Traffic Mobility Review Board reviews congestion pricing proposals

NEW YORK, NY – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Traffic Mobility Review Board, the group responsible for determining how much vehicles will be charged to enter Manhattan’s Central Business District (below 60th Street), met publicly yesterday and shared a glimpse into their pricing and exemption intentions.  

The Board presented four plans and suggested in all that “commuter buses” would be exempt from paying the toll while all other buses would pay twice the auto rate. The Board did not elaborate on the definition of commuter buses. Toll discussions have ranged from $15 to $23 for the typical auto – $30 to $46 for a motorcoach. 

Modeled after some European cities, the State of New York owned Metropolitan Transit Authority is imposing a so-called congestion pricing scheme on vehicles traveling in Manhattan. Many believe the implementation of the congestion toll will be copied by other cities across the country if New York is successful.

It is thought that New Jersey commuters would pay the bulk of the tolls, something NJ Governor Phil Murphy has been repeatedly pointing out. NJ filed a lawsuit in late July against the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to block the ill-conceived congestion pricing plan put forward by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). 

In the suit, the State of New Jersey argues that the USDOT and the FHWA violated the National Environmental Protection Act, which requires a full environmental impact review for projects of this projected impact and scope, as well as the Clean Air Act. “After refusing to conduct a full environmental review of the MTA’s poorly designed tolling program, the FHWA has unlawfully fast-tracked the agency’s attempt to line its own coffers at the expense of New Jersey families,” commented Governor Murphy when announcing the lawsuit.

The old axiom, “If you want less of something, tax it” will certainly apply here. 

“Every cost increase will foreclose some from a trip,” suggested UMA’s Ken Presley. “At a time when New York City is trying to entice workers and business back to the city and charter buses to the theatre district, this ill-advised tax will not do anything to enhance those efforts. If they really wanted to reduce congestion, they should pay motorcoaches to come into the city.”

The congestion toll is anticipated to bring in some $15 billion to the MTA. Currently, there are 122 requests for exemptions.

In the end, the Board did not announce the actual cost of the tolls, the timing and depth of overnight discounts, and how to toll taxis and other for-hire vehicles.

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