Details of MTA’s congestion pricing plan for Manhattan unveiled

Drivers could face $9 to $23 in fees to drive into parts of Manhattan as soon as late 2023, according to the MTA’s congestion pricing plan that’ll be unveiled Wednesday.

The amounts and timeline were detailed in a 34-page summary of the project’s much-delayed environmental review, which was provided to reporters by the cash-strapped agency Tuesday.

“The tremendous detail included in this assessment makes clear the widespread benefits that would result from central business district tolling,” said MTA chief Janno Lieber in a statement. “Bottom line: this is good for the environment, good for public transit and good for New York and the region.”

The summary reveals the MTA is considering a tiered plan that would charge drivers the most to enter the tolling district — south of Manhattan’s 60th Street — during peak daytime hours, while providing discounts to those who drive in during evening or overnight hours.

The MTA’s study outlined a slew of options that its toll board will consider, including:

  • A $9 fee during peak time — typically defined as 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. — which commuters would pay once per day when they exit the West Side Highway or FDR into Midtown or Lower Manhattan. There would be no discounts for commuters who pay tolls on tunnels or bridges into Manhattan
  • A $23 fee during peak time, which would be paid by all drivers. But New Jersey and outer-borough commuters would be allowed to subtract the tunnel tolls they pay to cross into Manhattan from that congestion fee. The MTA would also exempt cabs from the congestion fee under that proposal.

MTA officials said Tuesday the proposed discount plan would cover 100% of the cost of the East River tolls, 100% of the off-peak toll for Port Authority crossings and between 90 to 95% of the peak hour PA toll.

MTA CEO Janno Lieber commended the up-hike in fees.
Advertisement
Robert Miller

For example, a driver coming from New Jersey traveling through the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan would be able to credit almost all of their $13.75 peak tunnel toll against the congestion charge — meaning they would pay an estimated $10 to continue on into Midtown.

New Jersey politicians, including Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, have campaigned hard for such a discount.

The entire $23 congestion fee would have to be paid by drivers who cross the East River using the free Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, Queensboro bridges or drive down from north of 59th Street. Effectively, officials said, the higher congestion charge is necessary to offset the revenues lost by providing the toll rebate.

Drivers would only be charged once per day to enter the zone and New Yorkers who live south of 60th Street will be able to claim the toll costs on their state income taxes if they make less than $60,000 per year.

The congestion-pricing program has two major goals — combat ever-worsening traffic in Manhattan and use the revenues to overhaul and upgrade the subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road and the MetroNorth.

Over the last decade, average traffic speeds plummeted 22% from an already miserly 9.1 mph to just 7.1 mph.

Buses suffered even more as speeds on routes that run south of 60th Street dropped 28% over the 10-year timeframe between 2010 and 2019.

Advertisement

The analysis found that charging motorists to drive on city roads south of 60th Street would reduce the number of cars driving in Lower and Midtown Manhattan by as much as 20%.

The revenues from the congestion fee would also provide the MTA with enough money to finance $15 billion of its $55 billion program for major upgrades and construction projects.

The money pays for replacing old trains and buses, overhauling and computerizing the ancient and failure prone signals still used on most lettered lines in the subway system and to improve track and reliability of the Long Island Rail Road and MetroNorth.

Officials recently announced plans to speed up the signal work on the Sixth and Eighth Avenue subways, which will improve the speed of the reliability of the frequently late and slow A, C and F trains through Brooklyn.

Despite political pushback and predictions of dire economic consequences, congestion fees succeeded in tamping down London traffic, Bloomberg reported.

The MTA says it will hold a slate of public hearings on the congestion pricing program that will run through early September.

It will then send its recommendations to the Traffic Mobility Review Board, which is tasked with selecting from the menu of options presented by the MTA staff — including the toll rates and possible rebates.

The MTA board must then give its final approval before the congestion pricing program kicks in.

Advertisement