At Rush Hour Rally, Transit Riders and Advocates Demand Governor Cuomo Pass Congestion Pricing

Joseph Cutrufo -
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Fed-up transit riders, advocates and elected officials rallied outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's midtown Manhattan office during the evening rush hour on Tuesday to demand the governor and elected officials in Albany pass congestion pricing as part of the state budget this year. Lawmakers have until March 31 to pass the budget and demonstrate progress to transit riders who are sick of delays, breakdowns and increasingly unreliable service.

Congestion pricing would alleviate the city’s transit crisis by charging drivers to enter a cordon zone in Manhattan below 59th Street, and earmarking the revenue raised for the transit system. A broad coalition of transportation, environmental, public health, business, tech, real estate, and labor leaders have signed on in support of the recommendations put forth by the Cuomo-appointed Fix NYC panel, and the governor himself has said that congestion pricing "is an idea whose time has come.” 

The governor declared a state of emergency for the subway last summer, but little has changed. Weekday New York City subway trains are delayed nearly half of the time. More than 76,000 weekday trains were delayed in January of 2018, up from  just over 60,000 delayed weekday trains in January the previous year. Congestion pricing could raise as much as $1.5 billion annually, which could be used to modernize the outdated transit system and add service to transit deserts.

Now, with just days until the end of the state budget session transit advocates and elected officials are putting the pressure on the governor to muster the leadership to include congestion pricing in the state budget this year.

"Between our dysfunctional transit system and congestion that ranks among the world’s worst, New York City has reached its breaking point. But Governor Cuomo and other elected leaders in Albany are fiddling while the subway burns,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Congestion pricing could fix the transit system, make our streets safer, and end gridlock as we know it. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers make it a part of the state budget this year."

"New York City's public transit system is falling apart. Service disruptions and frequent delays have become all too common, contributing to what has become a daily nightmare for many of New York City's subway, bus, and Access-a-Ride paratransit riders,” said Jaqi Cohen, campaign coordinator at NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “Over 8 million transit riders are counting on Governor Cuomo to save them from their commuting misery and enact a sustainable congestion pricing plan in this year's budget. The fate of New York's overburdened transit system depends on it."

“We've seen what Governor Cuomo can accomplish when he decides to make something happen. It's time for the governor to treat the subway crisis like marriage equality or gun control, as an urgent need that requires his strong leadership,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance. “Riders are frustrated, riders are angry, and we're looking for the governor to put in place a serious plan to modernize the MTA and create a sustainable revenue source like congestion pricing to make it possible. Subway performance is worse than it has been in decades, and we're going to keep pushing Governor Cuomo to do his job so we can all get to ours."

Stephanie Burgos-Veras, organizador de Riders Alliance, dijo, “Nuestro servicio de trenes subterráneos está en crisis y los pasajeros están sufriendo a consecuencia del mal servicio. Los retrasos ​​y trenes estancados le cuestan a los pasajeros llegar tarde a sus destinos. El Gobernador Cuomo administra el MTA y los pasajeros necesitamos un mayor esfuerzo y liderazgo del gobernador para proveer una fuente de financiamiento sostenible para arreglar nuestro sistema y darle a los pasajeros un método confiable de transportación.”

"Congestion pricing isn't just about raising money to fix the subway. It's about fairness for everyone in New York, particularly the low-income New Yorkers and communities of color who rely every day on public transportation,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. “Investing in public transit and reducing car traffic are environmental imperatives, and they are also moral imperatives for our city.  Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers need to show progress in the budget, or they will have a lot of explaining to do to the millions of New Yorkers who would benefit from a strong congestion pricing plan."

“Accessibility is not something that can be fixed with band-aids.  Currently, the subway system is virtually inaccessible for many people with disabilities, and the Access-A-Ride paratransit system remains unreliable, slow, and dysfunctional, said Eman Rimawi, Access-a-Ride organizer for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “New Yorkers with disabilities need a fully funded transit system and serious commitment from our elected officials to raise enough revenue to fix the system, including major investments in accessibility.”

"Working New Yorkers have waited too long for a 'fix' to our failing transit system,” said Carl Lipscombe, director of organizing at ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York. “Governor Cuomo can show his commitment to us commuters by including sufficient funding for congestion pricing in his budget."