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Congestion Pricing

N.J. Gov. Candidate: Stop Fighting Congestion Pricing — Expand It Instead!

The Jersey City mayor who hopes to be the next Garden State governor thinks current Gov. Murphy's lawsuit to stop congestion pricing is "wrong" — and vows to expand tolling to charge New York drivers for the congestion they cause in Jersey.

12:00 AM EDT on August 15, 2023

Steven Fulop with his transportation plan.

The Jersey City mayor who hopes to be the next Garden State governor thinks current Gov. Murphy's lawsuit to stop congestion pricing is "wrong" and "disjointed" — and vows that if he's elected, tolling would actually expand to charge New York drivers for the congestion they cause in Jersey.

Read the plan here.

Mayor Steven Fulop — who remains the only declared candidate for the 2025 Democratic nomination, though Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Rep. Mikie Sherrill are sniffing around — wants New Jersey to get some of the well-established benefits of congestion pricing that New York City will enjoy when the tolls go live in May 2024.

The key benefit, beyond the obvious reduction in congestion and pollution, is money for transit, Fulop said.

"In order to support our own transit infrastructure, New Jersey should look to
implement congestion pricing on those entering New Jersey from New York," he wrote in the first of what his campaign said would be nine "Fix NJ" plans [PDF].

"These fees would be a dedicated revenue source to light rail expansion and to expand PATH service, which the Port Authority has gradually diminished over the last two decades," the plan says.

For Fulop, the proposal is not punitive.

"Transportation needs to be a regional conversation if you are trying to get people to use public transit," he told Streetsblog. "This competitive dynamic, where we're both competing for the same federal dollars, where we're trying to price each other or tax each other to help our own transit system is counterproductive to everybody in the region."

Meanwhile, at least two of Fulop's possible challengers for the nomination, Sherrill, Rep. Josh Gottheimer and former state Sen. Steve Sweeney, oppose congestion pricing.

Gantries like these could show up in Jersey to toll New York drivers. File photo: Jonah Schwarz

Fulop earned a solid reputation as mayor of Jersey City partly on transportation issues, especially the complete elimination of road deaths and the expansion of e-scooters and Citi Bike.

As such, he said the decision to focus on transportation as the first of his campaign white papers was very intentional.

"Transportation impacts everything else," he said. "I mean, your economic development and your housing policy is really at the end of the day, a by-product of people's options around mobility and transportation. And transportation touches every one of those other issues."

The outline opens with the prophetic words, "Statewide investment in smart transportation infrastructure will be a top priority for the Fulop Administration."

It goes on to detail some of Fulop's key areas:

  • Creating a dedicated revenue stream for cash-strapped New Jersey Transit by extending the state's Corporation Business Tax surcharge, which is set to expire at the end of the year.
  • Prioritizing light rail, not roads: "The Fulop Administration will work closely with building trades to refocus existing funds away from highway expansion and instead focus on light rail expansion to complete the Bergen County portion of the Hudson-Bergen light rail."
  • Take the PATH system away from the Port Authority and integrate it with New Jersey transit — with the goal of increasing weekend and off-peak service" instead of having PATH be "oriented around the needs of weekday commuters."

But the clearest language in the position paper revolves around congestion pricing — and attacking the current state leadership's lawsuit to block implementation of the tolling scheme.

"The current route that New Jersey is pursuing against congestion pricing is wrong and speaks to a disjointed policy around the environment and car usage," the position paper says. "Policies that have been recently pursued in NJ to ... widen the turnpike extension, and now fight congestion pricing in court are inconsistent with a clear policy around transit. ... For the last two years, NJ politicians have been complaining about congestion pricing with limited action."

Fulop promises "a different approach" by not fighting congestion pricing, but expanding it so that New Yorkers are forced to pay to do to New Jersey what Jersey drivers have been doing to us for generations. He estimated that thousands of New Yorkers drive into New Jersey every day.

"Leaning in against congestion pricing when only 3 percent of New Jersey commuters drive their own car into New York on a day-in/day-out basis, and they are the wealthiest people ... seems counter to our stated policies in New Jersey from a Democratic administration," he told Streetsblog. "The approach that New Jersey is taking with regards to press conferences and lawsuits, ultimately, is going to be a loser with the court system. And it's a waste of time. And it's counterproductive to your policy agenda."

Gov. Murphy's office did not respond to a request for comment.

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