Congestion Pricing: NYS Turns its Back on Thousands of Immigrants and Disabled New Yorkers Part I
May 09, 2018

Congestion Pricing: NYS Turns its Back on Thousands of Immigrants and Disabled New Yorkers Part I by Nicole EpsteinBy Nicole Epstein, Associate

{Read in 3:42 minutes}  After the “summer of hell,” during which the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) was completely unreliable, New York City finally realized that they needed to find a way to fund the MTA. For the past year or so, all the buzz has been about Congestion Pricing, which is the practice of charging motorists for using certain stretches of road, to reduce congestion and raise funds for floundering transit authorities.

Even though Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio do not agree on much, they both agree that we need to find some type of funding for the MTA. Of course, the Governor is saying, “It’s Mayor de Blasio’s job to fund the MTA.” And the Mayor is saying, “No, no, no. It’s the State’s job to fund the MTA.” Which one is right is anyone’s guess. At the end of the day, the New York State budget was passed around 4 a.m. Saturday, March 31, the revenue portion of which contained congestion pricing.

There was a lot of talk as to what this congestion pricing plan was going to look like. At first, there was talk of charging private vehicle owners that enter the Central Business District. They also proposed a $25 fee for commercial vehicles. Congestion pricing encompasses many different things, but these never passed.

The New York State Assembly had released two budget proposals — one in February and one mid-March  — where congestion pricing would be a mandatory $2.75 surcharge on all Uber or E-hail trips that begin, end, or cross through in the Central Business District. The $2.75 surcharge would go directly to fund the MTA.

In addition, they proposed a $0.50 charge for yellow taxi medallions. Why is it only $0.50 for yellow taxis and $2.75 for Uber? The Assemblies of Regional Budget Proposals took into consideration that over 6,000 hardworking immigrants — small business owners — invested money ($1.1 million in 2015) in the medallion which gave them the exclusive right to cruise and pick up passengers in the Central Business District.

The proposal seems a little weird when you think of congestion pricing, the heart of which is to fund the MTA and reduce congestion. But what that original Assembly Budget Proposal took into account was the reason for congestion being the Ubers. The number of yellow taxis are capped by law at 13,650 vehicles. Every time there’s a new medallion released, environmental impact and safety precaution studies are done.

The number of Uber vehicles roaming the streets of New York City is over 100,000. The Assembly, at first, did the right thing and said, “Hey, it doesn’t make sense to charge yellow taxi medallion owners more money when they’ve already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to operate in the Central Business District.”

In Part II of this blog, we will look at another major issue — wheelchair accessibility.