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NYC to ‘indefinitely’ pause Manhattan congestion pricing scheme

Governor Kathy Hochul made the shocking announcement this week.

Anna Rahmanan
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Anna Rahmanan
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Earlier this week, Governor Kathy Hochul shocked New Yorkers and local lawmakers by pausing the much-talked-about Manhattan congestion pricing plan that was to go into effect in just a few weeks.

"After careful consideration I have come to the difficult decision that implementing the planned congestion pricing system risks too many unintended consequences," Hochul said in a pre-taped message on Wednesday. "I have directed the M.T.A. to indefinitely pause the program."

RECOMMENDED: Congestion pricing in NYC: everything you need to know, including start date, exemptions and a map

The scheme, until now scheduled to kick off on June 30, would charge drivers a toll when entering Manhattan's central business district, defined as the area below 60th Street.

Although the plan wasn't without its critics, the effort put behind it (it was said it would bring in $15 billion annually for the MTA) and the announcements regarding its impending arrival make Hochul's 11th hour decision very hard to understand.

Hochul explained the rationale behind her decision in the pre-taped recording earlier this week, mostly focusing on the economic repercussions of a would-be toll.

"I understand the financial pressures you're facing," Hochul said. "I cannot add another burden. [...] Let’s be real: A $15 charge may not seem like a lot to someone who has the means, but it can break the budget of a hard-working middle-class household."

Although her reasoning touched upon the major complaints that locals have been voicing throughout the past few months, many found the Governor's message to be evasive and not really touch upon the politics behind the move. 

Why is the Manhattan congestion pricing plan on hold?

According to ABC News, Hochul's decision was spurred by two different factors. Economically, she found Manhattan businesses had "not fully recovered from the pandemic."

In addition, Democrats are predicted to have a hard time winning House races in the NYC suburbs where the congestion pricing plan was not popular, the outlet says.

What is the reaction to Governor Hochul's decision to pause the congestion pricing plan?

The public was pretty surprised about the last-minute change, mainly because the congestion pricing plan has been in the works for half a decade and was already in motion by the time Hochul made her announcement (some cameras had already been installed around town).

Public transit gurus in particular seems to be frustrated about the pause, mostly because the scheme was meant to relieve some of the agency's financial burdens.

"Congestion pricing is a $15 billion lifeline for the MTA—critical funding that will be lost if the program is stalled," said Elizabeth Adams, the deputy executive director for public affairs for Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit that advocates for public transit, said in an official statement. "The next time your train is late, your bus is trapped in traffic, your subway station is still missing an elevator, you know who to blame: Governor Kathy Hochul."

For what it's worth, in her recorded address this week, Hochul mentioned that the state had set aside budget for the MTA in case the congestion pricing plan didn't go through.  

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