Yellow school buses, most city-owned vehicles among new exemptions to congestion pricing

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, March 25, 2024
MTA releases new exemptions to congestion pricing
Toni Yates has the story in Jersey City on congestion pricing.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The MTA has determined which modes of transportation will be exempt from congestion pricing fees.

The announcement came about 48 hours out from the MTA's final vote on whether to launch the controversial plan that would charge most drivers a fee of at least $15.

Yellow school buses, most private commuter buses and city-owned vehicles are among the vehicles exempt from congestion pricing. The determination comes after public hearings were held on the topic in February and this month.

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

Commuter buses that run on a regular schedule, even those operated by private bus companies, long distance buses like MegaBus and regional bus services like the Hampton Jitney, are also exempt.

The MTA has deemed a majority of city-owned vehicles as exempt, expanding the initial definition from vehicles like police cruisers, fire engines and garbage trucks.

Employee shuttles will not be exempt. The MTA is not considering exemptions for municipal employee private vehicles.

MTA officials say they needed to keep the number of exemptions to a minimum to maintain the once a day $15-base toll for passenger vehicles to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street.

The MTA is finalizing some additional exceptions ahead of the scheduled vote on a final proposal this Wednesday. The congestion pricing plan would go into effect in June.

U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer, who has been an outspoken critic of the congestion pricing plan, said New York "doesn't care about hardworking commuters."

"After countless hours of testimony from the public begging the MTA for relief from their outrageous Congestion Tax, today's news makes it clear that New York just doesn't care about hardworking commuters from their state or mine," Gottheimer said. "They just want to take hard-earned dollars from Jersey families, including nurses, teachers, law enforcement, labor, you name it! The MTA has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and is now desperately whacking hardworking Jersey residents to solve their repeated budget failures. Instead of blaming others, New York and the MTA should take a long hard look in the mirror and fix their own problems."

Mayor Eric Adams' office released a statement Monday, saying the exemptions are "critical steps to ensuring that congestion pricing is equitable for all New Yorkers."

"Congestion pricing is here, and we are glad that this plan will deliver for working-class New Yorkers," the statement said. "As a result of our advocacy, we've secured discounts for low-income New Yorkers and shift workers, exemptions for school buses and essential city vehicles, and $100 million to reduce the impacts of car traffic on vulnerable communities in the South Bronx and across the five boroughs. While this is just the beginning, these are critical steps to ensuring that congestion pricing is equitable for all New Yorkers. We have full confidence in our newest MTA appointees, Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi and City Planning Chair Dan Garodnick, who will help ensure that congestion pricing dollars improve underserved neighborhoods and enhance our transit system while simultaneously delivering on the promised environmental benefits."

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