It may be another two years before New York City can toll downtown Manhattan car trips, according to the MTA.
Originally scheduled to start in January, the MTA’s congestion pricing program “could be delayed until 2023,” officials wrote in the agency’s Nov. 24 quarterly disclosure to bondholders.
The document pinned the two-year delay on the continued absence of a clear answer from Federal Highway Administration on what type of environmental review is required to institute the new fees.
In February, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that FHA’s obstinance showed President Trump was holding the program “hostage.”
Transit advocates expressed concern at the MTA’s apparent pessimism about the program’s prospects under the Biden administration.
“The MTA is acting much too complacently. Don’t just tell us your worst-case scenario — tell us what you’ll do to get this vital program up and running as quickly as possible,” said Ben Fried, of the Manhattan-based think tank TransitCenter.
“This should be a layup for Governor Cuomo to score a quick win with the incoming White House and help shore up the MTA’s fiscal position. With a friendly administration there’s no reason this needs to take more than two years.”
Passed in 2019 as the perennially cash-choked MTA sought funding for its $51.5 billion modernization plan, congestion pricing would net $1 billion annually for mass transit.
That money is even more crucial now, as the agency stares down massive deficits thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The transit system needs billions of dollars,” Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein said.
“We were told a change in administration was the most significant thing that could happen. It is happening, and we need congestion pricing to move as quickly as possible.”
An MTA rep insisted transit officials are still optimistic.
“The MTA is still pushing for the $12 billion we need in additional emergency federal funding to avoid having to enact a series of draconian service and employee cuts, toll and fare hikes, and a continued freeze of our capital plan,” spokesman Ken Lovett said in a statement.
“While we’re more hopeful [congestion pricing] will move forward under a Biden administration, we continue to await clarity from the feds on what type of environmental review will be required that will help determine when the program will be enacted.”