NEW YORK CITY — Subway and bus ridership on most days is still at about half pre-pandemic levels, putting increasing pressure in recent weeks to get congestion pricing in place to both fund the MTA and get people out of their cars.
The MTA Board met Wednesday, and the plan was a big part of the conversation, especially with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio doing everything he can to get the MTA to speed up the process.
De Blasio called the effort crucial to bringing back subway ridership and getting people out of their cars. And he’s not the only one who has become annoyed with the delay in getting this done.
“What have we done since last month to progress the process?” Asked MTA board member Norman Brown at one point during the meeting.
Congestion pricing would raise $15 billion in Capitol funds, but it’s been stalled for years — first by a Trump administration that was disinterested, and now by a lengthy review process.
Outgoing MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye insisted careful progress is being made and there’s still work to do.
“We are working with the federal government to make sure that the public outreach satisfies statues and regulation and is sufficient to inform all affected parties from an environmental justice point of view, from a social equity point of view, from a transportation point of view,” Foye said.
Some of those same concerns are shared by Democratic nominee for mayor Eric Adams.
“When you look at congestion pricing, we should — number one, look at and make sure you’re not harming low income New Yorkers that must go into Manhattan,” Adams said citing a hypothetical where someone needed to go to Manhattan for a chemotherapy treatment.
But overall, Adams supports congestion pricing and could very well be leading the city if it’s implemented in the coming years. The MTA is a state agency, but any mayor who is not supportive of congestion pricing could make putting it in place difficult.
Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa said he will do everything he can to block the plan if elected.
“This is just another tax, another fee, another fine on the hard-working people coming from the outer boroughs, and the tri-state area, into Manhattan,” Sliwa said.
At the MTA meeting, there was also some talk of some service cuts if ridership does not pick back up. MTA leadership insisted it’s just preparatory, in case ridership does not rebound all the way back once federal funding runs out. It wouldn’t be implemented until years down the road if necessary.