MTA criticized for not holding congestion pricing hearings in communities that lack transit service

Beginning this spring, passenger cars will be charged $15 to drive below 60th Street. Truck drivers will be charged up to $36 for each day they enter lower Manhattan just south of Central Park.

Ben Nandy

Mar 1, 2024, 11:33 PM

Updated 42 days ago

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Hudson Valley residents are criticizing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for not holding hearings on its congestion pricing plan in communities that lack transit.
Beginning this spring, passenger cars will be charged $15 to drive below 60th Street. Truck drivers will be charged up to $36 for each day they enter lower Manhattan just south of Central Park. The MTA has the backing of Gov. Kathy Hochul and environmental activists to move forward with the plan in an attempt to ease congestion and reduce pollution. The revenue would go toward improving the region's public transit system.
Recent college graduate, commuter and video production business owner Quinton Tramm told News 12 that Hudson Valley residents are not getting a full say in the MTA's congestion pricing plan. Tramm and other commuters who spoke with News 12 question the MTA board's decision to hold all four public hearings on the plan at its Manhattan headquarters and the fact that it did not schedule any field hearings in outlying communities such as Rockland County.
"Even in the post-COVID era where everybody's used to doing things online, there really is something to having in-person meetings, even if they're afraid" Tramm said. "You should be afraid. You're a public person who's supposed to help people out. The least you should do is hear them out in person."
"I guess it's a bit hypocritical to do that," Rockland commuter Kyle Swisher said of the decision to hold all the hearings in Manhattan. "Because they're not taking the public transit, which they are supporting."
In response to News 12's inquiry asking why the agency is not holding field hearings, MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan said there have been plenty of opportunities for commuters of all regions to share concerns about the plan with the MTA board.
“The legislature passed the congestion pricing law four years ago to reduce gridlock, improve public health and support mass transit," Donovan wrote in an emailed statement. "Since then, there have been thousands of pages of analysis and dozens of public meetings.”
The MTA is encouraging the public to testify in person at the hearings, through Zoom or over the phone. People can also submit testimony through email, mail, fax and voicemail messages.
"The MTA has just reestablished our feeling up here in Rockland that we are the redheaded stepchild of the region," Rockland County Executive Ed Day told News 12 in a Zoom interview. "To have something that affects so many people here in Rockland County and not have one public hearing up here is beyond belief. It's arrogance at its finest."
The Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines, which serve the Hudson Valley, have drawn criticism for years because they do not provide a one-seat trip from the northwest suburbs into New York City. Commuters must transfer at Secaucus to catch another NJ Transit train into Manhattan and then likely ride subway trains to their workplaces.
Several Rockland commuters said their trips into the city take about an hour and a half, provided there are no delays.
Day does not believe the MTA board members want to come to Rockland and be in a room that would likely be filled with suburban commuters demanding large investments to their rail lines and exemptions to the tolls.
"They don't want to face a guy like me, because it would be a very uncomfortable moment in their lives," Day said. "They know damn well they're not treating us right. They know damn well. I will say it, and they know I will not let go of it."
Day said the county is about to sue the MTA and that their legal argument is solid. He did not share specifics, only that the lawsuit will be filed once the last of the four hearings is over.
The final hearing is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m.


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