NEW YORK (WABC) -- The MTA unveiled the details of New York City's congestion pricing plan and supporters say it will mean less traffic, safer streets, cleaner air and better transit.
Taxis will only be charged once a day to enter Manhattan's commercial district, and overnight drivers will get at least a 50% discount, as the MTA starts planning the implementation of nation's first congestion pricing plan.
The first details of the plan were made public Friday morning.
"We all know the yellow cab industry has been struggling, that in combination with some other variables, led us to say we are going to charge the taxis and the FHVs once a day, even if they are going in and out of the congestion zone," said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. "So that is an additional mitigation along with a special provision for making it much much cheaper on the overnight. We want trucks to come in and do their deliveries in the middle of the night so they are not creating more congestion during the day."
The MTA plans a discount of at least 50% in tolls on vehicles driving in the zone between midnight and 4 a.m., specifically to encourage trucks to make deliveries during the overnight hours.
The city's shrinking fleet of yellow cabs and for-hire vehicle drivers has raised concerns that the program would put an additional financial burden on their already struggling, heavily immigrant industry, or hurt business if drivers were forced to pass costs to passengers.
The MTA says they will only be tolled once a day, regardless of how many times they enter the zone.
Low income drivers will get a 25% toll discount after the first 10 trips in each calendar month, excluding the overnight period.
Lieber said very few low income New Yorkers actually drive into the area south of 60th Street.
"There are only a very very small percentage of people who actually drive to the central business district," Lieber said. "There are only 16,000 people, in a region of 28 million. Only 16,000 people who are low income, as defined by $50,000 or less, who would be impacted by this, it's a very small percentage but we are going to give them a special discount to make sure that things are kept fair."
The Federal Highway Administration last week tentatively approved the MTA's congestion pricing plan, triggering a 30-day public review. Final federal approval would follow.
The MTA estimates that under the current timeline, the tolling program could begin as early as April 2024. But before that happens, the MTA, the city and state must figure out how much to charge drivers, including any discounts, exemptions and other allowances.
There is discussion that the price would range between $9 to $23.
Money raised through the toll plan will help build more accessible subway stations and provide more mass transit.
Critics to the congestion pricing plan say it could amplify air pollution in some areas since drivers would have to find alternate routes.
Taxi advocate Fernando Mateo said, "Taxi drivers should be exonerated from all this! They are taxed every time someone enters their car. We have become the cash cow for NYC and that must stop! The riding public will shirk if this continues! Drivers will earn less and small business like restaurants will suffer into bankruptcy."
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