MTA holds hearing on NYC congestion pricing, plans for $9-$23 toll

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The public got a chance to weigh in on New York's plan to charge a new toll for motorists entering Manhattan Thursday, with officials saying they are planning on an amount somewhere between $9 and $23.

The exact toll cost would depend on how many credits and exemptions are given out, project head Allison C de Cerreño said.

The MTA revealed that passenger vehicles would be charged once a day for entering Manhattan south of 60th Street, and disabled persons and emergency vehicles could be exempt.

"We anticipate the E-ZPass peak period toll for autos will range from $9 on the lower end to $23 on the higher end, assuming credits, exemptions, and discounts are provided," C de Cerreño said.

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The range of potential roll rates for automobiles using tolls by mail will be higher, from $14 to $35 for the peak period, again depending on the scenario.

Off peak and overnight toll ranges may be lower, and tolls for trucks and other vehicle types would have different ranges.

Margaret Flanagan said the toll is simply unfair.

"The wealthiest people already live in Manhattan below 60th Street," she said. "So this translates into a tax on the traveling poor and a tax on the outer boroughs."

The toll was approved because, in an eight-year period, travel speeds in Manhattan dropped 23%.

The plan calls for a new tolling zone for the area south of 60th Street in Manhattan, an area that accommodates hundreds of thousands of vehicles daily from the New Jersey and New York suburbs and beyond.

Commonly referred to as congestion pricing, it has been tried in Europe but would be the first of its kind in any U.S. city.

The toll would generate about $1 billion dollars a year for the MTA, with about 80% of that money earmarked for subways and buses.

The virtual meetings will last through mid-October, with the final three meetings -- set for Oct. 7, 12, and 13 -- will focus specifically on the program's potential impact on minority and low-income communities in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The legislature approved the plan in 2019, and it was supposed to go into effect this year, but it stalled under the Trump administration and was eventually given the go-ahead from federal regulators this year.

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The hearing was full of people, many of whom said they hate cars.

"New Yorkers cannot hear ourselves think with all the noise cars create," a speaker named Thomas said. "We cannot breathe the air without damaging our lungs. We cannot even safely cross the street because of the threat of the automobile in our city."

Others like Patrick Johnson from Staten Island think the MTA has bungled this from the very beginning.

"I am disgusted with the MTA, with the Department of Transportation," he said. "You people are a day late and a dollar short thinking about this. You could've put tolls on the East River bridges and been done with it."

It isn't likely to be put in place until 2023, as the MTA has said the environmental review process will take until late 2022.

The congestion pricing plan has also been met with criticism from some New Jersey politicians who say motorists from their districts already pay high tolls to enter the city and shouldn't have to pay an additional fee.

Democratic New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer announced proposed legislation that would withhold federal transit grants from New York and offer tax credits to New Jersey motorists if the fee is implemented.

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