The MTA Tries To Put the Squeeze on Governor Hochul

A ham-fisted pressure campaign is the latest effort to extort billions from taxpayers.

AP/Bebeto Matthews
Traffic at lower Manhattan. AP/Bebeto Matthews

Is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority so enraged by the cancellation of its congestion pricing toll scheme that it’s now seeking to punish New Yorkers? That’s the concern raised by a New York Post report that the MTA is halting construction projects at two rail stations “to put pressure on” Governor Hochul for pausing the “unpopular congestion pricing plan.” Even worse, the work was meant to make the stations more accessible to the handicapped.

The construction halt suspends improvements at these decades-old Long Island Rail Road stations and means riders with disabilities face an indefinite wait for a new elevator and for ramps to allow them to more easily ride the rails. If there’s any truth to the Post’s report that the work stoppage is an attempt to pressure Mrs. Hochul, and we have no reason to doubt it, it offers but the latest evidence of the lack of accountability at the transit agency.

The MTA’s push for congestion pricing, after all, was an attempt to extort $1 billion a year from New York-area drivers — just for the privilege of entering Manhattan’s business district. Never mind the fact that New York, which is still struggling to recover jobs and lost economic momentum after the pandemic, needs all the visitors and business it can get. Even more galling, if the MTA were managed properly, it wouldn’t need the congestion pricing spondulix at all.

Feature the fact that the MTA is losing more than $700 million a year because the agency is unwilling to enforce the rules against fare evasion lest it be called racist. The agency, too, wastes hundreds of millions a year on outmoded policies like using subway conductors — a position jettisoned in most other transit systems — just to open and close doors, the chronic misuse of overtime, and inefficient work practices to placate its powerful labor unions.

When one adds it all up, the cost savings and lost revenue exceeds the amount that the MTA hoped to generate from its congestion pricing tolls. So when left-wing eco-militants, anti-car transit activists, and other liberal opponents of prosperity howl about Mrs. Hochul’s “betrayal” and even accuse her of breaking the law by halting the tolls, their cries of indignation ring hollow. That isn’t stopping the MTA from trying to squeeze Mrs. Hochul.

Days after she halted the tolls, the MTA ordered contractor Forte Construction “to stop all work associated with the Forest Hills and Hollis Stations” on the LIRR, the Post reports. The contractor explains that its understanding is that the order “is a result of lack of funding due to the pause in congestion pricing.” The move “delays the necessary station improvements,” Forte says, and “jeopardizes the many construction jobs depending on this project.”

To Mrs. Hochul’s credit, she’s ignoring these gripes — and the MTA’s pressure campaign — based on her own sense of what the voters think. Her “interactions with business owners and diner patrons,” the Times reported, gives the governor “a real pulse on what New Yorkers are thinking.” She urged the congestion toll advocates to “go to the next diner with me,” the Times reported. “Sit with me and watch the people come over and thank me.”

The New York Sun

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