Are mass transit improvements a better play on congestion pricing issue?

NJPP’s Ambrose: Fully funding NJ Transit would be far better use of taxpayer dollars than suing federal government

On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy and a host of other prominent New Jersey politicians and business leaders praised the lawsuit the state had filed against two federal agencies in the latest salvo in the battle over the proposed congestion tax coming to New York City as soon as next spring.

“The Garden State is not New York’s piggy bank — we are not the MTA’s ATM,” U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9th Dist.) said in a statement filled with bravado.

“New Jersey has been our region’s pack mule for a long time. Enough is enough. Gov. Murphy’s leadership is indispensable. New Jersey’s state and federal leaders are united in telling New York their scheme is more garbage than the old Staten Island landfill. I look forward to using every legal tool to give Garden Staters a fair shake.”

The governor also signed a bill that could enable New Jersey taxpayers who work for New York City-based companies — but don’t work there often — to pay fewer taxes, more of which would go to New Jersey.

Alex Ambrose, a policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning think tank, took another perspective.

Instead of working to enable cars to go into New York City at an agreed-upon rate, perhaps New Jersey leaders should work on improving mass transit — so there will be fewer cars on the road, the ultimate goal, she said.

“The best way to respond to New York’s congestion pricing plan is to improve and expand our own public transit systems here in New Jersey,” Ambrose said.

The suit, Ambrose noted, came days after the New Jersey Transit board of directors approved a new annual budget that fails to address an imminent $1 billion shortfall that could result in drastic service cuts and fare hikes. It comes a week after the state passed a record $54.5 billion budget that did not solve NJ Transit’s funding woes.

“Fully funding NJ Transit would be a far better use of taxpayer dollars than suing the federal government for a plan lawmakers have known about for years and did nothing to prepare for,” Ambrose said. “The irony here is that congestion pricing will benefit New Jersey and New York alike by reducing traffic, reducing air pollution and generating revenue for subways that residents of both states rely on.

“It’s easy to oppose congestion pricing to score political points, but this sort of lawsuit does nothing for the 9 out of 10 New Jersey commuters who already rely on mass transit to get to and from work every day.”