The head of the Transportation Workers Union excoriated MTA boss Janno Lieber as treating the city’s congestion-pricing scheme as a “thinly veiled” cash cow for the agency.
TWU International President John Samuelsen, a member of the Traffic Mobility Review Board assigned to set congestion pricing fees and exemptions, bashed the MTA chairman as being “laser-focused” on revenue generation — rather than improving air quality or reducing traffic.
“It’s very reasonable to conclude that Janno is laser-focused on the revenue generation side of the new tolling system and he doesn’t care about reducing congestion,” Samuelsen told The Post.
“He is not taking logical steps to incentivize in the best way possible those who currently drive to . . . use public transit as their commuting option.”
The contentious tolling scheme, which will ding drivers who enter Manhattan below 60th Street up to $23, was greenlit by the Biden administration in June and is expected to begin in May.
Samuelsen questioned why the MTA isn’t expanding subway and bus services to entice new riders alongside the introduction of congestion pricing, poo-pooing Lieber’s reasoning at a recent MTA board meeting that ridership has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels and can absorb more customers at the current service levels.
“To get people out of their cars and back on transit, you don’t do that by declaring there’s room in the system and people should come,” he said. “It’s ridiculous and it’s thinly veiled.”
The TWU boss’s criticisms echo those of many outer-borough pols, who worry their streets could become jam-packed with motorists looking to avoid the hefty congestion pricing tolls while filling the cash-strapped coffers of the MTA.
“If they want more New Yorkers to ride public transit, they should make it safer, add more cops, and penalize turnstile jumping to make everyone pay their fair share,” said Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-SI/Brooklyn).
“Stop treating commuters like bottomless ATMs to fund the MTA’s incompetence.”
NYC Transit President Richard Davey ripped Samuelsen’s criticism as “a stretch.”
“Ridership is down by 2 million trips per day and the system can easily handle ten times more riders than the 72,300 to 110,000 people per day projected to switch to transit after congestion pricing takes effect,” he said.
An MTA spokeswoman added that revenue generation is a key component of the congestion pricing plan, with state legislation requiring that it generate $15 billion to fund the agency’s $52 billion capital plan.