New York City Congestion Pricing Plan Approved by MTA Board – NBC New York
New York City Congestion Pricing Plan Approved by MTA Board – NBC New York

what you should Know

  • Cars will be charged an additional $15 to enter Manhattan at 61st Street and below, while trucks may be charged between $24 and $36, depending on size. It could go into effect as early as mid-June; only a lawsuit can stop it now, and the MTA says it doesn’t expect that to happen
  • There are some planned exceptions. Most of these are likely to involve government vehicles. Yellow school buses contracted to the Ministry of Education are also clear, as are city vehicles
  • The MTA board voted overwhelmingly to approve congestion charging in December, saying charging drivers to enter a stretch of Manhattan would add millions of dollars to the aging transit system

A majority of the MTA’s board voted Wednesday in favor of congestion pricing in New York City, greenlighting a controversial plan that would charge cars $15 to enter Manhattan below 61st Street and hit trucks with even higher fees after just a few months.

Only one of the 12 board members spoke against the proposal. The dissenting vote was Nassau County Board member David Mack.

The approval, essentially a rubber stamp of “clarifications” such as exemptions given that the plan itself was approved last year, means congestion pricing can begin after a 60-day public information campaign and an accompanying 30-day testing period .

Almost all 110 toll readers have already been installed, positioning the MTA to begin collecting as soon as June 15. Federal judges on both sides of the Hudson River could still block the plan, though the MTA expects that not to be the case.

The board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the plan in December, saying that charging drivers to enter part of Manhattan would add millions of dollars to an aging, cash-strapped transit system. Wednesday’s vote is a critical final approval of “clarifications” and exemptions.

As NBC New York reported earlier this week, most of the cars likely to receive a full exemption will be government vehicles. Get details on the planned exemption list here.

The fee will not apply to taxis, but drivers will be charged a surcharge of $1.25 per trip. The same policy applies to Uber, Lyft and other rideshare drivers, although their surcharge will be $2.50.

Despite what MTA officials say was overwhelming public comment “in favor” of congestion pricing by a 2-to-1 margin, a number of groups opposed it.

Taxi supporters criticized the plan, calling it a “reckless proposal that will devastate an entire workforce.”

This is far from over and we will continue to fight this blatant cash grab.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

Public hearings earlier in March paved the way for Wednesday’s vote. For its part, the MTA insists it is simply enforcing a state law aimed at cleaning up the air and modernizing mass transit.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy — who has long voiced his opposition to the measure, given that many of his constituents would be affected by congestion pricing given that they work in Manhattan — shared his displeasure with the final decision , saying in a statement: “This is far from over and we will continue to fight this blatant money grab. The MTA’s actions today are further proof that they are determined to break the law to balance their budget on the backs of New Jersey commuters. We will continue to take every opportunity to protect residents on this side of the Hudson from an unfair tolling scheme that discriminates against New Jerseyans, especially lower- and moderate-income drivers.”

News 4’s Andrew Siff reports.

How does congestion pricing work?

Congestion pricing will affect every driver entering what is called the Central Business District (CBD), which stretches from 60th Street in Manhattan and down to the southern edge of the Financial District. In other words, most drivers entering midtown Manhattan or below would have to pay the toll, according to the board’s report.

All drivers of cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles will be charged. Different vehicles will be charged different amounts — here’s a breakdown of prices:

  • Passenger vehicles: $15
  • Small trucks (such as trucks, moving vans, etc.): $24
  • Large trucks: $36
  • Motorcycles: $7.50

The $15 fee is about midway between previously reported options, which range from $9 to $23.

Full day rates will be in effect from 5am to 9pm every weekday and from 9am to 9pm on weekends. The board called for off-peak tolls (9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends) to be about 75 percent lower to about $3.50 instead of $15 for a passenger car.

Drivers will only be charged for entering the zone, not for leaving or staying in it. This means residents entering the CBD and walking around their block to look for parking will not be charged.

Only one toll per day will be charged — so anyone who enters the zone, then leaves and returns, will still only be charged once for that day.

The review board said the implementation of their congestion pricing plan is expected to reduce the number of vehicles entering the area by 17%. That would equate to 153,000 fewer cars in this large part of Manhattan. They also predicted the plan would generate $15 billion, an influx of cash that could be used to upgrade subways and buses.

MTA fare hike likely to come sooner than expected for public transit. Tracy Strahan reports.

Can I get a discount?

Many groups hoped to get exemptions, but very few would avoid paying the fee entirely. This small group is limited to specialized government vehicles (such as snow plows) and emergency vehicles.

Low-income drivers who earn less than $50,000 a year can apply to pay half the cost of the daily fee, but only after the first 10 trips in one month.

Although not an exception, there will also be so-called “passage credits” for drivers who use each of the four tunnels to enter Manhattan. This means that those already paying on the Lincoln or Holland tunnels, for example, will not pay the full congestion charge. The credit amounts to $5 per trip for cars, $2.50 for motorcycles, $12 for small trucks and $20 for large trucks.

Long Island and Queens drivers using the Queens-Midtown Tunnel will get the same break as those using the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Those crossing the George Washington Bridge and going south on 60th Street, however, will see no such discount.

Public sector workers (teachers, police, firefighters, transit workers, etc.), those who live in the so-called CBD, utility companies, those with medical examinations in the area and those who drive electric vehicles, all they were hoping to get an exemption granted. They didn’t get one.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew, one of the lead plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against congestion pricing, said after the MTA’s approval that it was now up to the courts to step in.

“Now that the MTA board has voted, the courts will have to prevent a massive environmental injustice that threatens families outside of Manhattan’s congestion zone, including communities that already suffer from some of the worst levels of air pollution and asthma in the world country,” Mulgrew said.

New Jersey is suing the Federal Highway Administration over New York City’s upcoming congestion pricing. Reporting by Patricia Battle.

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