The MTA Board Approves the Congestion Pricing Plan for New York City! Learn About Exemptions, Tolls, and More

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board overwhelmingly voted to approve the measure, which it claims will contribute millions of dollars for the city’s aging transit system and reduce traffic by charging drivers to enter a large swath of Manhattan. This makes the prospect of congestion pricing coming to New York City much more real.

The decision followed the delivery of the Traffic Mobility Review Board’s report to the MTA on November 30, which outlined the broad parameters for the upcoming tolls, including expenses, the dates on which specific pricing will apply, the recipients of credits, and more. Trucks may pay between $24 and $36, depending on size, to enter Manhattan at 60th Street and below. Cars will pay an extra $15 to do so.

(Scroll below for additional details about surcharges, exemptions, and the toll-free periods.)

“Right now, we are very much ready and excited to accommodate the projected movement of a portion of the driving public to transit,” Janno Lieber, chairman of the MTA, stated. “We do have plenty of room on transit, but that does not mean that we’re going to stop pushing to increase service.”

The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, praised the board’s decision. Hochul has been an outspoken advocate for congestion pricing.

“Congestion pricing means cleaner air, better transit and less gridlock on New York City’s streets and today’s vote by the MTA Board is a critical step forward,” Hochul said in a press release. “The proposal approved today heeds my call to lower the toll rate by nearly 35 percent from the maximum rate originally considered.”

When the plan was presented to a vote on Wednesday morning, only one MTA board member was against. The plan was approved by the other nine members in a vote.

“Entering to see a show, have dinner, or see a son or daughter will cost you $24″. I regret to inform you that I am unable to vote for it,” board member David Mack stated.

Wednesday’s news for metro users wasn’t all positive, though: The MTA said that they are postponing the planned re-signaling of the A and C trains between Manhattan and Brooklyn due to lawsuits and other delays in approval. The transportation agency stated that the reductions in wait times along the L and 4/5 lines are proof of the significance of this effort.

Below is a summary of all the items that were authorized on Wednesday along with the next steps in the procedure:

How does the pricing of congestion operate? Who and how much are charged?

Any car entering the so-called Central Business District (CBD), which extends from Manhattan’s 60th Street and lower down to the southernmost point of the Financial District, will be affected by congestion pricing. Put another way, the board’s assessment states that the majority of traffic entering midtown Manhattan or below will be required to pay the toll.

The toll would be imposed on all drivers of automobiles, lorries, motorbikes, and other types of transportation. The costs will vary depending on the type of car; the breakdown is as follows:

  • Vehicles for passengers: $15
  • Box trucks, moving vans, and other small trucks: $24
  • Big trucks: $36
  • Motorbikes: $7.50

The $15 toll is roughly in the middle of the range of previously reported possibilities, which had been rumored to be between $9 and $23.

On weekdays, the full daytime prices would be available from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on weekends, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The board recommended that toll prices be reduced by approximately 75% during off-peak hours (weekdays from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and on weekends from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.), or $3.50 instead of $15 for a passenger vehicle.

The only fees for drivers would be to enter the zone; they would not be charged to remain there. This implies there won’t be any fees for locals who enter the CBD and circle their block in search of parking.

There will only be a single daily toll collected, thus anyone who enters the area, leaves, and then returns will only be assessed a single toll for that day.

According to the review board, putting their congestion pricing plan into action should result in a 17% decrease in the number of vehicles entering the area. That would mean that a significant chunk of Manhattan would have 153,000 fewer cars. Additionally, they projected that the proposal would bring in $15 billion, which would be utilized to update buses and subways.

Kathy Wylde of the Traffic Mobility Review Board stated, “The New York City region is losing $20 billion annually due to excess traffic.”

Are ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, and others exempted? How about cabs?

Although ridesharing and taxis will have some exclusions, they won’t get away with it entirely, much to their dismay.

Taxis will not be subject to the toll; nevertheless, drivers will be assessed a $1.25 extra each trip. Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare drivers are subject to the same policy; however, they will be assessed a $2.50 premium.

In a statement, Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, called the plan “a reckless proposal that will devastate an entire workforce.”

Exist any more toll exemptions from congestion pricing?

While many organizations had hoped for exemptions, relatively few will be able to fully avoid paying the toll. Only specialized government vehicles (such as snowplows) and emergency vehicles fall into that small group.

After the first ten journeys in a month, low-income drivers who make less than $50,000 annually may apply to pay half of the daytime toll.

There will also be so-called “crossing credits” for drivers entering Manhattan through any of the four tunnels, however this is not an exemption. This implies that people who currently pay, for instance, at the Holland or Lincoln Tunnels, won’t be charged the entire congestion cost. For passenger cars, the credit is $5 each ride; for motorcyclists, it is $2.50; for small trucks, it is $12; and for heavy trucks, it is $20.

The same relief will be given to Long Island and Queens drivers utilizing the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. However, there would be no such reduction for anyone who crossed the George Washington Bridge and traveled south of 60th Street.

Employees of the public sector (teachers, police, firefighters, transit workers, etc.), residents of the so-called CBD, utility businesses, people with nearby medical appointments, and owners of electric vehicles had all expressed hope that they would be given an exemption. However, the Traffic Mobility Review Board and the MTA did not include any such exceptions for those groups.

Concerns have been raised about enforcement. Up to 5% of customers at cashless toll plazas have already caused the MTA difficulties in collecting money.

“We’re going to target them closely and make sure they don’t get away with it. Regarding people who attempt to avoid the toll, Lieber stated, “The credibility is the entire endeavor is at stake.”

What will happen next, and when will the tolls start?

Regarding the potential implementation date of the scheme, the MTA has consistently said that the intention is to begin tolling in late spring of 2024. However, that will probably take a little longer.

Following the MTA’s approval of the original proposal, a 60-day comment process will begin on February 28 and include four public hearings in early March. Before the alleged “final” vote in April, any modifications to the plan—such as Mayor Eric Adams’ request for further exclusions for cars like taxis—could be introduced.

Accordingly, the earliest the tolls would genuinely be implemented would be in late June 2024.

Although there were concerns about a cost as high as $23, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber dispelled those rumors early in the year by stating that board members were “trying to keep it well lower than that.” He continued by saying that the transit agency would need to maintain a limited number of exemptions in order to maintain the normal toll pricing.

Local officials from both political parties were planning to file a lawsuit to stop the congestion pricing plan from charging their people, even with the reduced suggested prices.

“Commuters in New Jersey are being taken advantage of to cover the MTA’s financial woes. “We’re thinking about every option, including taking legal action again,” stated New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

Earlier, in a letter to the Traffic Mobility Board, Governor Murphy requested that cars from his state be granted an exemption, stating that they shouldn’t be required to pay a toll to cross the George Washington Bridge, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, or an additional price to enter downtown Manhattan. In order to prevent them from paying twice, he contended that the toll payment ought to be deducted from the total amount.

New Jersey is attempting to prevent congestion pricing by suing the federal government. Regarding the idea, Staten Island has declared that it intends to sue the MTA as well.

For the people of Staten Island, the recently reported $15 toll to enter Manhattan below 60th St. is nothing less than outright highway robbery. Vito Fossella, the president of the Staten Island Borough, stated, “This might be among the worst things that has ever happened to Staten Island.” We have repeatedly stated that all residents of Staten Island, particularly those who reside close to the Staten Island Expressway, will have to put up with increased traffic and air pollution in addition to paying an additional fee to go within their own city. Staten Islanders will receive no return on the investment they won’t be able to choose for all of this.”

Depending on how the judges rule in any one of the challenges filed against congestion pricing, the scheme might also come to an abrupt stop. Notwithstanding claims by supporters that the proposal will reduce emissions, much of the objections center on how the plan will affect the environment.

Aside from legal objections, a federal government or Congress act would be the only means of thwarting the plan.

Late in the summer, the New York City Council convened a hearing on the subject. During that hearing, Transit President Richard Davey testified that the money from the plan will go toward upgrading NYC’s transportation infrastructure to the cutting edge, which will benefit all.

“Investment in our transit system is what congestion pricing is going to finance. Thus, we’re eager to move on to the next stage of the approval procedure,” Davey stated.

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