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City Congestion Charge to Bring Back Buses


After four years of delays, congestion pricing has been given the green light, but now some city lawmakers say more money is needed to improve public transport. Today state legislators launched the ‘Get Congestion Pricing Right’ campaign, which aims to cut down traffic and bring in more buses to an ailing system. Our reporter Marine Saint went along for the ride.

MARINE SAINT, BYLINE: The bus system in New York City isn’t just slow- a 2017 city comptroller’s report says it's the worst in the country. But with less traffic expected in New York City once congestion pricing kicks in, legislators and advocates want to make the most of this opportunity to boost the bus system. 

ZOHRAN MAMDANI: We need better service, more reliable service, more affordable service. 

SAINT: That’s Assembly member Zohran Mamdani. He’ll be introducing the ‘Get Congestion pricing right’ legislation in the assembly. 

MAMDANI: This proposal is a proposal for every New Yorker who sits on buses that go eight miles an hour, the slowest in the country. 

SAINT: Mamdani and other politicians backing the proposal are asking the mayor for $90 million dollars, they say the money would be used to boost the city’s aging transit system. They say the MTA has buses sitting idle and their plan would use those vehicles and expand a limited pilot program that offered free bus rides and was introduced last year. 

MAMDANI:  We are on the precipice of the state budget, and it is in that budget that we could secure this $90 million dollars. This is about thinking of the existing stock, the existing network.

SAINT: From June it will cost downtown drivers $15 dollars to head lower than 60th street.  With this controversial congestion charge and varying subway access across the boroughs, Senator Michael Gianaris hopes more New Yorkers choose to catch a ride on a city bus. 

MICHAEL GIANARIS: Right now the bus system in New York city is a system of last resort for people- people get on the bus because they don’t have any other option- not because they choose to. 

SAINT: MTA’s CEO Janno Lieber says the city is ready to make the planned changes. Like introducing more bus lanes across the central business district. He gestures to the newly installed toll cameras above 60th street.

JANNO LIEBER: The arms are right here. The camera system is right here at 60th Street. We’re gonna be ready to go.

SAINT: Lieber says that the MTA is however still in talks over the $90 million budget demand. According to Lieber, the proposal will only work with Mayor Adams’ backing. Adams was previously a supporter of improving the bus system. But now politicians are no longer sure of his support. 

LIEBER: I love Bus Mayor Eric Adams. I want him back.

SAINT: Across the block from the press conference, regular rider Diana Beckford is waiting to see if this proposal follows through. Beckford would welcome the extra buses but she’s also skeptical. 

DIANA BECKFORD: Let's see what happens- the whole MTA. I'm not satisfied with it. The subway or the buses. And it's just like, clogged. It takes sometimes 20 minutes.

SAINT: Mayor Adams’ backing is the final stop for pushing through the extra transit funding. For now, like a lot of New Yorkers, Beckford will continue to wait. Marine Saint, Columbia Radio News.

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