Congestion-pricing hearings are being planned from midSeptember to midOctober, all virtual:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York State Department of Transportation (NYS DOT) and New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) today announced they will hold 13 public meetings between Thursday, Sept. 23, and Wednesday, Oct. 13, on the proposed Central Business District Tolling Program (CBDTP), also known as congestion pricing. The meetings, which will all be held virtually, will allow the public in a 28-county region in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey to learn more about the initiative and offer comments.
There is a Web site for information on the project. The 13 hearings are broken down by region, with 3 specifically devoted to environmental-justice (EJ) issues. New Jersey’s dates are September 24, 10 a.m. to 12 noon; October 4, 6 to 8 p.m.; and October 12, 6 to 8 p.m. (EJ).
There are also 2 new phone lines. The first, (646) 252-7440, would allow the public to leave comments or questions about the proposed program. The second, (646) 252-6777, allows the public to hear a brief description of the project, to register to speak at the public meetings, or request in advance language or American Sign Language services, or request language at least five days in advance of each meeting. American Sign Language services and CART Captioning will be provided for all meetings.
An extensive report on radio station WNYC (January 17) by Andrea Bernstein explores a number of events involving Port Authority budgets instigated by the New Jersey appointees on the Port Authority, notably Bill Baroni and David Wildstein.
The report says that the decision by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to kill the ARC trans-Hudson rail tunnel several years ago was not done for the reasons Christie outlined, which involved a sudden realization that the tunnel might cost New Jersey far more than budgeted. Instead, it was done to enable critical road repairs to be done with the $2 billion Port Authority contribution to ARC, notably for repairs to the Pulaski Skyway. The connection to Port Authority facilities was justified by saying that the Skyway improvements would aid traffic flow to the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels. Diverting the $2 billion allowed Gov. Christie to avoid an increase in the state gasoline tax, which the report said would be political suicide for a potential Republican presidential candidate.
Other projects using Port Authority funds include
- the raising of the Bayonne Bridge, which the report said was a condition by New Jersey to agree to World Trade Center reconstruction;
- purchase of a military terminal in Bayonne, which the report says allowed the city of Bayonne to avoid bankruptcy that would have been politically devastating to the state and its officials; and
- reconstruction of the Harrison PATH station. The report hinted that all of these projects were instrumental in securing endorsement of Gov. Christie’s re-election bid by the mayors involved.
The report also asserted that toll increases approved by the Port Authority were said to be needed for World Trade Center reconstruction, but that the real reason was the additional projects needed by New Jersey to avoid gas tax increases. Further, the report said that the scenario of the toll increases was that Gov. Christie’s representatives at the Port Authority planned the increases and the Authority announced them, Govs. Christie and Cuomo of New York then professed outrage at the size of the increases, and the Port Authority then scaled them back. The report says all of this was an orchestrated rollout, which allowed the governors to say that there were no tax increases, as tolls, they contended, are not taxes. The Port Authority increases were not confined to motorists, as PATH rapid-transit fares were also increased.
There was also reporting on past testimony in Washington by Mr. Baroni before the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) regarding the toll increases. Baroni sidestepped answering Lautenberg’s questions by instead raising the fact that Lautenberg for years had a free EZ-Pass for use on Port Authority facilities, and citing the number of times the Senator had used it. Baroni also had a thick black binder he was reading from, which the WNYC report suggested was full of other “dirt” to use against Sen. Lautenberg.
The New Jersey Transit Board of Directors voted to raise peak-hour and commuter-rail fares, as well as interstate bus fares, by 25%. Off-peak rail fares will be increased by 47%, although some will increase by as much as 64%. There wil also be some cuts in rail service, including several trains on the M&E and Montclair-Boonton Lines.
NJT management cut back on its original proposal to raise local bus fares from $1.35 to $1.70, so the new local bus fare will be $1.50. Planned cuts in bus service will not be as severe as originally planned, including the retention of several bus routes in Morris County that had been scheduled for elimination.
The Lackawanna Coalition and other rail advocates had opposed the steep fare increase, claiming that it was unfair to implement the largest rail fare increase in NJT’s history while user fees paid by motorists and truckers at the pump or the toll booth will not increase at all.
Several members of the Lackawanna Coalition made statements concerning the issue at legislative hearings, NJT hearings, and the Board meeting at which the fare increases and service cuts were implemented.