NYLPI Comments to the MTA Regarding the CBD Tolling Program Proposed Tolling Structure

Access-A-Ride, Congestion Pricing, MTA, News

Comments by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest To the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Regarding the Central Business District Tolling Program Proposed Tolling Structure, Submitted on March 11, 2024 

The Central Business District Tolling Program (“Congestion Pricing”) will bring about sweeping  changes to New York City, impacting all who travel in and around it, including people with disabilities. Congestion Pricing will reduce traffic in the most gridlocked areas of the city, will improve air quality, and will be a reliable source of the funding for the MTA to implement subway system projects, including desperately needed accessibility improvements. For these reasons, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (“NYLPI”) – which through its Disability Justice Program advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities and through its Environmental Justice Program fights environmental racism – supports the Congestion Pricing plan.

People with disabilities are among the most affected by Congestion Pricing. While people without disabilities can avoid the Congestion Pricing toll by riding the subway, the subway system is inaccessible to many people with disabilities. Only 30% of stations have elevators, saying nothing of whether the elevators in those stations are operational, and nothing about the litany of other system accessibility barriers including excessive gaps between the trains and platforms. That means that many within the disability community are left with only ground transportation – Access-A-Ride (“AAR”) paratransit, taxis and for-hire vehicles (“FHV”) to the extent they are wheelchair accessible, and private vehicles – to get to work, school, medical appointments, family and friends – everywhere.

Since at least the passage of the Americans with Disability Act in 1990, the MTA has had an obligation to make the subway system accessible. Yet, progress has been slow, often deprioritized by other subway projects. Now, due to a court settlement, the MTA is mandated to add elevators to 95% of stations over the next thirty years. Congestion Pricing will be a crucial piece in funding this mandate. However, people with disabilities, long relegated to inferior ground transportation by the MTA’s own doing, must not now be forced to pay the Congestion Pricing toll. The responsibility to make the subway system accessible shall not be borne by the disability community. While the current disability exemption indicates that the MTA agrees to an extent, it is overly narrow and will require many people with disabilities to pay the toll.

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