With the MTA moving forward with plans to implement congestion pricing, which would be tolls for drivers coming into Manhattan below 60th Street, more and more cab and ride-hailing drivers are worried about how it will impact their income.
“Congestion pricing, it’s going to be more money from our pocket,” said taxi driver Jose Valderrama. “I really believe that they shouldn’t do it. For yellow cabs or even Uber. We are coming to work, not coming to ride.”
Dozens of cab and ride-hailing drivers echoed those same sentiments outside of the MTA headquarters on Tuesday. During a rally, they demanded an exemption from having to pay congestion pricing tolls.
“The yellow cab industry simply will not survive a third tax,” said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance estimates that without an exemption, struggling drivers could lose up to $8,000 a year in income.
Since 2019, drivers pay $2.50 per trip in a congestion surcharge on every taxi ride south of 96th Street in Manhattan. Yellow taxis have also paid 50 cents per ride to the MTA since 2009.
“Total $3 every trip. We collect it, pay to the MTA,” said taxi driver Richard Chow.
Cab drivers and advocates say passing the tolls onto customers will mean fewer fares.
The tolls are expected to go into effect next year. It’s part of the state’s effort to curb traffic and pollution in Manhattan, while generating funds for public transportation.
Valderrama, who is originally from Peru, has been driving cabs in New York City for more than 20 years.
“My friend told me [that I] have the best job in the world,” he said. “You’re touring around New York all day long. And probably he’s right. And that’s why I love it. I don’t make much money, but I love it.”
Valderrama says he does not love the idea of having to cut into the $300 to 400 he makes a week because of congestion pricing, especially when he has a family to support.
“I work for my wife, for my kids, for my parents,” Valderrama said.
The 63-year-old was working during Tuesday’s rally, which was held ahead of the first meeting of the Traffic Mobility Review Board. The will determine how much people pay for congestion pricing, as well as determining any exemptions. Some congestion pricing advocates argue cabs should pay the toll for each trip into Manhattan south of 60th Street not just once.
Cabbies including Valderrama are anxious to know what the board decides. He is hoping he can continue to afford to do the job he loves.