NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The MTA hinted this week that it doesn't need money from congestion pricing — at least not right now.
"So, we're not in a position now to really be needing absolutely at this point in time the congestion pricing proceeds for the capital program," MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran said during a board meeting Wednesday. "Right now we're fronting the capital program with the sales tax monies that we have and the mansion tax monies that we have."
"We did have in the lockbox both the internet sales tax and mansion tax which will go into the congestion pricing lockbox, the ability to use those dollars through this year for operating," Foran added, saying federal funds also helped.
David Bragdon, executive director of the civic research group Transit Center, was taken aback by the remarks.
"We were very surprised, given the state of the MTA, to have a high official of the MTA denying that they actually need money because in fact they do," Bragdon said. "The MTA certainly has needs both in terms of capital which is the infrastructure as well as in terms of operating and that's the day to day functioning of the system."
Tolling drivers south of 60th Street in Manhattan would give the MTA $1 billion a year, but Bragdon said it's not just about the money.
"Congestion pricing is important to implement as soon as possible because of the effect it has on reducing traffic," Bragdon said.
The MTA's senior advisor Ken Lovett in a tweet said the agency will need the money down the road because it's a big part of the capital plan.
"Capital projects are important things like upgrading the signal system, improving the stations, getting more accesibility for people who use people or people who use strollers, luggage, elevators in the stations, it's purchasing new buses, new rolling stock for the subway," Bragdon said.
Those are all things that revenue from congestion pricing would pay for.
With Washington giving the MTA approval to begin an environmental review of congestion pricing in March, Bragdon said the only obstacle is in Albany.
"They need to remove that obstacle and move on with this and get it implemented January 1st of 2022," Bragdon said.