NYC congestion pricing plan passes final vote, will bring $15 tolls for some drivers

March 28, 20240

$1 billion per year money grab

NEW YORK  The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board on Wednesday approved congestion pricing fees in what its chairman said was one of the most significant votes the board had ever undertaken.

Emotions ran high at the board meeting. A mix of people pleaded for mercy in the form of exemptions and lower fees, while others said after years of fighting the time had finally come to enact the controversial plan.

After the five-year debate and approval process that sometimes moved with fits and starts, the MTA board approved the tolls drivers will pay to enter Manhattan’s Central Business District below 60th Street.

The fee structure is as follows:

  • Cars will pay $15 to enter Manhattan at 61st Street and below during the day, and $3.75 at night
  • Motorcycles will pay $7.50 during the day and $1.75 at night
  • Trucks will pay between $24-36 during the day and $6-9 at night
  • Taxi drivers will see a $1.25 surcharge per ride, while Uber and Lyft drivers will pay $2.50

Several groups of drivers will be exempt, the majority of which are government workers.

Those exemptions will be made for any bus company with a Department of Education contract, including public, private and charter school buses. About half of the city’s fleet of 26,000 vehicles are also exempt, and private commuter buses. However, public employees who drive private cars to work, like first responders and teachers, have been left off the exemption list.

“Getting something big done is difficult,” MTA CEO Janno Lieber said.

It was difficult right up until the very end. MTA police barricades ringed the building. The place was crawling with cops. But even with all the precautions, two sets of demonstrators got inside the board room.

Just before the final vote, yellow cab drivers, who don’t want their passengers to pay an extra $1.25 congestion fee, confronted the board, saying, “Exempt the yellow cabs now.”

But with the MTA desperate for the $1 billion per year congestion pricing will bring in for fixing the ailing transit system, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor.

Long Island board member David Mack was the most vocal naysayer.

“My concern is a vibrant city coming out of COVID, the vacancy rate of office buildings, the major companies leaving New York and going south,” Mack said.

Congestion pricing was signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently did an about face, saying now isn’t the time to make it more difficult for drivers coming to New York City. Board member Norman Brown voted in favor, with a parting shot at Cuomo.

“I wanted to thank, actually, ex-Gov. Cuomo at some point for pushing this through, but in the short term his support has gone the other way. But I’m hoping in five years from now Andrew Cuomo is bragging, ‘I put this thing in. I drove a stake into the heart of congestion in Midtown, Manhattan,'” Brown said.

MTA officials hope to implement the plan in June and say most of the infrastructure has already been installed, but the rollout could be delayed because of several ongoing lawsuits. Hearings are scheduled for April 3 and 4 in New Jersey, followed by a hearing in Manhattan Federal Court on May 17.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made it clear he’s still hoping to put the kibosh on it.

“This is far from over and we will continue to fight this blatant cash grab. The MTA’s actions today are further proof that they are determined to violate the law in order to balance their budget on the backs of New Jersey commuters,” Murphy said.

Late Wednesday, there was yet another problem. Rockland County Executive Ed Day filed suit to stop the plan. His appointee to the board had argued that while the MTA has grand plans for improving the system with the congestion pricing cash, there is nothing for Rockland County.

John Ley

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