On Thursday, September 28th, ahead of a pivotal meeting by an MTA panel scheduled for Monday, October 2nd, major corporations and nonprofits unveiled a substantial lobbying endeavor regarding the imminent congestion pricing in New York City. Entities such as Lyft, Uber, UPS, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have been engaged in advocacy efforts for months, with the objective of influencing the tolling structures and exemptions associated with this landmark program.
Over the course of the summer, tens of thousands of dollars have been spent on lobbying, with these organizations making their cases to government officials regarding the toll charges and who should be exempted from them. The stakes are high as the tolls, costing up to $23 per entry into Manhattan south of 60th Street, represent a substantial new expense for many companies. For instance, UPS had paid the city over $20 million in parking fines in 2019.
Rachael Fauss, a senior analyst at Reinvent Albany, highlighted that the intense lobbying indicates special interests are attempting to exempt themselves from the tolls, which would, in turn, raise the toll costs for the rest. The MTA’s Traffic Mobility Review Board is set to review the toll costs and carve-outs, with a recommendation on a tolling scheme expected next month, pending approval by the full MTA board.
The MTA has received requests for 122 types of exemptions. Last year, seven tolling scenarios were published, aiming to generate $1 billion annually for the MTA’s capital program. The tolling program’s details are crucial as they determine who pays the tolls and how often.
The Black Car Fund, representing for-hire vehicle drivers, spent $35,000 in July and August on lobbyists to argue against the tolls. Similarly, big players like Lyft, Uber, and UPS also targeted city and state officials in their lobbying efforts in July and August.
Uber and Lyft, in particular, emphasized that rideshare and taxis have been paying a congestion fee since 2019, generating over $1 billion in revenue for the MTA. They argue against a double assessment that would unfairly penalize rideshare users.
Furthermore, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center lobbied for toll exemptions for cancer patients too vulnerable to travel on public transportation. The lobbying extends to New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy and other politicians are attempting to block congestion pricing through a lawsuit, accusing the federal government of delaying the case intentionally.
This extensive lobbying effort underscores the significant impact the congestion pricing program could have on various stakeholders in New York City, with each trying to sway the final tolling structure to their advantage.