New York City’s plan to charge motorists driving into Manhattan’s central business district inched forward as a proposed tolling structure received an initial approval from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The MTA’s governing board voted Wednesday to allow the tolling program to move forward. The agency, which operates the city’s subways, buses and commuter rail trains, is implementing the congestion pricing tolling plan. It’s the first such program in the US. Passenger cars with an E-ZPass will pay $15 during peak periods, while trucks pay $24 to $36.
MTA officials anticipate congestion pricing will bring in $1 billion annually that the transit agency will borrow against to raise $15 billion for its $51.5 billion multi-year capital budget. That spending plan includes modernizing subway signals, extending the Second Avenue subway to 125th Street and adding escalators and elevators to make the system more accessible for everyone.
Congestion pricing gives the MTA, which already has $47 billion of outstanding debt, a new revenue source to fund necessary infrastructure needs, said Neal Zuckerman, an MTA board member who chairs its finance committee.
“We’re spending 15% of our operating budget servicing that debt,” Zuckerman said. “Congestion pricing is necessary for plugging the gap of the building, the repairing, the fixing we must do.”
The initial approval allows the MTA to begin a public comment period on the tolling structure. Drivers may start paying the new toll as soon as May or June, although New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has filed suit against the proposal to get a court to force the MTA to undergo a longer environmental analysis. That lawsuit may delay congestion pricing’s implementation.
The fee would apply once a day to drivers entering Manhattan south of 60th Street from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends, with tolls 75% lower during the night. There’s a 50% increase for vehicles without an E-ZPass. The proposal includes a credit for drivers entering the district through certain tunnels.
The toll wouldn’t apply to taxi drivers and for-hire vehicles, but instead charge passengers per ride, $1.25 for taxis and $2.50 to those in ride-shares like Uber or Lyft.
The tolling plan calls for a $5 credit to passenger vehicles entering Manhattan through four tunnels: Queens-Midtown connecting Manhattan to Long Island City, the Hugh L. Carey — a bypass to downtown from Brooklyn, and both the Holland and Lincoln which connect to New Jersey. Small trucks would get a $12 credit while large trucks and tour buses would receive $20.