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Congestion Pricing

MTA Board To Vote To Pause Congestion Pricing Until Hochul Says So

The MTA Board will vote on Wednesday to confirm Gridlock Gov. Kathy Hochul's indefinite pause of on a long-accepted method of funding the regional transit system.

Photo: MTA|

It’s all crashing down.

They're gonna cave.

The MTA Board will vote on Wednesday to agree to Gridlock Gov. Kathy Hochul's indefinite pause of congestion pricing, according to language in the agency's Board meeting briefing materials.

The resolution, included in the materials for Wednesday's meeting, is an official recognition of Hochul's order to "pause" congestion pricing and resolves to put off the toll until New York State, New York City and the federal government sign a Value Pricing Pilot Program agreement that officially authorizes the toll.

The Board will vote on Wednesday on the following exact language:

RESOLVED that the Board recognizes that the Central Business District Tolling Program will not be implemented in June 2024, due to the pause in the program; and be it further,

RESOLVED, that the date of implementation of the CBDTP is hereby extended from in or about June 2024 until after such time as the execution of the legally-required tolling agreement among the Project Sponsors — New York State Department of Transportation, New York City Department of Transportation, and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority — and also by the Federal Highway Administration; and be it further,

RESOLVED, that the President of the Authority or her designee is hereby fully authorized and directed to take such steps as may be necessary or desirable to implement the CBDTP until after such time as the required final agreement has been executed.

While the resolution itself extends the start date of congestion pricing until the VPPP agreement is signed, it doesn't undo the March resolution to approve the congestion pricing tolls. And the staff summary of the resolution suggests the whole thing is not an endorsement of the pause itself but a recognition of reality.

The summary before the resolution states that the purpose of the resolution to come is to "acknowledge the pause in the implementation of [congestion pricing] announced by New York State precludes the MTA staff from implementing the program in in June 2024."

Considering that the Board voted to pass congestion pricing 11-1 and Hochul's own appointees have spoken strongly in favor of congestion pricing, it was difficult to see the Board actually endorsing the pause. One Board member familiar said the resolution itself is a formality necessary so the members of the Board can discuss the pause and make their feelings on it part of the public meeting.

"We need an agenda item at the Board to be able to have a discussion about congestion pricing," the source said. "In order to have an agenda item, we need a staff summary and a resolution, so this is a way to begin that discussion."

Another person with knowledge of discussions about the resolution said that the feeling among the Board members was that the missive would serve as a challenge to the governor.

"They see it as setting up a legal challenge," they said. "It's not big and bombastic and flipping over a table, but Board members see it as a challenge to the governor. This is on the governor and FHWA, and the Board is supportive of turning the tolls on when those actors say they can."

The resolution recognizes that delaying the toll will blow a $15 billion hole in the capital budget, but the MTA staff recommendation remains that the Board should vote to approve the pause.

The possibility that the Board will roll over in favor of the pause — and its resulting budget gap — left advocates outraged.

"Gov. Hochul needs to reverse her betrayal of riders and implement congestion pricing, not make MTA Board members into accessories after the fact," said Danny Pearlstein, the spokesman for Riders Alliance, which will rally at 8 a.m. in front of MTA headquarters before Wednesday's board meeting.

This story was updated with additional board context.

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