6/24/24: Primary Elections Tomrorow (Congestion Pricing Positions)

6/25: Primary Election Day (Congestion Pricing Positions)

Tomorrow is Primary Election Day. A vital political topic for our region is congestion pricing. As you probably heard, it was supposed to start on June 30th, but Governor Hochul put a "pause" on it. That is a bad move for transportation policy and the environment.

Since the Governor's announcement, Bike Tarrytown has been pushing elected officials and candidates to implement congestion pricing on time. Here is what our local candidates had to say on the topic.

For the State Assembly race, we got the two main candidates to provide statements for you.

MaryJane Shimsky

Any alternative to congestion pricing needs to solve the congestion/pollution problems, and must also find a funding source to provide assistance to the MTA — and if done it right, will also insure that Upstate's transit/transportation needs are better addressed.

Tom Abinanti

I voted for congestion pricing because I thought it was the right thing for the environment, mass transit and our region. I stand by my vote. I am always willing to listen to better ideas on every subject. I await the Governors proposal on improving Metro North, paying for improvements to the MTA system and reducing congestion in place congestion pricing.

See the League of Women Voters of the Rivertowns' forum for more on these candidates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNJvK24bUGw

In the heated contest for the House of Representatives in the district that covers the southern part of Westchester County, including the southern bit of Tarrytown, Spectrum NY1 held a debate (https://youtu.be/_Ft-975vGXs?t=796)

George Latimer

Well, I think at this stage of the game, it's the Governor's decision to go forward or not. I had objections to it when I served in the State Legislature when the program came up 10, 15 years ago. As it stands now I am not in the State Legislature, so those are decisions made by my colleagues there. The missing element is this... If the core purpose of congestion pricing is to fund money into the MTA, the most logical thing to do is to put time and energy and effort at the federal level of government to get more aid from the federal government to help fund the MTA.

Even congestion pricing, if it generates the maximum amount of money, will not be enough to get the MTA out of their fiscal problems. It's capital needs that they have, not only to run the subway system, but to run the commuter rail system. So, I think the real question while we're debating back and forth about congestion pricing, that is one element of funding. We need to have a federal commitment to mass transit in metropolitan areas that grows; and that is where Jamaal and others need to have stepped up to get that federal government level higher, and I would do that if I go to Washington.

Moderator: Do you support the pause?

Latimer: Well, the governor made the pause. It's not up for debate. Now the question is what do you do in light of the pause, not just comment on the pause. The response to this has to be to try to get federal money to close the gap. There seems to be no other way to do it. And that has to be where our total focus and energy goes.

Jamaal Bowman

The MTA has been a nightmare for several decades. It has been underfunded for several decades. It has been underwater for several decades. And I applaud the Governor's pushing for a solution to try to fund the MTA, but more importantly, to deal with the issue of climate justice. This is about climate justice. This is about environmental justice. This is about air quality. So, the pause is the Governor's decision, but we need to have a larger conversation about climate change and climate justice. My opponent is wrong once again, because since I've gotten into Congress, I've been an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal for cities, original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal for Housing, and I am the author of the Green New Deal for Public Schools. As we talk about infrastructure, we need to align it with our climate goals, to get off of fossil fuels by 2030. We also led a letter to Governor Hochul, Congressional letter, to support her work in passing the BPRA here at the local level. That's real results.

Moderator: So let me try this again, did you support the original version of congestion pricing?

Bowman: I had some concerns about it.

Moderator: Do you support the pause?

Bowman: I need further conversation and further clarity.

While our State Senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, does not face a primary challenger, here is what was in their newsletter emailed on 6/11.

At the end of the legislative session, the Governor announced an indefinite halt to congestion pricing in Manhattan’s Central Business District. Our Conference believes in a thorough and thoughtful legislative process, especially for significant policy changes impacting millions of New Yorkers.

Any alternatives to congestion pricing must address congestion and environmental issues, as well as the financial needs of the MTA. Changes to significant policies like congestion pricing require careful consideration and input from all stakeholders to ensure they are fair and effective. With only two days of the legislative session remaining, that could not be achieved.

It’s crucial for the MTA to have the resources to maintain and improve our transit system. That’s why we’ve provided record funding, demonstrating our continuing support for public transportation. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to determine the best path forward.

We heard a disappointing clip from Mondaire Jones on the radio regarding congestion pricing. (Jones represented middle and northern Westchester, as well as Rockland County, in the prior Congress. And they're running this year to re-take the seat.) They said something along the lines of "the congestion fee would be bad for hard working people." So we emailed Mondaire the following:

What about the hard working people who take transit? They comprise 73% of NY 17 commuters heading to the congestion pricing zone. Overall, just 2% of your commuting constituents would pay the congestion fee.

The congestion fee is crucial for paying the debt service on the capital improvements necessary to make our transit system reliable. Debt service is already a significant part of the MTA's budget (due to prior government underinvestment in transit).

Who are you representing when you oppose congestion pricing?

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