With less than a month until the start of congestion pricing, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she has decided to "indefinitely pause" the tolling program, saying implementing it “risks too many unintended consequences for New Yorkers at this time.”

The historic tolling program was slated to launch on June 30 and would have charged drivers a fee to enter 60th Street and below in Manhattan.

In explaining her decision, Hochul said congestion pricing was enacted “in a pre-pandemic period, when workers were in the office five days a week, crime was at record lows and tourism was at record highs.”

“Circumstances have changed, and we must respond to the facts on the ground, not to the rhetoric from five years ago,” Hochul said.

Hochul said while the goals of congestion pricing - reducing traffic and emissions in New York City and providing funds for public transit - were important, "hard-working New Yorkers are getting hammered on costs, and they, and the economic vitality of our city, must be protected."

The news of a postponement was first reported in The New York Times and Politico.

Politico reported that Hochul is also responding to concerns raised by Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader, who is trying to win back a majority in the House this year. Democrats’ losses two years ago in New York helped shift the balance of power in the House to Republicans. 

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Jeffries said while the House speaker "has maintained neutrality with respect to the congestion pricing policy debate," Jeffries "supports a temporary pause of limited duration to better understand the financial impact on working class New Yorkers who have confronted a challenging inflationary environment as a result of the pandemic."

Hochul didn't conceive the congestion pricing program. It was passed as law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature in 2019. But as recently as a few months ago, Hochul was working with the MTA as an active supporter of reducing Manhattan traffic by putting a toll in place. 

“Anybody sick and tired of gridlock in NYC?” Hochul said at a congestion pricing rally on Dec. 5. “Anyone think we deserve better transit, especially those who live and work here?” 

The fees and the plans associated with congestion pricing have been well documented at this point: The daytime rate for cars is $15 using E-ZPass. Trucks pay more. The MTA spent $555 million just on the tolling infrastructure alone.

Half of the MTA’s current capital spending plan was dependent on the $1 billion expected from the tolling program to raise $15 billion in financing. Items at risk now include elevators at more than 20 stations, State of Good Repair and new subway cars, zero-emission buses, signal modernization on the Sixth Avenue line and the A and C in Brooklyn, and the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway.

It’s unclear whether Hochul will ever restart the program. Even if she does, there are still eight lawsuits that could derail it.

Speaking at an unrelated news conference on Staten Island, Mayor Eric Adams said he has spoken with the governor multiple times in recent days and signaled he'd continue to be aligned with her position on congestion pricing, even if she chooses to delay the toll. 

"We have to get [congestion pricing] right. We have to make sure it's not an undue burden on everyday New Yorkers. We have to make sure that it's not going to impact our recovery," Adams said. "I think that if she's looking at analyzing what other ways we can do it and how we do it correctly, I'm all for it. We have to get it right." 

Transit advocates expressed their displeasure with the decision.

“Congestion pricing is the only public policy that will fix subway, speed up miserably slow bus service, and clear our air as we enter wildfire season,” said Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance.

Elizabeth Adams, the deputy executive director for public affairs at Transportation Alternatives, called the potential delay a “slap in the face to the millions of New Yorkers who rely on public transportation every day just to appease the program’s loudest foes.”