A plan to toll drivers who enter Manhattan south of 60th Street as much as $23 during rush hour could reduce car traffic by as much as 20%, the MTA found in a new analysis released Wednesday.

The congestion pricing assessment considered a range of tolling schemes for vehicles, including one that charged as little as $9 during peak hours. The release marks the first time the MTA has put out a range of tolls for consideration. The program is intended to discourage driving while also raising money for transit improvements.

The tolls for commercial vehicles and trucks range from $12 to $82. This could decrease truck traffic anywhere from 21% to 81%, the analysis found.

The aim of congestion pricing is to discourage driving into Manhattan, while also raising $1 billion a year through tolls to fund improvements to mass transit. About 80% of the money raised would go toward subways and buses, with 10% to the Long Island Rail Road and 10% to Metro-North. The current capital plan stands at up to $56 billion, and revenue from the proposed congestion pricing plan would cover 30% of it. The MTA hopes to invest the $1 billion and generate $15 billion in total.

“This is different than a typical tolling system,” a senior MTA official who briefed reporters on the document ahead of its public release said. “[In a] typical tolling system you’re tolling for upkeep of the facilities. In this case we’re really tolling to help reduce congestion and then raise the revenue for transit, which further reduces congestion.”

The plan has implications for all people who travel through the toll zone dubbed the “Central Business District” by rail, ferry, bicycle, for-hire vehicles, or trucks. The analysis found that on an average weekday in 2019, approximately 7.67 million people entered and exited the district – nearly twice the population of Los Angeles.

The plan, which was passed in 2019 and delayed due to inaction by the federal government during the Trump administration, is the first of its kind in the nation. The analysis, coming on the heels of the federal government’s historic $369 billion climate bill, finds that congestion pricing could play a major role in reducing car traffic and pollution in New York City.

The MTA hopes to implement the tolls by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Drivers on the FDR Drive, West Side Highway, or any surface streets connecting to those roads would be exempt from the tolls.

The MTA examined a wide range of consequences from congestion pricing. Taxi drivers would have to continue paying a $2.50 or $2.75 fee to enter Manhattan, as well as the new congestion charge. The MTA said it would work with an employment agency to help taxi drivers transition to being MTA bus drivers, or convert their vehicles to be able to offer Access-A-Ride trips if they decided to seek new jobs.

The MTA also sought to minimize the impact on drivers who earn less than $60,000 by giving them a tax credit. More parking spaces would be available under the proposal. Foot traffic would increase so much around Herald Square due to an increase in straphangers that the sidewalks might need to be widened.

The Traffic Mobility Review Board, which was named at July’s MTA board meeting, will recommend one of the tolling schemes proposed in the analysis. The MTA board will still have the final say.

The proposal is expected to trigger an intense debate over who should pay the tolls.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has already said he’ll make sure drivers from the Garden State won’t have to pay a tunnel or bridge toll in addition to the congestion fee.

“I think I speak on behalf of all of my New Jersey colleagues, just to add this, we love it. Conceptually, there is no way, no how, that that will happen with a double taxation of New Jersey commuters. Period,” he said last week.

But advocates, like Riders Alliance, are calling for few exemptions.

“Congestion pricing is the single largest source of funding to fix the cash-strapped subway,” Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director with Riders Alliance, wrote in a statement. “Without it, we look forward to a death spiral of transit fare hikes and service cuts that will leave the whole city hanging out to dry.”

Even with congestion pricing the MTA is expected to face a major funding crisis in three years when federal relief aid runs out, and with ridership still 40% below pre-pandemic levels and not expected to increase anytime soon.

The MTA’s assessment is required by the federal government in order to implement congestion pricing, because some of the roads are part of the National Highway System and receive federal funding.

There will be six public hearings about the congestion pricing options. The MTA will incorporate feedback from those hearings into a plan submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for approval.

The dates of the six public hearings are:

  • Thursday, Aug. 25, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 27, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 28, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Monday, Aug. 29, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 31, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.