At the busy Jamaica Center–Parsons/Archer subway entrance, residents, union members, and environmental advocates called on the State Legislature to support congestion pricing as part of a comprehensive plan to fund the MTA.
Congestion pricing is estimated to generate $15 billion for the MTA over the next 10 years.
“This will get us to almost half of the $40 billion we need to fix our subways and buses,” said Riders Alliance member Natasha Saunders.
This sentiment was shared by attendees like, who expressed frustration with the current state of the MTA, saying
“Our public transit system is broken,” added Daisy Chung, deputy director of ALIGN. “Millions of people in New York depend on a reliable public transportation system to get to their jobs. When the subways stop working and the bus is going five miles per hour, our economy stops working.
“There’s talk about tolls on cars,” she added, “but what about the human toll of a crumbling transit system if we do nothing?”
The human toll, according to J.P. Patafio, vice president of Transport Workers Union 100, is paid highest by those who rely most on public transportation.
“They can’t afford where you have lanes crowded and you're missing your transfer points, because if you get there late and you miss that day’s work, that’s a real consequence,” he said.
Other attendees focused on congestion pricing’s positive impact on the environment.
“Transportation is the number one source of carbon emissions in New York State,” said Ya-Ting Liu of the Environmental Defense Fund. “If we want to get to a clean energy future and combat climate change, the only way to do that is to invest in public transit and make sure that we green our buses.”
Currently, Queens’s bus fleet consists of a mixture of hybrid and older diesel buses, and for senior residents like Jeanne C. Majors, these buses can be difficult to board.
Samuel Santaella said the current course of the MTA, with its fare hikes and slow buses, is detrimental from a personal economic standpoint.
“Not only is the upcoming fare hike severely consequential to me, but without congestion pricing, reportedly, they may need to raise the fares up to 30 percent,” she said. “At that point, the only transportation I can afford is cycling.”
“The whole country is watching New York City right now,” Liu said. “We say to Albany legislators, do not fail six million-plus New Yorkers on this. Pass congestion pricing, let’s get it done.”