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State Whose Drivers Cannot Pump Their Own Gas Sues to Stop New York’s Congestion Pricing Plan

Did you really think there wasn't gonna be a lawsuit?

Cars drive into the Holland Tunnel from New Jersey.

(Formulanone / Flickr)

Did you think that congestion pricing—a thing that has existed in other countries for years but is only about to finally exist in New York City in 2024 because years of political cowardice and bureaucratic inertia prevented its adoption—was going to happen without a lawsuit? 

On Friday, New Jersey sued the federal government, seeking to block the MTA's plan, slated to go into effect next spring, to charge drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street.

The lawsuit, which was first reported on by Bloomberg, opens with a quote from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy—a good sign for any legal brief wishing to appeal to a judge's sense of reason: 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy put it best: “We can’t fix a broken MTA in New York City on the back of New Jersey commuters…It’s a huge tax on them, and frankly, it challenges our environment because of all the re-routing of traffic that will take place.” 

The lawsuit basically makes two arguments: 

1) Congestion pricing is unfair to the people who drive into Manhattan for work because it places a "significant financial burden" on them.

2) Congestion pricing will make traffic worse in parts of New Jersey, and the federal government should have ordered the MTA to spend a few more years studying that.

It's a Friday afternoon in July, so not all the players have publicly reacted to this news (the U.S. Department of Transportation and its Federal Highway Administration have said they're not gonna comment), but here are a few things for you to consider when pondering this lawsuit. 

The vast majority of New Jersey commuters into Manhattan below 60th Street take mass transit: Like, 78 percent. Congestion pricing will help these commuters by modernizing the trains and buses that they use once they are in New York City.

The people who drive from New Jersey into the most densely populated place in North America are richer than the people who take trains: According to U.S. Census data, their annual median income is $108,000, versus $88,000 for transit commuters into Lower Manhattan.

The people who drive from New Jersey into the most densely populated place in North America, who are on average richer than most people, may not pay much of any congestion toll at all: The Traffic Mobility Review board is still determining how much the tolls will be, and whether drivers who come in from the Holland and Lincoln tunnels will receive "crossing credits," aka discounts on the congestion pricing toll. They may not pay anything at all, who knows!

Communities overburdened by pollution in New Jersey will see a decrease in traffic under congestion pricing: "Overall, increases in traffic volumes due to diversions would occur near some environmental justice communities, and decreases would occur at other locations near environmental justice communities, depending on the tolling scenario," the MTA writes in its (obscenely long) environmental assessment, before concluding, "In New Jersey and Long Island counties, environmental justice areas would experience similar or deeper reductions in Vehicle Miles Traveled compared to non-environmental justice areas for all tolling scenarios."

New Jersey businesses are going to make billions off congestion pricing: Over the last seven years or so, the MTA has paid some $3 billion in contracts out to New Jersey companies, according to an analysis by Reinvent Albany. The revenue generated by congestion pricing will fund the MTA's capital expenses, and those Jersey companies are on track to receive another $1.5 billion over the next few years—provided that the MTA actually gets the money it desperately needs from the plan that New Jersey is now suing to block.

New Jersey's congestion pricing lawyer is a real piece of work: Governor Murphy has hired litigator and former Giuliani deputy mayor Randy Mastro to represent the Garden State. You might remember Mastro from such appearances as "Agonizing, Pointless Lawsuit Against the Prospect Park West Bike Lane," or "The Guy Chris Christie Called to 'Investigate' This Whole Bridgegate Thing He Totally Knew Nothing About," or "The Guy Who Used His Law Degree To Evict a UWS Homeless Shelter." These are just a few of his greatest hits—look at this bio

Nothing is stopping Governor Murphy from working to make his own public transit system suck less: Can I get an amen from beleaguered NJ Transit riders?

A final thing to consider: This is a lawsuit from NEW JERSEY about how NEW YORK governs itself. Get the fuck outta here! Maybe learn how to pump gas before meddling in the big kid affairs of a real state? Case dismissed. 

(Photo: Formulanone / Flickr)

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