Congestion pricing: Driving in Manhattan could cost $11.52

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(Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Traffic moves through midtown Manhattan in New York City, June 7, 2007. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Traffic moves through midtown Manhattan in New York City, June 7, 2007.

By DAVID KLEPPER and FRANK ELTMAN
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Motorists would have to shell out $11.52 to drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan under a new proposal commissioned by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ease traffic congestion and raise vital funds for mass transit.

Trucks would pay even more — $25.34 — while taxi cabs, Uber rides and for-hire vehicles would be charged between $2 and $5 per ride. The pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street.

The idea, called “congestion pricing,” involves using electronic tolling to charge vehicles for entering certain parts of town during especially busy times. The proposal is expected to face stiff opposition in the Legislature, which must approve portions of the plan. Similar plans have failed before after concerns were raised about the impact on commuters.

“There are going to be some naysayers,” said former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member who served on a task force created by Cuomo to study the idea. The panel released its proposal Friday. “It’s clear that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”

London and Singapore already have similar congestion surcharges in place. Supporters of the idea say it will address gridlock and raise money for mass transit. Skeptics, including Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, worry that tolls could be a burden, especially to middle class and low-income commuters. Similar concerns doomed a congestion pricing plan from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg a decade ago.

Yasmin Sohrawardy, who drives from Queens into Manhattan twice a week for her job as a financial software developer, opposes any proposal to charge drivers.

“The people in the outer boroughs, who don’t have access to public transportation the way people do in Manhattan, can’t possibly afford this,” said Sohrawardy, 47. “It’s going to be extraordinarily expensive. If you live in Manhattan, you can take subways, buses or taxis.”

The fees on taxis and for-hire vehicles could take effect within a year, followed by trucks and then cars in 2020, according to the report. The task force said that none of the fees should be charged until mass transit repairs are made.

The task force calculated the amount of the fees based on existing bridge toll amounts. Members of the task force said they could change before any final plan is approved.

The congestion pricing task force was created by Cuomo last year after he declared a state of emergency in the subways. Details from a draft of the proposal were first reported Thursday night by The New York Times.

De Blasio said he wants a guarantee that revenue from the surcharge will go toward public transportation. He said the proposal is a “step in the right direction” compared to earlier versions, though he continues to push for a millionaires’ tax to raise revenue for transit.

“We need to know a lot more,” he said on WNYC radio Friday. “What we still don’t see is money ... being put in a lock box that would only fund transit in New York City.”

It’s reasonable to charge motorists more to drive into Manhattan, according to Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, since travelers using the subway, buses, ferries and trains already pay a fare to reach Manhattan.

“The only folks who don’t pay at all are drivers — and those cars are clogging our streets, polluting our air, and harming the economy,” he said. “If you choose to drive into the most transit-rich neighborhoods in the United States, it’s only fair that you also pay your fair share too.”

Traffic congestion will cost the New York City region an estimated $100 billion over the next five years, according to a report from The Partnership for New York City.

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Klepper reporter from Albany, New York.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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