On Monday, February 5, 2024, Newsday published a cover story with the headline “Congestion pricing won’t shave time: Morning drive from LI to add 2 minutes”. Newsday knew this to be inaccurate at the time it was published and has repeatedly declined since to publish a letter to the editor correcting the record. The reality is that Long Island commuters who drive are projected to spend at least 6 fewer minutes round trip per day. And those who switch to the Long Island Rail Road will move to their destinations even faster.
Newsday’s own editorial board has written “Few drivers want to pay more money, but the proposal appears to have the potential to achieve its intended goals of significantly reducing traffic, improving air quality, and bolstering the region's economy.” (12/7/2023) Moreover, congestion pricing has been demonstrated to save time and congestion has been identified in Newsday's own reporting as the leading cost faced by the region’s drivers at $2,459 per year.
Given Newsday’s decision not to publish the letter, the MTA is providing what is now an Open Letter to the Editor.
The text of the letter appears below.
To the Editor:
The story on the impact of congestion pricing on Long Islanders [Congestion pricing won’t shave time; News, February 5] fails to calculate time drivers will save while in Manhattan, and even more saved returning outbound to Long Island. Congestion pricing is projected to reduce LI drivers’ daily drive time by more than 8 total minutes. That’s a reduction of 1.8 minutes on the way into Manhattan in the morning and a reduction of an additional 6.7 minutes going back due to less congestion.
Moreover, the article’s contention that “overall benefits” to Long Islanders are somehow “more modest” than what will be seen elsewhere, ignores that four of five Long Island commuters already use mass transit—where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has invested $17.7 billion on upgrades—including the mainline Third Track project that has enabled a 40% service increase and addition of Grand Central Madison, providing direct trains to Manhattan’s East Side. All of this has been accomplished with nearly 100,000 fewer riders than before the pandemic, leaving more than 50 times the amount of capacity necessary to accommodate those expected to switch from cars to trains when congestion pricing begins.
The reality is that a story topped by an unsupported headline deprives readers of an honest conversation about the benefits of reduced traffic, materially shortened commute times, and more frequent and reliable mass transit alternatives to being on the road.
Rob Free, Jamaica
The writer is acting president of the Long Island Rail Road.