Congestion pricing has passed and in the next 21 months the MTA’s Traffic Mobility Review Board will have to iron out the details behind the legislation, but in the meantime State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) has opened up about being previously undecided on the measure to ultimately voting yes on what he called a “necessary evil.”
“I voted no for congestion pricing when I was back in the City Council because I didn’t think it was a good plan then,” said Addabbo. “The situation has changed and 15 years later there has been no improvement in the MTA. The service and the infrastructure actually got worse.”
Addabbo served in the City Council from 2001 to 2008 when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in office. Currently, he represents State Senate District 15, which includes parts of the Rockaways, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, and sections of South Ozone Park, Woodside, and Ridgewood.
“I wasn’t a fan of congestion pricing initially, but you can’t sit on the sidelines and wait for something magical to happen and over the years there have been increased funding for the MTA, but at times we still see deplorable service.”
The promise of a review board and having access to them helped to sway his decision for congestion pricing.
“At least this time we have a say on how it is going to go forward and we formed this review board that is going to look at all the implications and all the intricacies and details leading up to congestion pricing,” said Addabbo. “I’m hoping that in a couple of years from now when it gets implemented that it had a direct benefit and I can say I did something good towards improving the MTA service.”
In 2021, congestion pricing will charge drivers approximately $12 and commercial drivers approximately $25 to enter Manhattan’s Central Business District south of 60th Street in order to generate $15 billion to fund MTA improvements.
“It’s a direct funding stream that is going to raise $1 billion a year and I really didn’t see another alternative,” said Addabbo. “To those who said ‘no’ to congestion pricing, I asked them for an alternative other than drastically raising the fares of the buses and subways.”
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) staunchly opposed congestion pricing before the April 1st vote for the measure and proudly voted no on the thinly outlined bill.
“I cannot vote for this bill because I’ve been fighting various congestion pricing proposals for over ten years going back to Mayor Bloomberg. Of all these proposals, this is by far the worst,” said Weprin. “It gives a total blank check to the [Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority]. We do not know how much we are going to be taxing our constituents whether it’s going to be $10 or $20 or $30. Is there a cap on it? Is the zone going to be changed? How often will it go up? There are so many unanswered questions in this.”
Addabbo considers his district’s transportation situation too “deplorable” to wait for other alternatives.
“The farther south you go – and I represent the southernmost part of Queens – we just cry for better and more improved service.”
Addabbo intends on being in constant contact with the review board in order to keep his constituents up-to-date on what is going on with congestion pricing and hopes that there is room in funding for the A-train service to be expanded in his district.
“My residents pay a lot to ride the subway and to ride the bus and all they are looking for reliable service in Queens,” said Addabbo. “They are not looking to be served coffee and lunch on transit, just a reliable service and that’s the minimum the MTA could provide them.”