What Hochul’s Move to Pause Congestion Pricing in NYC Says About Leadership

What Hochul’s Move to Pause Congestion Pricing in NYC Says About Leadership

You may recall that, a year ago, M.T.A. officials also said that they would finally fix Penn Station. They swore last spring that by now they would produce an architectural design sufficiently evolved — and pin down local funding reliable and substantial enough — to apply for crucial federal money to redo the Western Hemisphere’s busiest and most appalling transit hub.

Hochul’s “pause,” denying the M.T.A. the proceeds from tolls that were to have supplied that local funding, leaves this promise in limbo, too.

Without any Plan B, the governor sticks New York taxpayers with a roughly half-billion-dollar tab for camera gantries and other equipment already installed to monitor vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street. That’s not counting the $390 million the Independent Budget Office estimates rush-hour subway holdups cost riders each year, or the untold health effects of gridlock and idling vehicles, all of which Hochul leaves New Yorkers to deal with.

She has meanwhile alienated groups as diverse as the Real Estate Board of New York and New York Communities for Change, the environmental and social justice organization. Congestion pricing may not have polled well with suburban and other voters who drive into Midtown, but it united an exceptional coalition, including business leaders and community activists, who understood its broad economic and environmental implications.

The governor had it right back in December. The bottom line is leadership.

It was poor leadership, as Tom Wright and Kate Slevin of the Regional Plan Association recalled in a guest essay for The Times last week, that accounts for the fiasco of the Gateway tunnel delay, a telling precedent. Back in 2010, New Jersey’s then-governor, Chris Christie, derailed a $12.4 billion plan to build a train tunnel under the Hudson River. The economies of New Jersey, New York and the rest of the nation rely in no small part on a pair of broken-down, century-old tunnels strained to capacity that create a transit bottleneck for the entire Eastern Seaboard. Christie went along with the New Jersey voters who didn’t want to help pay for a new one.

More than a dozen years later, the tunnel, renamed Gateway, remains a necessity, and now will take at least another decade to complete, at a cost of $16 billion. The delay jeopardized “the region’s competitiveness, economy and environment,” as Wright and Slevin point out.

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