Reinstatement of Congestion Pricing Crucial for MTA’s Zero-Emission Bus Program

Access-A-Ride, Access-a-Ride Reform Group, MTA

A photo of New York City traffic, viewed from the bumper of many taxis and cars waiting at an intersection

June 17, 2024

Governor Kathy Hochul
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Hochul,

We, the undersigned climate, environmental, transit, disability rights, and labor advocates, write to express our deep concern regarding your decision to halt the implementation of congestion pricing in New York City. This decision jeopardizes critical funding for the MTA’s capital program, which includes the essential zero-emission bus program. The MTA’s zero-emission bus program is vital for improving public health in disadvantaged communities and reducing New York State’s carbon footprint, in alignment with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

The MTA’s commitment to replacing its diesel and compressed natural gas bus fleets with a 100% zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040 represents a significant step toward combating climate change. With the congestion pricing pause announced on June 5, this effort is at serious risk of missing the 2040 target and the immense benefits it will bring.

Transportation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and diesel buses are a significant part of this problem. As the New York State Climate Action Council’s Scoping Plan emphasizes, “electrifying transit buses can ensure that emissions are reduced even further. Investments in transit bus electrification will benefit overburdened communities, both because many bus depots are located in these areas and because buses provide essential transportation services in these areas.” By adopting zero-emissions buses, we can ensure cleaner air, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and create a sustainable transit system for future generations.

The transition to a zero-emission bus fleet will yield profound benefits, including:

  • Avoiding over 500,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually once the entire fleet is converted.

  • Eliminating harmful pollutants associated with diesel fuel, thus improving public health, particularly in historically underserved communities that suffer disproportionately from air pollution.

  • Enhancing the overall customer experience with quieter, exhaust-free rides and the latest transit technologies, contributing to a more pleasant and connected journey.

The scale of the MTA’s zero-emission bus program is unparalleled, given that the MTA operates the largest public bus system in North America with a fleet of 5,800 buses and hundreds of paratransit vehicles. The successful electrification of its bus and paratransit fleet will not only benefit New York City but also set a precedent for other transit operators across the country, demonstrating the feasibility and importance of prioritizing sustainability in public transportation.

Pausing congestion pricing not only delays these benefits, it undermines our progress toward a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable transit system. The funds generated from congestion pricing are essential for the MTA’s capital program, which includes the deployment of zero-emission buses and electrifying bus depots. Without this funding, the MTA’s ability to continue its phased transition to zero-emission buses and paratransit vehicles will be severely compromised, impacting air quality and public health outcomes across the region. Given the shortage of electric bus manufacturers and the demand for their products, we are also concerned that any funding disruption  will put the MTA at the back of the order queue, potentially putting the 2040 target out of reach even if funding becomes available.

We urge you to reconsider your decision to pause congestion pricing, and we remind you of the duty of all state agencies and authorities to uphold the Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction and equity mandates of the CLCPA. By reinstating this critical initiative, you will reaffirm New York’s leadership in climate action and commitment to public health and environmental justice. The benefits of congestion pricing extend far beyond traffic reduction; they are instrumental in improving our region’s air quality and funding the MTA’s transition to a sustainable and resilient transit system that will serve all New Yorkers more effectively.

Sincerely,

Lena Tabori
Co-Founder & Publisher
Climate Change Resources

Jaqi Cohen
Director of Climate and Equity Policy
Tri-State Transportation Campaign

 

Anshul Gupta
Policy & Research Director
New Yorkers for Clean Power

 

Jessica Enzmann
Senior Campaign Organizer
Sierra Club

 

Justin Balik
State Program Director
Evergreen Action

 

Conor Bambrick
Director of Policy
Environmental Advocates NY

 

Alok Disa
Senior Research and Policy Analyst
Earthjustice

 

Kevin Garcia
Senior Transportation Planner
New York City Environmental Justice Alliance

 

Ryan Madden
Climate & Energy Campaigns Director
Long Island Progressive Coalition

 

Patrick McClellan
Policy Director
New York League of Conservation Voters

 

Danny Pearlstein
Policy & Communications Director
Riders Alliance

 

Jenille Scott
Climate Director
ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York

 

Cecilia Ellis
Straphangers Campaign Coordinator
New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)

 

Nancy Romer, Professor Emerita, Brooklyn College
Co-chair
Environmental Justice Working Group, PSC-CUNY, AFT2334

 

Justin Wood
Director of Policy
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

 

JK Canepa
Co-Founder
New York Climate Action Group

 

Keanu Arpels-Josiah
Policy Co-Lead & Organizer
Fridays For Future NYC

 

Andrew Engel
Legislative Lead
Sunrise Movement NYC

 

Paulina Muratore
Transportation Campaign Manager
Union of Concerned Scientists

 

Francesca Rheannon
Chair
Climate Reality Project Long Island Chapter

 

Andy Darrell
Senior Advisor
Environmental Defense Fund

 

Ron Kamen
E2 NY Chapter Director &
EarthKind Energy Consulting

 

Mo-Yain Tham
NY Policy Manager
Jobs to Move America

 

Elaine Weir
Indivisible Scarsdale

 

Ella Ryan
Co-lead
Climate Families NYC

 

Lisa Daglian
Executive Director
Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC)

Laurel Tumarkin
People’s Climate Movement – NY


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