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Congressman Jerrold Nadler Testimony to the MTA on the Central Business District Tolling, New York’s Congestion Pricing Program

I am pleased to submit comments regarding the implementation of the Central Business District Tolling Plan, also known as congestion pricing. As the Member of Congress representing New York’s 12th Congressional District, which begins in the south along 14th Street and therefore includes much of the tolling district, I am writing to express my strong support for Congestion Pricing.

I have long supported congestion pricing, a policy with many benefits, including reducing paralyzing vehicle traffic in the Central Business District, improving air quality in our city and region, and raising desperately needed capital funds to improve the public transit system that millions depend on. I am glad to see that we are close to implementation.

New York's subways, buses, and commuter rail systems are relied upon by the overwhelming majority of commuters from our state, and the vast majority of commuters from New Jersey, and the millions of tourists a year upon whom our economy depends. 85% of commuters use transit to commute to the CBD, with only 8% of commuters from New Jersey driving in and only 3% of New Yorkers driving into Manhattan and the Central Business District. More than 1.3 million people a day rely on transit to enter the Central Business District for work, as compared to 143,000 drivers. These commuters need a transit system that is reliable and efficient. Our transit system needs the funds that congestion pricing tolling will provide to modernize and upgrade to a state of good repair. It will pay for the installation of ADA-accessible elevators in our subway system, as well as for projects like the Second Avenue Subway and Penn Access, which will expand access for low-income communities of color to economic, health, and educational opportunities.

The exhaustive Environmental Assessment produced by the MTA shows without a doubt that it will benefit both New York City residents and all those who live in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Metropolitan region.  Congestion pricing will improve air quality in the region and reduce the economy-stifling traffic congestion in Manhattan's Central Business District. Current average vehicle speeds are around seven mph, often less, impeding emergency vehicles and slowing bus transit to a crawl.

One change that I do want to highlight is the proposal by the MTA to alter the implementation of mandated disability exemption.  I raised my concerns to the MTA that relying only on vehicles with a disability plate for exemption was burdensome and not workable.   I am pleased that the MTA listened and proposed the IDEP (Individual Disability Exemption Plan), which will allow any qualified disabled person to register one vehicle for an exemption. By legacying in all people already approved for Access-A-Ride with the MTA (approximately 170,000 people) and those qualified under the Department of Transportation’s Parking Permit for People with Disabilities program (approximately 24,000 people), the process for disabled people who already face too many transportation hurdles should be relatively frictionless. This process will also reduce fraud in the system.

This historic policy was never going to be easy to implement. But once again, New Yorkers have persisted, overcome obstacles, and will set an example for cities nationwide. Congestion pricing will become a model across the country for improving streets and street safety, reducing congestion, reducing pollution, and prioritizing mass transit.

I therefore urge the MTA Board to adopt the new tolling structure proposal. I appreciate your consideration of my remarks.

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