Are the possible, infuriating to many, Port Authority toll hikes a Trojan horse for congestion pricing in Manhattan? Some say that yes, they should be. City Hall News today outlines an interesting plan in which the proposed $4 hike on the Hudson River bridges are used as a catalyst to bring tolls to the East River bridges, along with lower tolls on bridges that aren't going into Manhattan. According to one former traffic commissioner such a plan could bring the MTA almost $1.9 billion in additional annual income.

Over the past few years congestion pricing, or traffic pricing, has earned a very unpopular reputation amongst New Yorkers, but to transit pols it remains a shining beacon amidst a grim financial landscape. “The bridge tolls will become the way to solve the MTA problem,” one person involved in the long-term effort to at least bring tolls to the East River told City Hall News. “In this situation, it’s ludicrous to leave some of the bridges free.

Right now the issue is still being mulled behind closed doors, but former traffic commissioner (and current transportation consultant) Sam Schwartz has a basic sketch for how the pricing could come to the city:

His plan would raise all tolls into Manhattan below 60th Street to $13, charge drivers to cross 60th Street from uptown, and impose tolls for the first time on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Ed Koch Queensboro bridges.
The price at other crossings would stay flat or be lowered, to reward drivers who aren’t contributing to Manhattan congestion - reducing tolls at the RFK Triboro, Verrazano Narrows, Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges from $13 to $8.
“Lower the tolls on … all the connections between the boroughs other than the central business district,” Schwartz said. “And put tolls up where we need them, at the four East River bridges and the 60th Street screen.”

But why now, and what does it have to do with the toll hike? Because Governor Cuomo has made it clear that he is against levying any new taxes on New Yorkers, but (public protesting aside) he seems to be okay with the PA toll hike and tolls as a revenue source in general. And goodness knows the MTA needs revenue as much as the PA. Hence congestion pricing, or at least East River tolls. Meanwhile, like the last time it came up, the Bloomberg administration isn't against the idea but isn't interested in wasting more political capital on it. Once the PA tolls are approved, don't be surprised if you hear much more about this idea.