburbs want improvements to subway and S-Bahn lines, but don’t want to pay the new toll – and are demanding exemptions or discounts.
Hochul, who was Cuomo’s handpicked lieutenant governor in the administration when the toll plan got the green light, supports him.
“I support congestion charging 100 percent,” Hochul said during a Democratic primary for governor in June.
Zeldin, her Republican rival for Long Island’s governorship, has taken up the issue with increasing intensity.
“At a time when they need financial help most, Kathy Hochul wants to turn the screws on struggling New Yorkers by another $34.50 a day,” Zeldin said in a Post-Op-Ed column, citing record inflation as damage to the already struggling New Yorkers.
“As if it wasn’t bad enough that this Hochul migration would rake in another $1 billion a year on the backs of hard-working New Yorkers without changes that would force the MTA to spend that taxpayer money more efficiently or effectively, the clincher is.” : In the past, congestion pricing has spectacularly missed its stated goals,” he added.
Building a new subway track is costing the MTA far more per square mile than anywhere else in the world, reports show, partly attributed to lax labor rules by unions.
Zeldin has claimed congestion charges have been a bust in London, and critics fear diverting traffic away from Manhattan would only send him into the poor, already congested areas of the Bronx and elsewhere.
The toll plan has also become a major issue in state general elections, particularly on Long Island, where Republican nominee Jack Martins is up against Democratic incumbent Senator Anna Kaplan in Nassau County’s 7th Circuit.
“Congestion pricing will hurt middle-class families here on Long Island. These are the men and women, police officers, firefighters, construction clerks and service workers who will be forced to pay this tax because they had little control over how the program was enacted, designed and implemented,” said Martins, a former three-seat state senator .
“Not only is this bad for their own family budgets, which are already strained by inflation, but it is also detrimental to our region’s economy and growth. These impacts need to be recognized and addressed.”
Kaplan, who voted for congestion fees as part of the state budget in 2019, defended her stance at a recent MTA hearing on the plan, calling the program one that “will be a huge asset to our region — $1 billion paid annually local transport and our subway are invested in our region.”
Kaplan also noted that $100 million, or 10% of the revenue, is earmarked for the Long Island Rail Road and claimed the program will prevent fare increases for LIRR commuters.
“When we decided to introduce congestion charging in 2019, we were trying to address chronic issues affecting traffic and the lack of investment in our public transport system,” she said. “Unfortunately, the pandemic has only exacerbated these problems, straining the MTA’s finances and jeopardizing new investment in the Long Island Rail Road.”
She said any carve-outs or exemptions should be done fairly by region.
When asked about Martins’ criticism of the plan, a Kaplan spokesman said, “Either Jack Martins doesn’t think Long Island residents deserve new trains, or he would rather introduce a real commuter tax by increasing ticket prices for LIRR riders.” raised to pay them.”
Congestion awards have also become fodder in the race for Congress.
Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, representing Staten Island and southern Brooklyn, recently held a press conference with New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer to denounce the plan.
“The fact that the city, state and MTA are proposing a congestion tax to make up for lost revenue after receiving billions in federal assistance and opportunities to apply for matching grants through the federal Infrastructure Act is preposterous and shows how bad the agency is.” managed,” said Malliotakis.
“Go after toll dodgers and turnstile jumpers and make public transit safe in New York City so more residents and tourists ride, but stop treating New Yorkers and American taxpayers like ATMs. The MTA is a notorious black hole and the inspector general should examine every federal dollar that the MTA has received. Enough is enough.”
GOP nominee Michael Lawler, a member of the state assembly running in the Hudson Valley’s 17th congressional district against Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, is also banging the drum against the toll.
“A congestion tax will divert truck traffic to areas with some of the highest rates of asthma in the country,” Lawler said in an Aug. 25 statement.
Even some Democratic candidates are distancing themselves, openly opposing the Midtown toll plan approved by other Democrats, given how politically strained the issue is.
While Lawler has attacked Maloney on the matter, the incumbent Dem told the Post on Sunday that he too opposes the current plan.
“I strongly oppose any proposal for congestion charging that would unfairly penalize Hudson Valley commuters, who play an important role in our state’s economy,” he said.
Max Rose, the former Democratic congressman in a rematch against Malliotakis in the 11th congressional district, also criticized the plan as being hatched by “idiotic bureaucrats.” Malliotakis defeated him in 2020.
“Congestion pricing masquerades as a climate initiative, but is in fact a thinly veiled effort designed by idiot bureaucrats to rake in revenue on the backs of suburban residents who don’t have access to public transportation. The state must do everything in its power to stop him,” Rose said.
Transit advocates said the toll plan will become popular once implemented, despite doomsday statements from “pandering politicians.”
“Wherever it was introduced, the congestion charge was less popular before launch than after. The fact that we’ve had an extraordinarily long and winding road to implementation means it’s no surprise that pandering politicians of all stripes have spoken out against the one policy that fixes the subway, speeds up emergency response times and breathes New York will make it easier,” said Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein.
“Jack Martins has campaigned for years against a third track to relieve train congestion and end car traffic at Long Island level crossings. He left office and the project was built. It was in his own neighborhood, so it’s not surprising that he doesn’t care about congestion or Manhattan air quality either.”
https://nypost.com/2022/09/04/ny-republicans-campaigning-against-midtown-congestion-toll-plan/ NY Republicans fight Midtown toll plan