MTA officially approves congestion pricing tolling plan for New York City

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, March 27, 2024
MTA officially approves congestion pricing tolling plan for NYC
N.J. Burkett has the story outside MTA headquarters on congestion pricing.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The MTA on Wednesday approved a new $15 toll for passenger cars driving into the heart of Manhattan, making New York City the first city in the country to approve congestion pricing.

The plan was approved by a vote of 11-1, to charge vehicles driving south of 60th Street from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. Traffic on the West Side Highway and FDR Drive is exempt.

One board member, David Mack, voted against the plan, as expected.

"I'm voting no at this moment. But I would like to save the city first. Don't kill the goose that lays the egg," Mack said. "My concern is a vibrant city coming out of COVID, the vacancy rate of office buildings, the major companies leaving New York."

Moments before Wednesday's vote, protesters interrupted -- calling for full exemptions for yellow taxi cabs.

The vote was ultimately met with a round of applause.

About 90% of New Yorkers commute by transit to the Central Business District, said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber during a news conference held after the board meeting's vote.

The goal of the plan is to reduce traffic and raise millions of dollars annually to improve mass transit, including making more stations ADA accessible and re-signaling train lines to improve reliability.

Still, some possible roadblocks remain. Lawsuits are being heard in federal courts in both New York and New Jersey that could delay implementation.

Oral arguments in the New Jersey lawsuits are set for April 3 in Newark. A similar lawsuit is being heard in New York.

"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," said Gov. Phil Murphy in response to the plan's approval. "We will continue to avail ourselves of every option in order to protect residents on this side of the Hudson from an unfair tolling scheme that discriminates against New Jerseyans, especially lower and middle-income drivers."

The vote came days after the MTA revealed its final "clarifications" to the tolling plan issued by the Traffic Mobility Review Board in December.

The list of exemptions to the plan include yellow school buses, most private commuter buses and a large number of city-owned vehicles.

Among yellow school buses, those under contract with the New York City Department of Education, including buses the city contracts for some charter and private schools, would be exempt.

Commuter buses that run on a regular schedule, including those operated by private bus companies, long-distance buses like the MegaBus and regional bus services that make stops in the city like the Hampton Jitney, would also be exempt.

Drivers who make less than $50,000 per year can apply for a discount and drivers who enter from the Lincoln, Holland, Battery and Queens-Midtown tunnels can receive a credit since they're also paying a toll.

Truck and some bus drivers will need to pay $24 or $36 during the day to enter the congestion relief zone.

"Today's vote is one of the most significant the Board has ever undertaken, and the MTA is ready," Lieber said. "In advance of day one of tolling, we've increased service on 12 subway lines, advanced redesigns of the entire NYC bus network, and implemented the largest service increase in LIRR history. And there's more to come with the funds raised from congestion pricing - more accessible stations, modernized subway signals, and new expansion projects like Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway and Metro-North Penn Station Access."

U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer, an outspoken critic, called the plan a "cash grab" and released a statement that said in part:

"Today's vote was just a rubber stamp on the MTA's unprecedented cash grab. It just proves what we knew all along - the MTA doesn't care about less traffic, helping the environment, or supporting families. They will do anything to cover their historic mismanagement - and the billions of dollars they bleed out every year. Today, they ignored the voices of tens of thousands of families who begged them to do the right thing."

The approved plan is expected to take effect in mid-June.

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