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MTA unveils two exemptions for congestion pricing

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has revealed two exemption plans aimed at accommodating individuals with disabilities within the scope of congestion pricing, a move met with cautious optimism by advocates.

Joe Rapport, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, lauded the initiative as a step in the right direction while emphasizing the need for further measures to ensure compliance with legal mandates.

The first exemption plan, dubbed the Individual Disability Exemption Plan, empowers individuals with disabilities to seek exemption for a vehicle registered under their ownership or designation. Meanwhile, the Organizational Disability Exemption Plan extends this provision to public and private entities engaged in transporting individuals with disabilities, encompassing services such as Access-A-Ride, taxis, for-hire vehicles, and pre-arranged trips via Access-A-Ride.

However, Rapport underscored the necessity for broader exemptions, citing precedents in other cities like London where multiple exemptions are granted per individual. Despite criticisms, MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo defended the program as equitable and aligned with legal requisites, asserting its commitment to addressing the needs of people with disabilities.

Rapport, while supportive of congestion pricing as a means to bolster MTA funding, acknowledged the legal hurdles facing the initiative. The projected revenue from congestion pricing, estimated at $15 billion, constitutes a substantial portion of the capital funds earmarked for MTA projects, including accessibility improvements mandated by law.

Nevertheless, Susan Lee, President of New Yorkers Against Congestion Pricing Tax, remains staunchly opposed to the toll, citing concerns over its efficacy in generating revenue and advocating for alternative measures such as tackling fare evasion and conducting a comprehensive audit of the transit system.

With the fate of congestion pricing hanging in the balance amidst ongoing legal challenges, the process for exemption approval falls under the purview of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, adding a layer of complexity to an already contentious issue. As stakeholders navigate these complexities, the broader implications of congestion pricing on accessibility and revenue generation for essential transit infrastructure remain subjects of intense scrutiny and debate.

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