Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: Congestion pricing would help bring City’s mass transit into the 21st century

July 18, 2018 By Jack Ryan For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Image courtesy of Cagle Cartoons

The last thing anyone wants is a new tax or a new toll. Living in Queens or Brooklyn is already expensive enough. Nevertheless, the proposal for congestion pricing for cars and trucks entering lower Manhattan appears to be the best solution we have seen so far for modernizing the city’s aging transit system.

Under congestion pricing, drivers would pay a toll if they enter Manhattan south of 60th Street.

The funds raised by congestion pricing would go to pay for MTA’s Fast Forward project, a plan to modernize the city’s subway and bus systems during the next 15 years. Fast Forward would replace old, outdated subway signals, redesign the city’s bus network and make most of the subway stations wheelchair-accessible. 

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In addition, the congestion pricing, as the name implies, would alleviate to some degree the congestion in lower Manhattan. Driving into Manhattan from New Jersey, Long Island or Westchester would become a luxury and frankly, we have no problem with that — so long as there is a mass transit alternative.

The need to repair and modernize the transit system became obvious over the last year with the massive delays coupled with crumbling infrastructure such as the ceiling collapse above the platforms of the 4 and 5 trains at Borough Hall. No one was hurt but it is embarrassing that a station this important should fall to this level of disrepair.

Adding to the mess, tiles are missing from the mosaic spelling out the name Borough Hall and paint chips, likely containing lead, are falling from the walls.

And, as Raanan Geberer noted in a recent editorial in this paper, the situation is no better in Queens where the MTA is just beginning to address problems at stations on the No. 7 Line. Even if the Mets are a sorry sight this season, the train that gets fans to Citi Field shouldn’t be.

It makes no sense to dazzle tourists with gleaming skyscrapers if they have to watch for lead paint chips and collapsing ceilings when they take mass transit. Residents of Brooklyn and Queens who commute shouldn’t have to contend with delays and long waits on ugly platforms.

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So what can be done to get the mass transit system in the greatest city in the world on a par with places like Bogota, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Singapore, Seoul and dozens of other cities with gleaming transit systems?

Last week, an organization made up of the Riders Alliance, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York League of Conservation Voters, Regional Plan Association, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, StreetsPAC, Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released a policy policy statement, called the Transportation and Equity State Agenda, that if nothing else should spark an intelligent conversation at City Hall and in Albany.

The future of mass transit should be a major issue in the Sept. 13 primaries and in the Nov. 7 general election. After a summer of listening to the mayor and governor taking turns saying, “Don’t blame me,” and years of treading water, the time has come for serious plan.

We agree with John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, who said in a statement. “These days, no one should be able to run for office in New York without telling their constituents how they’re going to fix the subway system and make buses more reliable. This transportation agenda is a ready-made package that every candidate for state-level office should adopt, and then we the people have to hold them to their promises when they’re in office,” he said in a statement.

According to the coalition, the congestion surcharge on taxi trips in Manhattan below 96th Street enacted March 2018 and beginning in January 2019 will primarily fund Subway Action Plan maintenance begun in 2017; additional revenue will support outer borough transit improvements.

The proposed toll on trucks and private cars entering the Manhattan Central Business District below 60th Street is expected to generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue that would support transit modernization.

—Jack Ryan, editorial board director


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