Traffic passes under congestion pricing devices on the Upper West...

Traffic passes under congestion pricing devices on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on May 16. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Gov. Kathy Hochul's decision to “indefinitely postpone” congestion pricing is a deeply disappointing and shortsighted move, one motivated by politics, not policy.

In making the announcement via a taped video Wednesday, Hochul left far more questions than answers about the postponement, which stops the toll just weeks before it was to start. The revenue was to fund Metropolitan Transportation Authority capital projects. Hochul said she was halting the long-in-the-making plan to charge a fee to vehicles entering Manhattan's central business district due to concerns about the post-pandemic financial impact on New Yorkers, but emphasized she'd still find money for the MTA.

It was a disingenuous move that squandered an enormous opportunity to boost the region and undid years of work by scores of MTA workers, business leaders, advocates and others. Hochul's concern for New Yorkers' financial situations fails to address the reality, as Hochul has noted, that most commuters, especially those who aren't top income earners, take public transit. Her promise to address the MTA's needs and the goal of reducing air pollution came without details.

Nothing about affordability and Manhattan's fragile pandemic recovery is any different now than it was a year ago. 

Even if the governor was concerned about potential “unintended consequences” of a plan that has been reviewed extensively, she should have allowed the program to start while committing to make tweaks along the way. That was our advice all along: Get it started and fix the problems as they arise. By bringing the tolling program to a dead stop, Hochul illustrated once again how she is unable to navigate complex governing roadways. And she belied a vow to the editorial board that she would “stand up against the tide” and push the plan forward.

How will the MTA now fund its current and future capital programs? Hochul said she has other funding stashed away. How much and from where? Hochul said she's considering other sources, like another ill-advised MTA payroll tax increase. But that's just another way to add to New Yorkers' financial burden — without congestion pricing's positive impacts.

If the MTA can't fully fund its capital programs, what will that mean for the Long Island Rail Road? Elected officials who always hated the idea blasted her decision as political, while some Democrats who knew which way the wind was blowing months ago said it was wise. What they won't address is where the dollars will come from to improve public transportation infrastructure.

Concerns also remain regarding the environmental remediation that had been promised, the half-billion-dollar MTA contracts already in place, the planned crackdown on fake or obscured license plates and, most significantly, how to address traffic congestion and pollution problems that continue to erode Manhattan's quality of life.

Hochul failed to address any of that. Instead, she took a quick exit to avoid the political traffic ahead — a path that might lead to a dead end.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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