Three candidates vying for the 72nd State Assembly District seat, representing parts of Washington Heights and Inwood, discussed transit issues and the state of MTA service last night at a forum sponsored by WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Transport Workers Union Local 100.
As the forum progressed, key differences emerged on congestion pricing and other issues, even as the candidates often dodged the questions asked of them.
There are four candidates running in this Democratic primary, which will be held on Thursday, September 13. Mayra S. Linares, Gabriela Rosa and Ruben Vargas came to last night’s forum. Melanie Hidalgo declined due to scheduling conflicts.
Asked how they would improve bus service, only Linares had a response that addressed the topic. She said that she supports more Select Bus Service and that gains in bus speed are worth the possible inconvenience of having to move parked cars out of rush hour bus lanes.
Dedicating new revenue for the MTA by enacting congestion pricing got a mixed reaction from the candidates.
Linares opposes pricing. “There’s too many of us who drive back and forth,” she said. “If we add another toll, you can imagine it would go up — and go up again.”
After asking the moderators for a definition of congestion pricing, Rosa voiced support for the concept. Vargas took a more cautious approach. “If you are driving downtown, it’s chaos. What the congestion price would do is motivate people to use mass transit,” he said. Noting that he opposes tolls on Upper Manhattan bridges, Vargas said, “I would support a reasonable congestion price.”