Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed congestion pricing and a proposal to reorganize the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in a joint 10-point plan released on Tuesday. The joint plan, which requires legislative approval, calls for tolls to be collected south of 61st Street in Manhattan, with the exception of FDR Drive. Cuomo said on Tuesday he hopes the package of transit proposals is included in the state budget, which lawmakers must pass by April 1. The tolls would not take effect until December 2020, if approved.
The price of tolls would change depending on the hour of travel within the Central Business District, with off-peak travel costing less. Emergency vehicles would be exempt from tolls and discounts would be provided to vehicles transporting people with disabilities or those with “limited ability to access medical facilities in the CBD.”
“We have to make the changes,” Cuomo said in an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Tuesday. “I believe the future economic trajectory of this region depends on the mass transit system.”
The revenue from the tolls would be supplemented with a new internet sales tax and a percentage of revenue from the cannabis excise tax to fund capital needs of the MTA, with a priority given to subway repairs. Repairs include new signals and cars, track repair, accessibility improvements, as well as bus system improvements.
Last January, Cuomo’s task force FIX NYC released its congestion pricing plan, which would charge drivers traveling in the CBD $11.52 one way. Notably, de Blasio opposed the plan and called it a “regressive tax” on middle-class New Yorkers.
At that time, the mayor instead backed a so-called millionaires tax to fund subway repairs, a plan that would increase the tax rate to 4.4 percent from 3.9 percent for married couples with incomes over $1 million and for individuals who earn more than $500,000 per year.
On Tuesday, Cuomo told WNYC he did “not think there was an appetite” for the tax, due to the current political situation in the state, because, Cuomo said, “our good President Trump has an arrow directed at New York.” The mayor tweeted his support for congestion pricing on Tuesday, writing that “the time to act is now.”
“Working New Yorkers are struggling to get around our city–we can’t let another year pass without action that makes their lives easier,” de Blasio tweeted. “It’s now clear that there’s no way to address it without congestion pricing and other dedicated revenue streams.”
And Cuomo and de Blasio want to reorganize the MTA by centralizing functions of the NYC Transit Authority, Metro-North, MTA Capital Construction, MTA Bus, and Staten Island Railway, which currently operate individually, into a consolidated entity. The restructuring plan is expected to be completed by June. While changes are expected for the structure of the MTA board, Cuomo said he still would not control the agency.
“They [the reforms] would allow functionality in you would still have under where we are right now, joint, but not even joint, you’d have the Assembly, Senate, Mayor, Governor, all local, county executives, all with a role in quote-unquote ‘control’ but at least you’d have a functional operation,” Cuomo said.
The package of legislation also mandates a partnership between the city and state to fight fare evasion. The MTA said last December it lost about $215 million from fare evasion in 2018 across the subway and bus system. The plan involves redesigning emergency doors to make more difficult to walk through without paying and adding police officers to issue summonses to fare evaders.
Currently, the MTA is facing a budget gap of $991 million by 2022, and board members will vote on a fare increase on Wednesday. The Daily News reported this week that the MTA board intends to keep the price of bus and subway ride at $2.75 per ride, but eliminate the pay-per-ride bonus.
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