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New York City taxi drivers speak out against congestion pricing on last day of MTA's public hearings

More New Yorkers speak out at congestion pricing hearings
More New Yorkers speak out at congestion pricing hearings 01:59

NEW YORK -- The MTA is wrapping up its final two public hearings on Manhattan congestion pricing Monday.

The agency says the tolls are needed to keep the system running, but there's been a lot of pushback at the hearings. 

Earlier Monday, nearly two dozen taxi drivers rallied outside MTA headquarters in Lower Manhattan expressing disapproval of the new tolls. 

"They should exempt the taxi drivers from this because we don't deserve to have another tax on the cabs," one driver said. 

Her comments came as the MTA's second-to-last public hearing on congestion pricing took place. 

Other New Yorkers made pleas against the plan. 

"I take care of my 97-year-old mom. I go pick her up, take her to Queens, then come back. When I come back home, I'm gonna be charged. It's not right," said Nancy Matta, of Manhattan. 

"We are risking $15 billion, which is 30% of the overall capital plan, and to make it more scary, it's 50% of what's left," one man said at the hearing. 

"Our children's constitutional rights hold more importance than the MTA's budget deficits," another woman said at the hearing.

MTA holds final public hearing on congestion pricing 02:20

Last week, firefighters argued they should be exempt from congestion pricing tolls at one of the hearings.   

Some New Yorkers at the hearing said congestion pricing is a win. 

"We should be taking full advantage of New York City's density to de-emphasize car use," said Jon Orcutt, with Bike New York. 

If approved, congestion pricing would toll drivers entering Manhattan's Central Business District, which stretches from 60th Street to the southern tip of the Financial District. CBS New York

Congestion pricing would impact drivers entering Manhattan's Central Business District, which stretches from 60th Street to the southern tip of the Financial District. 

Under the current plan, passenger vehicles would be charged $15, motorcycles $7.50 and taxis $2.50. Trucks would be charged $24-$36, depending on the size.

Some people at the hearing urged the MTA Board consider lowering proposed tolls, stating many will not be able to afford them. 

"Hopefully you guys reconsider and change the $15 to $5," said Patrick Price, of Harlem.

Officials continued to reiterate that money from the tolls is expected to pay for major systemwide upgrades on trains and buses. 

"Every dollar from congestion pricing will be dedicated to improving the mass transit system in the region. So the only real result of the litigation is going to be to delay critical improvements," said Jamie Torres-Springer, president of MTA Construction & Development. 

Cab drivers speak out against congestion pricing at MTA's public hearing 01:53

One New Yorker who lives in the Central Business District said he hopes congestion pricing brings back traffic patterns seen during the COVID pandemic. 

"I saw what our streets could look like with less congestion from private vehicles," he said.

Added Alexandra Preet, who also lives in the district, "I don't think anyone here has to pay a toll to get home. I have to get home. I don't drive in the zone. I take public transit everywhere and tax credits really don't help."

Some speakers insisted the MTA could find other ways to raise money.

"Why not crack down on fare evaders and really punish them? They are the thieves, but we pay more just to cover them," one person from Westchester County said.

Bergen County Executive James Tedesco had a different stance on congestion pricing tolls. 

"In Bergen County, people are going to avoid going through the tunnels and come up through the bridge, and that's going to cause massive traffic jams," said Tedesco. "We filed a lawsuit and on April 6. I'll be in court with them, with the County of Bergen to fight this." 

Meanwhile, NJ Transit started holding public hearings on proposed fare hikes Monday.  

The MTA is slated to hold the final public hearing on congestion pricing at its headquarters at 6 p.m. Monday. Participants can join in-person or virtually. Registration closes 30 minutes after the hearing starts.   

A final vote will take place sometime in the spring. If approved, congestion pricing could start as early as June. 

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