MTA board members voting on congestion pricing in March at MTA...

MTA board members voting on congestion pricing in March at MTA headquarters.  Credit: Craig Ruttle

Two weeks after Gov. Kathy Hochul’s stunning move to indefinitely pause the plan to toll Manhattan’s central business district, a worrisome uncertainty looms over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the impact the failure to implement the program will have on the region.

That will shine an intense spotlight on Wednesday’s MTA board meeting. The board’s role is critical in getting answers to enormous questions about the future of congestion pricing and the authority’s capital plan going forward. That is the board’s fiduciary responsibility.

  • Could — or would — the board try to implement congestion pricing on its own? MTA officials have suggested the authority cannot start congestion pricing without signoffs on federal documentation requiring approval from city, state and federal officials. Those signoffs are ministerial; a governor’s political calculus is not a legitimate or perhaps even a legal reason to withhold key signatures.
  • Will the board voice its collective displeasure at Hochul’s move and reassert its support of congestion pricing? Given that all but one board member voted to make the new tolls a reality, it would be wise for them to speak up forcefully now — or explain if they have reasons for a change of heart. There’s talk of at least putting forward a resolution to support congestion pricing, which might not have much practical impact but could still have a meaningful bite, especially if board members appointed by Hochul weigh in.
  • Will the board meeting spur legal action? Advocates and others have talked of filing a lawsuit to force congestion pricing forward. They’ve been waiting to see what the MTA board will do.
  • What happens to the MTA’s $55 billion capital plan without the $15 billion in congestion pricing revenue? The board and public will hear more Wednesday regarding which projects might be axed. Which maintenance and so-called state-of-good-repair efforts can continue? What about accessibility, particularly elevators and ramps the authority was poised to build? We need answers soon.
  • What about the money? Hochul doesn’t seem to have a game plan for filling the capital gap. She has talked about dipping into general funds or combating fare evasion, but neither would come close to filling the hole or allow for the bonding of revenues as congestion pricing would. MTA officials have said the operating budget could be adversely affected, too. For example, it’s unlikely the MTA will see expected increases in fare revenue from more people switching to public transit. Also uncertain: the future of billions of dollars in key federal matching funds if the MTA can’t contribute to projects like the Second Avenue Subway.
  • What about the infrastructure? It’s installed — and will stay up for now. The cameras are on, testing the system, collecting data, and tracking trends. How long will that continue if the tolling plan isn’t implemented?

All eyes will be on MTA board members this week. This is their moment. They must meet it.

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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