Is Congestion Pricing Necessary or a Cash Grab? The TWU President Weighs In

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Congestion pricing is coming to New York City. Transit experts and politicians are examining how to implement the plan that would charge drivers who enter Manhattan below 60th Street starting next spring. But is it really the cure-all for the financially strapped MTA to increase ridership and clean up the environment? Speaking on 710 WOR’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning program, Transit Workers Union International President John Samuelsen says not necessarily; the MTA is using congestion pricing primarily as a cash grab.

“The city’s congested,” Samuelsen told Berman and Riedel. “Public transit is the beautiful alternative to congestion and to greening New York City, and congestion pricing should have been a generational event that reduced congestion, greened New York City. And I don’t think it’s going to accomplish that, at least the way it should’ve, primarily because they’re not putting out targeted service that will lure drivers out of vehicles and onto public transit. That’s the primary objection that I have.”

Proponents of congestion pricing cite London as an example that proves it works, but Samuelsen contends that the MTA isn’t following the blueprint that worked across the pond. “London increased the amount of bus service up front by almost 20%. They put out 300 targeted buses that targeted commuters that they wanted to lure out of their vehicles and onto public transit. 300 buses in London is an enormous amount of new service… and it’s not happening here, and it’s very unfortunate… this is now about revenue; there’s not an effort under way here to actually change driver behavior.”

Despite his skepticism, Samuelsen does realize the MTA needs some funding to keep New Yorkers moving around town. “I’m highly critical of the MTA. Every time somebody says it’s a bottomless money pit, somebody tries to steal our medical benefits and kill our pensions… Certainly there’s a huge amount of waste in the MTA, there’s redundancy, they hire all kinds of outside consultants and contractors; there’s a swamp of that going on that shouldn’t go on, but this money is going into capital investment. Capital investment is needed. It’s desperately needed in the system.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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