Drivers would pay $15 to enter busiest part of NYC under plan to raise funds for mass transit

NEW YORK — Most drivers would pay $15 to enter Manhattan’s central business district, under a plan released by New York officials on Thursday. The congestion pricing plan, which has been sued by neighboring New Jersey, will be the first such program in the United States if it is approved by transportation officials early next year.

Under the plan, drivers of passenger cars entering Manhattan south of 60th Street would be charged electronically $15 during the day, while the fee for small trucks would be $24 and for large trucks $36.

Cities like London and Stockholm have similar programs, but New York City is poised to become the first in the US

Revenue from the tolls, expected to amount to about $1 billion annually, would be used to finance loans to upgrade the city’s public transportation systems.

The proposal from the Traffic Mobility Review Board, a New York state body charged with advising the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on toll rates, includes discounts for trips between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. and for frequent, low-income drivers. Government vehicles such as municipal garbage trucks would be exempt.

Taxi drivers would pass on a $1.25 surcharge to their passengers for entering the congestion zone, while app-based ride-hail passengers would see a $2.50 surcharge.

Officials say congestion pricing, in addition to funding needed public transportation improvements, will result in better air quality and less traffic.

“If this doesn’t happen, we will be choking on our own traffic for a long time to come and the MTA will not have the resources necessary to provide quality service,” said Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the traffic review board, in presenting the reports to MTA officials.

Opponents include taxi drivers, who had pushed for a full exemption.

“The city has already decimated the taxi industry with years of unregulated, unchecked competition from Uber and Lyft, and the MTA appears poised to deal a final blow to the prospect of stability and modest survival,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director from the New York newspaper New York. City Taxi Workers Alliance said in a press release: “If this proposal is implemented, thousands of driver families will be pushed back into crisis poverty with no relief in sight.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy criticized the transportation council’s proposal after some news organizations reported on it on Wednesday ahead of its official release.

“The Traffic Mobility Review Board’s recommended appropriations structure is completely inadequate, especially the total lack of toll appropriations for the George Washington Bridge, which will lead to toll shopping, increased congestion in underserved communities, and excessive tolling at the New Jersey to Manhattan crossings,” Murphy, who filed a federal lawsuit over congestion pricing in July, said in a statement.

The MTA board will vote on the plan after a series of public hearings scheduled for February 2024.