Commission issues plan to charge drivers

Panel voted today on NYC traffic fee plan; not final step
January 31, 2008 4:23:02 PM PST
The commission in charge of creating a plan to deal with the chronic gridlock that plagues New York City made its final recommendations Thursday, approving a scaled-down version of the original plan that still charges cars $8 to enter the most traffic-choked parts of Manhattan.The plan calls for an $8 toll for cars entering Manhattan below 60th Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Trucks would have to pay $21, with an exemption for those with low emissions.

The original plan called for 86th street as the cutoff, along with charging drivers a fee to travel within the so-called congestion zone. The new plan eliminates the charge within the zone, replacing it with a $1 taxi surcharge and increased parking meter rates.

The Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission - a group set up to study the fee idea and other options for reducing traffic - overwhelmingly approved the plan Thursday. It must now be approved by the City Council and Legislature.

"Of all the options considered, the Commission's plan provides an effective and practical solution to the problem of traffic congestion in New York's central business district," according to the commission's report.

An estimated $500 million a year in proceeds from the plan would go to improving mass transportation. The goal behind the fees is to get more people to take mass transit, thus improving the notorious gridlock and pollution issues facing the city.

"Were we not to get congestion pricing, it would have a dramatic effect on our ability to expand and modernize our system," Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director Elliot Sander said Thursday, the New York Post reported. The MTA runs city subways and public buses, the Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Railroad, the Long Island Bus system and several bridges and tunnels.

Bloomberg introduced his congestion pricing plan as part of a wide-ranging environmental initiative last year. The federal government has pledged $354 million toward the plan.

Besides the fee plan, the commission has looked at such ideas as creating tolls at all the East and Harlem river crossings, raising prices for street and garage parking, and banning vehicles from entering part of Manhattan on certain days based on a digit on their license plates.