NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The MTA began a series of six meetings Thursday to hear from the public on its controversial congestion pricing plan.
Thursday's hearing, which began at 5 p.m., is being held virtually. Nearly 400 people signed up to voice their opinion on the plan. The remaining meetings will be held at various times though August 31.
The complete schedule is detailed below.
Ahead of the hearing, a rally in support of the plan was held at 10:30 a.m. outside Grand Central Terminal.
"Every single New Yorker deserves the transit system that is fully reliable and fully accessible," state Senator Andrew Gounardes said. "We are never going to hit those goals, which are 1,000% within reach, unless we invest in this system the way we have to. That includes the pricing scheme, congestion pricing."
Supporters say the revenue that will be generated by congestion pricing is crucial to ensure the future of safe and efficient mass transit in the city, but the proposal is not without critics.
From contractors to cab drivers -- or just about anybody who drives into Manhattan for a living -- the reaction is the same. Congestion pricing is bad for business.
It is intended to drive more commuters into mass transit, while raising huge amounts of money to maintain and upgrade the system.
The plan is to slap a daily toll on traffic south of 60th Street, and Eyewitness News estimates it could reduce traffic by at least 110,000 vehicles every day.
The MTA is considering several different approaches to congestion pricing that could see commuters paying anywhere from $9 to $23 to drive into parts of Manhattan when the plan takes effect as early as the end of 2023..
The projections were included in an environmental review posted earlier this month that includes seven possible tolling scenarios.
Drivers would pay the peak hour toll of $9, with peak defined as 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends, once per day when they exit the West Side Highway or FDR Drive into the congestion pricing zone.
The entire $23 peak fare would be paid by drivers entering the zone from other directions.
That would offset a 100% rebate on the cost of the East River tolls, 100% of the off-peak toll for Port Authority crossings, and between 90% to 95% of the peak hour Port Authority toll.
Other tolls, according to models used by the report's authors to study the tolling program, could include the following:
--$7 to $17 during off-peak hours
--$5 to $12 overnight
Along with only being charged once per day to enter the zone, residents who live south of 60th Street would be able to claim the toll costs on their state income taxes if they make less than $60,000 per year.
Drivers coming from New Jersey through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels or the George Washington Bridge could receive a credit for tolls already paid in some of the seven scenarios.
For example, a driver who pays $13.75 at the George Washington Bridge would pay a congestion fee of just $9.25 to enter the Central Business District. Drivers entering from the avenues-or any of the un-tolled crossings, like the 59th Street Bridge-would pay the full congestion fee.
Drivers on the FDR or the West Side Highway would not be charged unless they exited into the Central Business District.
None of the scenarios, however, would fully credit New Jersey drivers for tolls paid before reaching the congestion pricing zone.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has said any congestion pricing plan that acts as "a double tax" on New Jersey drivers would be a non starter.
"No way it will happen," Murphy said earlier this month.
Opposition is also coming from Rockland County Executive Ed Day, who is urging residents to speak out against the plan, and Uber says it is sending out a message to about 2 million customers asking them to say no to congestion pricing fees.
The message, which includes a petition, targets New York City riders who have taken Uber trips in the proposed congestion pricing zone over the last year.
Uber says they favor congestion pricing, but the new plan will have the company paying double taxes. They say cost increases will also cost drivers their jobs.
FULL SCHEDULE OF PUBLIC HEARINGS
The MTA's congestion pricing hearings are scheduled as follows and will be held online, accessible via the project's website.
--Thursday, Aug. 25, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
--Saturday, Aug. 27, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
--Sunday, Aug. 28, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
--Monday, Aug. 29, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
--Tuesday, Aug. 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
--Wednesday, Aug. 31, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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