Taxi, Uber drivers win temporary delay on Manhattan congestion pricing

A State Supreme Court judge has issued a brief, temporary block on the launch of a congestion surcharge for taxi, Uber and other for-hire vehicle trips in part of Manhattan.

The surcharge — part of a state panel’s larger congestion pricing proposal — would add fees to any yellow cab or for-hire vehicle trips that start, pass through or end in a designated “congestion zone” below 96th Street in Manhattan and was planned to begin on Jan. 1.

That date has been pushed back at least a few days after Justice Martin Shulman on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order until Jan. 3, to allow for a hearing on a lawsuit filed from taxi medallion owners aiming to overturn the surcharge.

The attorney representing the medallion owners, Brett Berman of Fox Rothschild, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Under the surcharges enacted through the state’s budget, cabbies would face an additional $2.50 surcharge for trips hitting the zone, while Uber, Lyft and other e-hail companies would be hit with a $2.75 fee.

The state estimates that the new fees will generate about $400 million a year for the cash-strapped MTA. This month, the transit authority approved a budget for next year that assumes that revenue will pour in, and plans to use at least some of it to fund projects related to the subway stabilization plan known as the Subway Action Plan.

But taxi drivers as well as de Blasio’s administration have opposed the new surcharges, arguing that they would devastate an already financially depressed industry that has been upended in recent years by the proliferation of Uber vehicles.

The suit was filed Thursday against the state and city, as well as the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission and its commissioner, Meera Joshi.

The surcharges were one facet of a more complete congestion pricing proposal that a Gov. Andrew Cuomo-convened panel called Fix NYC had proposed at the beginning of the year. The panel also recommended tolls for all vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street. Cuomo has vowed to enact such a congestion plan during the first 100 days in office to help fund the MTA and improve slowing traffic speeds on the city’s most clogged streets.

While Joshi has criticized the surcharge, de Blasio himself has spoken favorably of it — though he has not supported the larger congestion pricing plan.

"I think this fee is part of how we solve a tremendously difficult problem here in this city that’s facing all of us. We have to reduce congestion, we have to reduce pollution, we have to improve mass transit, we have to save the subways — that surcharge is part of doing it," the mayor said Wednesday, adding that he was still "sympathetic" toward struggling drivers.

Patrick Muncie, a spokesman for Cuomo, said the state will fight the suit.

“The court directed parties to a hearing on January 3 and stayed the implementation of the law until the parties appear,” Muncie said in a statement. “The state plans to vigorously defend the law, which was approved by the legislature and will generate hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the subway and help ensure New Yorkers have a safe, reliable transportation system.”