Op-ed: Congestion pricing would do much more harm than good for New Yorkers

congestion pricing
Assemblyman David Weprin
Photo courtesy of NYS Assembly

Like many residents throughout the five boroughs and across the New York Metro Area, I was pleasantly surprised by Governor Kathy Hochul’s decision to “indefinitely pause” the implementation of Congestion Pricing. Rather than seeing this as a cynical calculation, as some have alleged, I see the Governor’s decision as a deeply pragmatic response to the crescendo of public concerns that I and many others have raised for years. As the countdown to the June 30 implementation date neared, everyday New Yorkers did what we do best: we spoke up for ourselves and said we won’t accept a bad deal! I applaud Governor Hochul for having the courage not just to listen to us but to take a tough stand against this misguided policy.

My opposition to the Central Business District Tolling Program – commonly known as “Congestion Pricing” – has been long-standing and unwavering for almost two decades. I fought the policy as a member of the New York City Council, and I am still in the fight as the representative for New York’s 24th State Assembly District. Much of my district in Queens is a public transit desert and will be one of the most adversely impacted by the proposed congestion pricing tax. A trip into Manhattan can take hours and often requires multiple bus and subway lines, whereas driving cuts that time in half. Many of my constituents have no viable transportation options other than driving. Public transit must be improved, but even if the fiscal windfall from congestion pricing came in tomorrow for capital project expenses, it would leave everyone in limbo between inflated costs to drive and non-existent transit improvements that will take years to complete.

I served as the Chair of the Assembly Task Force for People with Disabilities and have seen firsthand the challenges that the disability community faces. They will be left behind, along with senior citizens and the ill, if they are priced out of driving options. The MTA, by its own admission, is largely ADA inaccessible despite years of commitments to invest in accessible options. Security breakdowns are all too common in our public transit system, and even those who can use the subway may be disinclined to do so out of safety concerns. Congestion Pricing has been sold to the public as a silver bullet to reduce traffic, but even the MTA has admitted that Congestion Pricing will simply push drivers to other corners of the City, slamming the streets and communities in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx with increased traffic and pollution. And these changes are almost guaranteed to be permanent. Ask yourself: when was the last time they removed a toll from a bridge? When was the last time the MTA lowered a base fare for the subway?

Congestion pricing is anti-driver and anti-business: taxi drivers, truck drivers, app-based providers and millions of our neighbors from across all five boroughs will be adversely impacted. The financial burdens associated with Congestion Pricing will shut down businesses across New York City or force them to pass on the added costs to consumers. Restaurants, theaters, concert halls, tourism and the entire business ecosystem depend on the financial support of outer borough residents. We have already seen the impact that supply-chain disruptions can have on our businesses, all while we grapple with record inflation and an ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Simply put, New Yorkers cannot afford the imposition of this latest financial burden.

As I’ve traveled to and from Manhattan these past months, I’ve watched with trepidation as more and more equipment is installed along our roads and bridges to track and tax our travel below 60th Street. After years of financial instability, mismanagement and broken promises, I simply don’t accept the MTA’s rhetoric, and neither do the vocal majority of New Yorkers who are standing up together to oppose this policy. The public comment sessions the MTA hosted were a joke, a pantomime of public accountability while they carried on as they wanted. Meanwhile, organizations and advocacy groups have essentially been pitted against each other to bargain and beg for exemptions – the unspoken logic being that open opposition to Congestion Pricing could hurt their chances for a carve-out.

Last week, during the final days of the 2024 Legislative Session, I gathered with like-minded lawmakers to voice our skepticism of Congestion Pricing. Once again budget shortfalls will plague the MTA, once again their frivolous planning has put them in crisis and once again it’s up to everyday New Yorkers to foot the bill. As the Governor and the Legislature discuss options to address this latest disaster at the MTA – an unaccountable and untrustworthy caretaker of the public’s funds – I will continue to stand up for my neighbors and voice my clear and consistent position: No Congestion Pricing!


David I. Weprin is the Assemblymember for New York’s 24th Assembly District, which includes the neighborhoods of Richmond Hill, Briarwood, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Hollis and Oakland Gardens.