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Congestion Pricing Is Coming to NYC, But Details Are Still Unclear

Drivers traveling into Manhattan’s central business district south of 60th Street will have to pay; the revenue will go towards the 'crumbling MTA'
Congestion Pricing, BK Reader
Photo credit: vauvau/ Flickr

New York State politicians announced on Sunday an agreement to approve congestion pricing for New York City, amNY reports. But details about its costs and implementation remain unclear. 

The tolling policy for Manhattan is part of the state's $175 billion budget which is due April 1, and will go toward funding much-needed upgrades of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"There are two aspects to it," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "It's M and M: management and money. I'm not going to ask New Yorkers for more money for the MTA, unless I know there's a better management system at the MTA. And this does both."

Under the agreement, electronic tolling stations will be installed to charge drivers traveling into Manhattan's central business district, south of 60th Street. The FDR Drive, West Side Highway and the Battery tunnel will be excluded. And drivers will only be tolled once per day.

Cuomo also announced the establishment of a Traffic Mobility Review Board, tasked to advise the state legislature on toll pricing, exemptions and credits for low-income New Yorkers. The plan so far includes some exemptions for emergency vehicles and for drivers with disabilities, and sees to offer credits for some New Yorkers, including those who live below 60th Street and people making $60,000 or less per year.

The new tolling program will be established and administered by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, in collaboration with the NYC Department of Transportation; that includes signage notifying drivers of the tolls, the infrastructure to collect fares and more. The TBTA and the DOT are also tasked to issue regular reports on the effects of congestion pricing, including its impacts on traffic and air quality.

The tolling program is expected to raise $1 billion a year, according to the governor's announcement. The revenue from the tolls will be put toward updates to the city's subway and bus system, as well as to expand transit availability in the outer boroughs that have limited mass transit options.

State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who previously rallied with transit advocates in favor of the congestion pricing, called the policy a "smart investment."

"While New York's public transit system used to be a point of pride, it is now an embarrassment.," said Myrie who represents the 20th Senate District including Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush and Prospect Heights. "New Yorkers deal with constant delays, overcrowding and service interruptions that hit poor and working families the hardest. Congestion pricing is a smart investment that will bring less crowded streets for drivers, better service for riders, and is a major step toward a transit system that works for everyone."

Additionally, funding for MTA capital projects will be coming from an internet sales tax and progressive mansion tax which are anticipated to raise $320 million and $365 million annually, respectively.

Public Jumaane Williams congratulated the state legislature on their effort to find a solution to provide funding for the "crumbling MTA," but also called some aspects of the announcement concerning.

"I thank our state legislators for their support of a progressive plan to fix our crumbling transportation system through congestion pricing," said Williams. "When paired with revisions to the MTA's operations, congestion pricing could help relieve New Yorkers struggling with 'Cuomo's MTA. The fact that the details of the plan are being left to a review board, however, is concerning."