Assemblymember Grace Lee and Senator John Liu Hold Press Conference Calling on the TMRB to Include Commuter Van Exemptions in Congestion Pricing Recommendations

Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - Assemblymember Grace Lee and Senator John Liu gathered in Manhattan’s Chinatown to respond to the TMRB’s preliminary recommendations for congestion pricing presented in their October 2 meeting, which did not include toll exemptions for commuter vans. In the TMRB’s meeting, they signaled strong support for a toll exemption for “commuter buses”, but the MTA said that commuter vans serving New York City’s immigrant communities would not be included in this exemption.

Assemblymember Lee and Senator Liu argued that commuter vans should also be exempt from tolls because they serve a similar function to commuter buses; they also emphasized that commuter vans are a critical form of mass transportation for vulnerable immigrant communities across New York City, including Asian Americans, and should be protected as a matter of equity. This press conference follows earlier efforts by a coalition of elected officials led by Assemblymember Lee and Senator Liu to secure congestion pricing toll exemptions for commuter vans, including a letter sent to the TMRB and a press conference held in September.

“Over the past month, we have lifted up the voices of our city’s most vulnerable immigrant communities by calling on the TMRB to recognize the importance of protecting access to commuter vans,” said Assemblymember Grace Lee. “Yesterday, the TMRB signaled their support for toll exemptions for commuter buses because they ‘get people out of cars at the busiest times of the day in the CBD’. Commuter vans that service Chinatown are also a form of mass transit that reduces congestion and should be provided the same exemptions as commuter buses. In addition, commuter vans offer a unique, culturally competent, language accessible transportation service that Asian American communities in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn depend on. I remain committed to working with the TMRB to establish a plan for congestion pricing that is fair, equitable, and recognizes the needs of underserved New Yorkers.”

“Commuter vans play a vital role in the city’s transportation network by providing affordable, reliable and language-accessible transportation in communities that are traditionally underserved by our mass transit system,” said Senator John Liu. “Immigrant areas in Queens, Brooklyn and Chinatown have relied on these

alternative modes of transportation for decades to bridge their communities, and the TMRB must accommodate for these vans in the same way it has recognized the value of commuter buses as a critical part of the region’s public transportation network.”