Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is trying to help speed up the MTA’s long-delayed congestion pricing program by proposing how much to charge drivers who enter the zone below Manhattan’s 60th Street.
The discussions are supposed to be conducted by the Traffic Mobility Review Board – a panel made up of six members largely chosen by the MTA – who will also determine fees drivers pay or any exemptions. But the MTA still hasn’t formed that panel.
While many politicians have called for their constituents to be exempt from the fees, Levine – a supporter of the program that was approved by the state Legislature in 2019 – is the first one to put forth detailed recommendations on how much to charge drivers. Those fees would be funneled back to the MTA to maintain and repair the subway system, buy new buses and install more elevators.
“We are in part raising these important policy issues now, because we don’t want the fight over these questions to delay us further,” Levine said at a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday.
Levine outlined a series of recommendations that included charging drivers a different rate depending on what time they enter and leave the zone, charging more during rush hours and less during off-peak hours. He also suggested charging large vehicles more money than smaller ones.
He also offered up a suggestion that should please New Jersey drivers, whose leadership has already complained about the program. He said he wants to ensure vehicles that enter the zone via the Holland or Lincoln tunnels allow that toll to be applied to the congestion pricing fee.
“So that people cannot toll-shop by trying to take a longer trip, for example, across the East River to avoid paying the fee,” Levine said.
Federal officials are still reviewing the MTA’s response to its more than 400 questions about the environmental assessment.
“The MTA has continued to forcefully advance the congestion pricing initiative set in motion by the state,” John McCarthy, the MTA chief of external relations, wrote in a statement. “We welcome the borough president’s support for a program that will reduce traffic, bring significant environmental benefits and provide substantial funding for capital initiatives to benefit mass transit.”
The transit agency isn’t saying what it will charge, or when it’ll meet to discuss the rates.
Speaking to reporters in Queens on Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul reiterated that she “100% supports” congestion pricing, which she said is back on track after the state worked through a “few federal barriers in the spring.”
“We've gone through our community outreach,” she said. “We’re in the process of trying to get this instituted as soon as possible. So we’ll be releasing the timetable as soon as we can.”
With reporting by Jon Campbell.