Driving Into Manhattan Is About to Get Even More Expensive

  • In Business
  • 2022-08-10 17:18:45Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority is one step closer to rolling out a congestion pricing plan that would charge some motorists as much as $23 to enter Manhattan's central business district.

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The tolling scenarios for the plan, a first for a US city, were outlined in an Environmental Assessment report released Wednesday by the Federal Highway Administration, New York State Department of Transportation, MTA Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and New York City Department of Transportation. The new fees are projected to bring in $1 billion in revenue a year.

During official peak hours, tolls could be as much as $23 and $17 during off-peak times for E-ZPass holders, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. The report said that different rates would apply for vehicles without an E-ZPass.

For drivers traveling from Princeton, New Jersey to the Manhattan district, the average round trip auto cost would be $120 with the additional toll, according to the report. Motorists coming from Dutchess/Putnam Counties in New York, would be charged a total average of $111.

EXPLAINER: Congestion Pricing, the Route More Cities Are Taking

The new tolls could go into effect as soon as the end of 2023. The assessment predicts that traffic in the district could drop by as much as 9% and use across the entire public transit systems could potentially increase by as much as 2%.

The MTA, a state agency that runs the city's subways, buses and commuter rails, is facing a financial crisis. It plans to bond against the new revenue to raise $15 billion to support its $51.5 billion multiyear capital plan.

"The tremendous detail included in this assessment makes clear the widespread benefits that would result from central business district tolling," MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said in a statement. "Bottom line: this is good for the environment, good for public transit and good for New York and the region."

Motorists without an E-ZPass will be charged the most under the plan because they are not eligible for any credits, exemptions or discounts. Then it depends on where you're traveling from and the time of day. For instance, during peak hours motorists with an E-ZPass crossing a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey facility would pay the usual $13.75 toll but not the full $23 proposed congestion pricing toll when entering the Manhattan district because they will get a credit.

Primary residents of the Manhattan central business district, which is south of 60th Street, and New York State residents with adjusted gross income of less than $60,000 would be eligible for a state tax credit equal to the amount of the new tolls, paid during the taxable year.

The plan will likely put pressure on an already crowded public transit system and increase traffic in other streets, highways and tunnels. Driving into Manhattan has rebounded since the depths of the pandemic. Crossings on MTA's seven bridges and two tunnels have been near or even exceeded pre-pandemic levels for more than a year, on average.

Meanwhile, the MTA has seen weekday subway ridership plateau at about 60% of pre-pandemic levels as many office workers have settled into working from home.

Read more: NYC Subway Use Rebounds Faster on Weekends Than Weekdays

Prior to the pandemic, farebox ticket sales and tolls covered half of the agency's operating costs. That ratio is now down to about 30%, MTA data show. That gap means the agency faces a $2.6 billion operating shortfall in 2025.

Now that the report has been published, project partners will collect public comment through Sept. 9, according to a senior MTA official. The MTA will hold a series of public hearings from Aug. 25 through Aug. 31.

After public review, the federal government could step in with more questions. If approved by the government, the MTA's Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority board would then adopt a final toll structure, including rates and any crossing credits, discounts and exemptions.

(Updates with round trip auto costs in paragraph four, adds chart)

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