Climate June 26, 2024

Testimony to the MTA Board on Congestion Pricing

Good morning. My name is Grace Rauh and I am the executive director of the 5BORO Institute, a public policy think tank co-founded by Dick Ravitch.

As we grapple with the consequences of Governor Hochul’s decision to indefinitely pause congestion pricing, I keep thinking about Mr. Ravitch, the former MTA chairman, and what he would have done to meet this moment.

As everyone in this room knows, Mr. Ravitch was a civic giant who fought for sensible fiscal policy to ensure the MTA was on strong financial footing. 

Mr. Ravitch supported congestion pricing, but even more broadly, he supported and fought for reforms to define the fiduciary responsibilities of public authorities like the MTA – reforms like the 2010 Public Authorities Reform Act.

Mr. Ravitch appeared before the MTA board in 2014 to reflect on that law. He said: “That law made it very clear that you as members of the board of a public authority have as your fiduciary responsibility an obligation to the mission of this authority and to the authority itself.”

He was urging the MTA board to reject a program that would voluntarily reduce the MTA’s revenue by $7 million annually by providing commuters over the Verrazzano Bridge with a 50 cent rebate on the toll. The rebate appeared to be an election-year gambit to help Democrats in nearby House races. In the end, it didn’t help.

We can’t know what Mr. Ravitch would say if he were with us today, but his 2014 testimony to the MTA rings true at this moment.

I quote: “I feel strongly enough about this — remembering all the battles that I fought to eke out every possible penny of revenue for this authority — to urge you to think very hard before you vote to voluntarily reduce the revenues to the MTA. For not just the reasons of your fiduciary responsibility but because of plain, simple common sense.”

On behalf of the 5BORO Institute, I urge you all to do everything in your power to launch congestion pricing. Thank you.