Published March 12, 2024, 7:16 p.m. ET

By Joe Borelli

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber is determined to see congestion pricing through.

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber is determined to see congestion pricing through. Stephen Yang

John Samuelsen, president of the 155,000-member Transit Workers of America, is blasting the latest version of congestion pricing for failing to improve express bus service to the outer-boroughs.

He’s right. But his principal complaint was more visceral: For him, congestion pricing’s biggest outrage is that it’s “classist.”

Boy, is it!

At its fundamental level, the plan to toll drivers in Midtown is a tax on residents from outer boroughs and counties who lack good public-transit options to pay for service for those in wealthy neighborhoods who have plenty of them.

That’s it. That’s all it does: Per the MTA’s own analysis, the scheme won’t reduce traffic beyond a fraction, nor will it significantly reduce pollution outside the poshest downtown neighborhoods.

Congestion pricing is only — yes, only — a cynical money grab.

And the pockets that are about to be picked are those of the region’s union members and broader working-class schlubs.

Since the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (who has also turned against it) signed congestion pricing into law in 2019, the agency’s posture has gone from delivering progress to demanding payments from the peons.

Despite massive public support for the system during COVID and a federal MTA bailout larger than the budget of Bolivia, the agency’s board still approved crushing fare and toll hikes on millions of working stiffs.

This was after the state hiked the payroll tax and set aside billions in casino revenue to boost funding for the profligate agency.

One thing that has changed drastically between the tenure of Andy Byford, who headed NYC Transit, and John Lieber as chief of the whole MTA is the public’s perception of this once mighty agency.

Here’s the latest on NYC’s congestion pricing

New York City’s $15 congestion toll to drive south of 60th Street could begin as soon as mid-June, a lawyer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said this week.

Transit officials predict the toll could raise $1 billion per year, which would fund major upgrades to the MTA’s subway, commuter railroads and bus systems.

This would be the nation’s first congestion pricing fee system, which has prompted multiple lawsuits, including from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the teachers’ union and 18 New York lawmakers.

The labor coalition representing New York City’s nearly 400,000 government workers has also backed Murphy’s federal lawsuit.

Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams refused to support the state’s controversial congestion pricing proposal. Adams said he believes the city should have had more “power and control” over the situation, which likely would have resulted in a “different version.”

City Hall has been pushing the MTA to include exemptions from the toll for city employees and people driving to hospitals.

New Yorkers used to cheer for Byford, their “Train Daddy,” who not only improved service but humbled himself in every corner and community board of this city.

With his signature Kentish accent, Byford always reminded me of a character on “Downton Abbey” — not Earl Grantham and his family in their jackets and tails, but Mosely or Bates, the salt-of-the-earth household staff, who ate their meals in the downstairs kitchen.

Train Daddy was one of us.

Just four years later, we have Lord Lieber, who made clear at the last public hearing that he was going to ram through congestion pricing no matter what the peasantry pleaded before his star chamber.

It was a classic “let them eat cake” moment, and showed why labor leaders like Samuelsen, TWU’s local prez Richard Davis and countless others now fiercely oppose congestion pricing: It hurts working people, plain and simple.

There was some shock when United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew announced he was filing a lawsuit against the new tolls, alongside Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella, myself and other Republicans.

Why the surprise? Progressive leaders have already decided chasing meaningless environmental goals and profiting off the ideological war on cars is worth throwing their own working constituents under the bus.

Congestion pricing is equivalent to a $3,750 cut in take-home pay for thousands of school employees.

Mulgrew is right on this one, and it’s great that the Municipal Labor Council, representing 400,000 New York union members, has backed him.

My wife is a teacher on Staten Island. But suppose she worked in Manhattan: The nearest train station is over a mile from our house, while the only express bus within a half-mile is the SIM 23, featuring just six runs in the morning and 30- to 60-minute headways.

For this bus “service,” the MTA charges riders nearly 2½ times the normal subway fare, just shy of the congestion charge.

Moreover, express bus routes like the SIM 23 only serve the commercial corridors of the Financial District and Midtown. There’s almost no express bus service near residential neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, Chelsea or Grammercy Park.

It’s often these same neighborhoods that contain schools, firehouses, bus depots and sanitation garages, health-care facilities and homes to which domestic workers and tradesmen report for duty.

Most of the laborers at these places have put down roots in communities like Staten Island, or in Queens, or Nassau, the Hudson Valley or New Jersey.

They can’t simply drop everything and move to a transit-rich part of the city — or even afford to if they wanted to — because their normal mode of transportation has been upended by a transit agency and lefty politicians who’ve failed them.

But by the toll plan’s warped morality, these workers, who have little choice but to drive, are the enemy of the state — while Lord Lieber, state lawmakers and the governor are the heroes.

No wonder union members see through this charade.

Joe Borelli is the minority leader of the New York City Council.