Eno’s Q&A With Congressman Jerry Nadler About NYC Congestion Pricing
May 26, 2023|Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
What are the pros and cons of NY’s proposed congestion pricing program?
Congestion pricing is the best way to get vehicles off our overly crowded roads, allowing us to reimagine our streets to create green space for parks, protected bike lanes, and dedicated bus lanes. Transportation emissions generate the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and are the primary contributor to pollution in New York City. Fewer vehicles and congestion on our roads will help reduce the disproportionate childhood asthma rates in the area.
The funding generated from tolls will deliver resources needed to modernize MTA’s buses, subways, and commuter railroads that are utilized by commuters throughout the tri-state area. Together, these benefits will make travel times faster and more efficient for New Yorkers and commuters from New Jersey alike.
There really aren’t any cons on congestion pricing, yes, it will be an adjustment for people, but we will get safer streets and cleaner air. But if you forced me to give one con, it’s that it will have taken four years to get federal approval after it was first approved by the NYS Legislature in 2019 and has yet to be implemented. Our region has needlessly suffered from the environmental and economic impacts of congestion since then as the review process has dragged along.
Would New Jersey be affected differently than the rest of the region?
No, they would not. According to the MTA’s environmental assessment, only 3% of New Jerseyans commute to Manhattan by car, and the rest are taking public transit. The already low number of New Jerseyans commuting by car makes sense when you consider New Jersey is awash with public transportation options to travel to Manhattan, whether it’s by NJ Transit train or bus, PATH, Amtrak, or the ferry. I believe that the hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans who use the MTA everyday would appreciate that additional funding is being generated to repair New York City’s century old subway.
I hear a lot of noise about the cost of tolls. Currently, the toll for a car without the EZ-Pass discounts taking the Lincoln Tunnel costs $17 to enter New York. If someone were to work 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, that would total $340 a month, not including gas, parking, and wear and tear on the car.
If the same traveler were coming from River Edge in New Jersey via NJ Transit Train, they could purchase an unlimited monthly fare for $227, and save $113 a month, or over $1300 a year. The savings for the same traveler taking a NJ Transit Bus from River Edge would be even more, with an unlimited monthly fare of $167, saving $173 a month or over $2000 each year. This is another reason why I’ve been a longtime supporter of renovating the Port Authority Bus Terminal, to handle increased capacity for commuters and make it easier for people to leave their cars and choose mass transit into NYC.
Should the program be modified to address New Jersey’s concerns?
We should not subsidize private car travel in the largest, and most congested city in America when there are numerous public transportation options available. We must also consider that as the number of exemptions grows, the principle of congestion pricing: cleaner air, safer streets, and improved mass transit is undermined.
However, I am not a member of the “Traffic Mobility Review Board” tasked with setting congestion pricing fees and exemptions. I trust that the members of the board will make the right decisions.
Are you worried that congressional efforts to put the MTA under a microscope might endanger funding for the MTA as well as other transit agencies?
Members of Congress understand that on some days, more people ride with the MTA than they do airplanes in the United States. The Members of Congress who have spoken out against congestion pricing are largely Members that have fought for public transit funding and even opposed continuing the 80-20 Highway-Transit Split in Surface Transportation Act Reauthorization. They oppose congestion pricing and are doing anything they can to stop it from happening, but most of these Members want more funding for the MTA, not less.
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