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Halt ‘congestion’ plan

New York Teacher

By law, the environmental impact of a new policy or project must be considered before it can take effect. Yet the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s congestion pricing plan for New York City, which is scheduled to take effect this spring, did not receive a comprehensive environmental review by local, state and federal agencies.

In their zeal to implement a project that promises to generate about $1 billion a year in revenue, agency officials failed to consider how congestion pricing simply shifts traffic and pollution to the outer boroughs and New Jersey.

The UFT filed a federal lawsuit because we could not stand by as our members and the communities where they live and work are hurt.

The plan’s authors say the extra $15 toll for cars to enter Manhattan below 60th Street will reduce traffic and air pollution in the zone by encouraging some drivers to switch to mass transit. But the less-wealthy communities that ring the protected zone are bound to experience more congestion, pollution, health and economic problems when many commuters start cutting through their neighborhoods, idling on more congested roads and parking their cars in surrounding neighborhoods that lack the infrastructure to handle the higher volume.

Everyone deserves the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards. That’s what environmental justice means. Yet the Bronx, Staten Island, and Nassau and Bergen counties will see increases in all pollutant categories, the MTA and the Federal Highway Administration concluded in their abbreviated environmental assessment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recommended more robust air-quality modeling, “especially given the historical environmental justice concerns and cumulative impacts to the affected communities.”

The MTA needs to put the brakes on congestion pricing until it deals with the unintended consequences of its plan.

UFT sues over ‘congestion’ plan

The UFT, along with seven New York City public school teachers and the Staten Island borough president, filed a federal lawsuit on Jan. 4 seeking to halt the implementation of congestion pricing in Manhattan. The suit charges that the plan’s potential negative impact on traffic and air quality in the surrounding areas was not adequately studied, and the “regressive and discriminatory pricing” of the tolls violates the constitutional rights of the individual plaintiffs.