Feb. 19, 2019 By Christian Murray
Several state legislators will be reaching out to subway riders this week as they try to put pressure on their fellow lawmakers to include congestion pricing in the upcoming budget.
The legislators, many from western Queens, want the senate and assembly to pass a budget that includes congestion pricing. They say that the MTA desperately needs the income, arguing that the system is falling in to disrepair.
The budget deadline is April 1 and while Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for it, local legislators want the Assembly and State Senate to support it too.
The plan would charge every passenger vehicle and truck a toll that enters Manhattan below 60th Street and is likely to raise about $1 billion per year. The MTA hopes to borrow against that revenue stream and raise $15 billion over five years once the plan is implemented.
This morning, State Sen. Mike Gianaris, joined by members of the Riders Alliance, kicked off a series of subway ride-alongs that will include other state legislators over the course of the week. They are using the ride-alongs as an opportunity to talk to riders about their commutes–and congestion pricing– as they make a final push for its inclusion in the budget.
Later this week, legislators from Brooklyn as well as Queens will be joining the ride-alongs. Assemblymembers Catalina Cruz (Jackson Heights) and Aravella Simotas (Astoria) will be among them.
“We need to build momentum…this is critical,” Gianaris said this morning. “The subway system is the life blood of New York and we can’t do anything without it functioning property. People can’t get to school or work and we have neglected it for too long.”
The money raised through congestion pricing would go toward modernizing the system—including new subway cars and station elevators, advocates say.
“Congestion pricing is the most urgent agenda item in the upcoming state budget for millions of New York riders,” said Riders Alliance Political Director Rebecca Bailin.
Along with Simotas and Cruz, Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) told the Queens Post last month that they support congestion pricing. Additionally, State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-13th District) has expressed support.
Cuomo is pushing hard for its inclusion. He recently warned that if state lawmakers do not approve it — subway riders could face a 30 percent fare increase.
But state lawmakers are divided, with some representatives concerned about its impact on residents who commute to Manhattan from the suburbs.
For instance, Assemblymember David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) continues to fight against the concept. He said that the neighborhoods in eastern Queens are not close to the subway and that congestion pricing would be akin to a tax hike.
— 🚇 Riders Alliance (@RidersNY) February 19, 2019