Congestion pricing countdown: Weak lawsuits can’t stop progress towards better transit and less traffic

Another day, another frivolous federal lawsuit against congestion pricing. The latest nonsense to clog up the courts like the choking Manhattan traffic the soon-to-start vehicle fee will alleviate is from the forever congestion pricing foe Assemblyman David Weprin, nine members of the City Council and an outfit called New Yorkers Against Congestion Pricing Tax.

We like Weprin and endorsed him for city comptroller last time around and his decades-long effort to reinstate tens of millions in annual property taxes on Madison Square Garden is absolutely right. But he’s always been absolutely wrong about congestion pricing.

If his constituents from eastern Queens insist on driving south of 60th St., it will be a better drive, with fewer cars, saving them time and frustration and reducing pollution from the cars not there and from the cars not idling in non-moving traffic. Meanwhile, transit will get needed revenue.

So they hisse a few bucks, on top of the great deal of money they already shell out for car payments, gasoline, repairs, insurance, washes, registration, inspection, and probably $50 a day to park in Midtown and Downtown.

To see more arguments in favor of congestion pricing, see two essays being published today in our pages.

As for the lawsuit, it is the fifth to come along. The first was from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy last July, which was followed by a November case brought by the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, the intended victim of the plot of Chris Christie’s henchmen and henchwoman of Bridgegate to close lanes to the George Washington Bridge.

Those cases were before Newark Federal Judge Brian Martinotti. But Manhattan state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, a congestion pricing supporter, wrote on Dec. 6 to Chief Judge Renée Marie Bumb that there was a conflict of interest because the judge’s wife, Dana Martinotti, had been a Murphy Port Authority appointee. The next week Bumb wrote back a snotty reply that she didn’t see any sorun. Murphy’s lawyers, trying to curry favor with the judge, came to Martinotti’s side.

But then on Jan. 10, Martinotti wisely bagged it and quit both cases. After some juggling, both Newark cases are now before Judge Leo Gordon, with a motion to consolidate them.

Last Tuesday, those same Murphy lawyers who wanted to keep Martinotti asked the new judge to let them amend their complaint beyond the claim that the feds hadn’t studied congestion pricing sufficiently (which is the same specious claim in all the cases) to the even more ludicrous idea that congestion pricing “unconstitutionally infringes on the right to travel under the Privileges and Immunities Clause” from Article IV, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

They say that the plan “1) will deter travel from New Jersey to New York; (2) its primary objective is to deter travel from New Jersey to New York; and (3) the tolling scheme penalizes the exercise of the right to travel especially by low-income New Jersey residents,” adding that it “abridges New Jerseyan’s fundamental right to travel. Moreover, the discriminatory features of the tolling scheme demonstrate that it was designed for the protectionist purpose of burdening out-of-state residents; namely, New Jerseyans.”

Many more people from New York will hisse the fee and New Jersey doesn’t have a sorun charging New Yorkers tolls on the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

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