Congestion pricing is becoming the GOP’s sharpest political tool against Democrats in key midterm races in New York.
Republicans are trying to use the controversial plan to impose a heavy toll on motorists entering Midtown Manhattan against the Dems in races for governor, state legislature and even Congress.
Growing fights over toll exemptions have only fueled the attacks.
“Instead of this Hunger Games-style battle over special exemptions from the new congestion pricing scam, the best course of action is to simply stop this Hochul ride altogether,” GOP gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin tweeted August 28.
Drivers could face fees of $9 to $23 to travel to parts of Manhattan by the end of 2023, according to the MTA’s draft congestion pricing plan.
Disgraced ex-governor. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic-led state legislature approved toll drivers entering Manhattan south of 60th Street in 2019 to ease congestion and raise $1 billion a year to help fund public transit .
The plan puts some commuters in a bind. Many motorists in outlying neighborhoods and suburbs want improvements to subway and commuter rail lines, but don’t want to pay the new toll – and are calling for exemptions or reductions.
Hochul, who was Cuomo’s handpicked lieutenant governor in the administration when the toll plan was given the go-ahead, supports it.
“I support congestion pricing, 100%,” Hochul said during a Democratic primary debate for governor in June.
Zeldin, her Republican rival for Long Island governor, has taken on the issue with increasing intensity.
“At a time when they need financial help the most, Kathy Hochul wants to tighten the screw on struggling New Yorkers up to an extra $34.50 a day,” Zeldin said in a Post Op-Ed column. , citing record inflation as already hurting struggling New Yorkers. .
“As if it wasn’t bad enough that this Hochul Hike raises another billion dollars a year on the backs of hard-working New Yorkers, without any changes that would force the MTA to spend that taxpayer money more efficiently. or efficient, the kicker is, historically, congestion pricing has failed spectacularly in its stated objectives,” he added.
It costs the MTA far more per square mile to build a new subway track than anywhere in the world, reports reveal, in part because of lax labor union rules.
Zeldin claimed congestion pricing has been a meltdown in London and critics fear that diverting traffic from Manhattan will simply send it into poor, already congested areas of the Bronx and elsewhere.
The toll plan has also become a major issue in state legislative races, particularly on Long Island, where Republican candidate Jack Martins faces off against Democratic incumbent Senator Anna Kaplan in Nassau County’s 7th District.
“Congestion pricing will hurt middle-class families here on Long Island. It is the men and women, policemen, firefighters, employees of construction offices and services who will be forced to pay this tax, having had no say in how the program was enacted, designed and implemented,” said Martins, a former three-term agent. state senator.
“This is not only bad for their own family budget, already strained by inflation, but also damaging for the economy and growth of our region. These impacts must be recognized and addressed.
Kaplan, who voted for congestion pricing as part of the state budget in 2019, defended his position at a recent MTA hearing on the plan, calling the program one that “looks as a huge win for our region – $1 billion invested annually in our public transit and subway.
Kaplan also noted that $100 million or 10% of revenue will be earmarked for the Long Island Rail Road, and claimed the program will prevent fare hikes for LIRR commuters.
“When we decided to adopt congestion pricing in 2019, we were trying to address the chronic issues impacting traffic and the lack of investment in our public transport,” she said. “Unfortunately, the pandemic has only compounded these issues, straining the MTA’s finances and jeopardizing new investments in the Long Island Rail Road.”
She said any exclusions or exemptions should be done equitably by region.
Asked about Martins’ criticism of the plan, a Kaplan spokesperson said: ‘Either Jack Martins doesn’t think the people of Long Island deserve new trains, or he would rather pass a real commuter tax. increasing ticket prices for LIRR passengers.”
Congestion pricing has also become fodder in races for Congress.
Republican Representative Nicole Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island and South Brooklyn, recently held a press conference with New Jersey Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer to denounce the plan.
“The fact that the city, state, and MTA are proposing a congestion charge to make up for lost revenue after receiving billions in federal aid and the ability to apply for matching grants through the federal bill on infrastructure is absurd and shows how badly the authority is handled,” Malliotakis said.
“Pursue toll evaders, turnstile jumpers, and make New York public transit safe so more residents and tourists hit the road, but stop treating New Yorkers and American taxpayers like ATMs. The MTA is a notorious black hole and the Inspector General should audit every federal dollar the MTA has received. Enough is enough.”
GOP candidate Michael Lawler, a state assemblyman running against Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the Hudson Valley’s 17th congressional district, is also beating the drum against the toll.
“A congestion pricing tax will divert truck traffic to areas with some of the highest asthma rates in the country,” Lawler said in an Aug. 25 statement.
Revealing how politically tense the issue is, even some Democratic candidates are distancing themselves and outright opposing the Midtown toll plan endorsed by their fellow Democrats.
While Lawler attacked Maloney on the issue, the incumbent Dem told The Post on Sunday that he, too, opposes the current plan.
“I strongly oppose any congestion pricing proposal that would unfairly penalize Hudson Valley commuters who play a vital role in our state’s economy,” he said.
Max Rose, the former Democratic congressman in a rematch against Malliotakis in the 11th congressional district, also slammed the plan as concocted by “dumb bureaucrats”. Malliotakis defeated him in 2020.
“Congestion pricing masquerades as a climate initiative, but it is actually a thinly veiled effort engineered by dumb bureaucrats to generate revenue on the backs of residents in outlying boroughs who have no access to public transport. The state must do everything in its power to stop it in its tracks,” Rose said.
Transit advocates said the toll plan would gain popularity after its implementation, despite apocalyptic statements from “indulgent politicians.”
“Wherever it was introduced, congestion pricing was less popular before it started until after. The fact that we’ve had an exceptionally long and windy road to implementation means it’s no surprise that complacent politicians on all sides have spoken out against the one policy that will fix the subway, speed up the times of emergency response and facilitate breathing. New York,” Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein said.
“Jack Martins spent years fighting for a third track to relieve train congestion and end car traffic delays at Long Island crossings. He left office and the project was built. C was in his own neighborhood, so it’s no surprise that he doesn’t care about congestion and the air quality in Manhattan either.