The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently completed six public hearings on its proposed $23-a-day — $5,000-a-year — congestion tax that would crush hardworking families and commuters just for driving south of 60th Street in New York City. Residents from all over New Jersey and New York testified, and their strong opposition to MTA’s proposed tax couldn’t have been clearer. According to a detailed analysis of the hearings, 74% of those who testified opposed the MTA’s Congestion Tax on commuters.
Of the nearly three-quarters of the public who opposed:
16.3% opposed it because they are against another tax
11.3% believe the plan is a cash grab for the mismanaged MTA
10.3% believe it hurts marginalized communities, including hardworking middle class and lower-income families
The public pushback was overwhelming.
From nurses working the early shift to restaurant workers and Uber drivers working the late shift, many of the residents in New Jersey and across the outer boroughs have no other choice but to drive into New York City every day to make a living. For those who say, “why not just take public transit,” the answer is simple: For many people in northern New Jersey, there simply aren’t mass transit options. No buses or transits for a nurse or restaurant worker trying to make the early or late shift. There is a mass transit desert all across northern New Jersey.
I join an overwhelming majority of those who testified in saying that I strongly oppose New York’s outrageous Congestion Tax, not only because it will drain our families’ pocketbooks and hurt small businesses who are already struggling, but it also does nothing to actually help the environment or ease congestion. In fact, for those of us in northern New Jersey near bridges and tunnels, to those in the outer boroughs, and north of 60th in Manhattan, the Congestion Tax, by the MTA’s own admission, will lead to more traffic, trucks, and pollution and will particularly hurt lower-income families and children.
According to the MTA’s study, children in Bergen County near the I-95 George Washington Bridge and in the Bronx will face an increase of air pollutants and toxins. The plan will also cause traffic delays near the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and approaches westbound to the GW Bridge on I-95. It will also send trucks into northern New Jersey and the outer boroughs. The MTA even admitted their plan would constitute a disproportionately adverse effect on low-income drivers.
Now, from the MTA’s perspective, I can see where they’re coming from. They desperately need the cash to fill the whole of years of mismanagement, toll fare skippers, and poor urban planning. Despite the recent surge of federal COVID dollars, to the tune of $15 billion, their woeful mismanagement and lax enforcement of fare collection has led to a $2.5 billion budget deficit.
And what did they do with those billions of taxpayer dollars? They seem to have blown it, as if they were on an all-night bender.
It’s unbelievable how badly run the MTA is. In just the first three months of this year, they lost $119 million to fare evasion, heading toward $500 million just this year. These are self-inflicted losses that have nothing to do with the pandemic.
Not to mention, not too long ago, a former MTA manager pleaded guilty to obstructing an investigation into bid rigging and fraud. This is just one of countless investigations and issues at the MTA. It’s a bureaucratic, mismanaged swamp.
The last thing that a terribly mismanaged government authority — that’s faced indictments for fraud and is riddled with investigations — needs is more of our money. It’s time we audited the MTA that keeps pouring the dollars we’ve sent them into a black hole.
In the eyes of the MTA, who better to pay the bills than Jersey drivers and those from Staten Island and the outer boroughs. And the number is eye-poppingly insane.
Can you imagine a hardworking nurse, taxi or Uber driver from Jersey having to pay $23 dollars a day — or $5,000 a year — on top of the $16 dollars they pay to go over the GW Bridge? When you add gas and parking, that’s $20,000 a year.
Just read MTA spelled backward and it tells you exactly how the MTA looks at hardworking drivers and families right now: as their personal ATM.
To add insult to injury, every nickel of the new Congestion Tax imposed on hardworking Jersey families will go to New York. Not a cent will go back to the PATH train or NJ Transit to help the residents of New Jersey in any way. We have always had a cooperative relationship between New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority has shared revenue from the bridges and tunnels for more than a century. But not now.
I’m sorry to say to the MTA, New Jersey certainly is not your piggy bank.
And let me be clear. There’s no middle ground here. No matter how you look at it, every scenario the MTA released will whack drivers with a new tax. That’s why there’s been such an outcry of opposition — from taxies, Uber, Lyft; small businesses that will get whacked, and so many hardworking families.
Parents shouldn’t have to choose between spending money on their families or paying this absurd tax. Elderly and people with disabilities who have no choice but to drive because of their health should not be forced to travel on the inaccessible subway. And people should not be taxed for driving to receive lifesaving care at Beth Israel or NYU because they can’t risk being on public transportation. This is nothing more than a cash grab to fund the terribly mismanaged MTA.
I hope New York Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul are listening because our residents, from Gov. Phil Murphy to the city’s small business owners to taxi and Uber drivers and so many others all want the MTA to reverse course on their congestion tax plan.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer represents New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District and is co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus
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