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State Comptroller: Loss of Congestion Pricing Revenue Leaves MTA With ‘No Good Options’

Gov. Hochul's indefinite cancellation of congestion pricing represents "a decline in investment in the metropolitan region’s vital transportation system," says Tom DiNapoli.

Photo: The Streetsblog Photoshop Desk

Another comptroller heard from!

Gov. Hochul's indefinite cancellation of congestion pricing represents "a decline in investment in the metropolitan region’s vital transportation system" that will deprive millions of residents of improved and accessible transportation, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said on Tuesday.

Congestion pricing was expected to raise $15 billion towards the MTA's $55-billion capital construction plan, but the gridlock governor's decision means that the MTA "will be forced to put off badly needed investment in expansion and improvements to the system," DiNapoli said. "Those choices will directly affect riders ... for years to come.

"The loss of congestion pricing revenue means the MTA’s current capital plan is likely to be smaller than its predecessor, adjusted for inflation," he added in a statement titled, "NO GOOD OPTIONS FOR MTA TO MANAGE HOLE IN CAPITAL FUNDING."

DiNapoli's report [PDF] comes days after city Comptroller Brad Lander — who also supports congestion pricing — suggested in an interview that he's amenable to different "price points" for the toll program, which was set to charge drivers $15 to enter Manhattan's central business district in peak hours. Gov. Hochul had said last week that $15 was just too much.

DiNapoli's report did not mention what the cost of the toll should be — but reminded all New Yorkers that without the $15 billion in revenue, the MTA will be forced to choose which major projects it can do (such as some basic state-of-good-repair work) ... and which it can't (like hitting its accessibility goals or finishing the Second Avenue Subway).

"The MTA’s decisions should ensure the basic maintenance of the system — safety, reliability and frequency — until it identifies realistic and sustainable replacement revenue," DiNapoli said.

The comptroller also praised the MTA for not — yet — issuing new bonds (aka debt) in light of the congestion pricing pause. Any new bonding from existing revenue sources could lead to a decline in the agency's credit rating, which would raise the cost of borrowing.

The state beancounter's comments come one day before an MTA board meeting that is expected to be historic, with agency staffers presenting doomsday scenarios that reflect what MTA CEO Janno Lieber meant when he said, "There is no Plan B" for the agency if congestion pricing was canceled.

Many, including state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, have argued that the board has the power to implement congestion pricing regardless of the governor's "pause," though that is very much in doubt.

Meanwhile, activists are expected to attend the meeting in droves to demand that the MTA push back on the governor's decision and urge the board members to "stand strong in the face of devastating cuts [and support] congestion pricing to avoid transit cuts and deliver major traffic safety, air quality, and cost of living improvements for all New Yorkers."

For her part, Gov. Hochul has said she supports the MTA and intends to find replacement funding for the agency.

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