The price of everything seemingly has gone up over the past few months, and there could soon be a new added cost for drivers in New York City that has nothing to do with the price of gas.
After having stalled out for years due to COVID delays, some are calling for a Manhattan congestion pricing plan to get back on track, with local leaders looking to shift it into high gear in short order.
The solution that was supposed to be a remedy for traffic gridlock is still set to arrive come 2023, with an environmental approval expected to come later in 2022 from the federal government. Late next year, the MTA is set to begin tolling — but the amount of that toll is still to be determined.
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The projected revenue that is expected to come from the initiative: $15 billion. Kate Slevin, of the Regional Plan Association, said congestion pricing "will benefit 23 million residents by improving transit in the urban core."
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is leading the charge to get the plan back off the ground, as he hopes to get the missing pieces of the project filled in soon.
"I want every person who’s waiting for a subway train that’s not coming to understand that congestion pricing will help fix that," Levine said Wednesday. "We want this done now."
So what will the affected area be? As of now, the plan includes anywhere south of 60th Street in Manhattan, spanning from the Hudson River to the East River. There will be exemptions, however, as the West Side Highway and FDR Drive will not be part of the tolling plan.
Those who live in the area where the tolling is set to start will also likely be exempt from paying.
What is not known: What hours the tolling will take place, where exactly the license plate readers will be built, whether the MTA can speed up buses through all-door boarding, or if there will be different prices depending on the time of day.
"We are calling for a variable congestion charge. So that the amount you pay is reduced if you’re coming in off-peak," Levine said.
But the uncertainty has small businesses, like food vendors, worried that the added costs will stop some people from coming into the city, hurting their bottom lines. And cab drivers fear they’ll have to pay more, on top of the existing congestion surcharge.
"It’s unfair my friend — we are already struggling to make ends meet," said taxi driver Aden Amir.
Across the Hudson, New Jersey officials have consistently voiced opposition to any such plan.
"As we say here in Jersey: With friends like these, who needs enemies," said Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
However, community leaders in Manhattan insist there is no other way to raise money, fix mass transit and make the streets drivable.
"Manhattan is too full, there are too many cars and there’s no way to control at which point It’s overflowing," said Christine Berthet, a member of Community Board 4.
As for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, agency executives insist that that "the MTA has continued to forcefully advance the congestion pricing initiative set in motion by the State." Yet to be named by the MTA are members of the traffic mobility review board, the expert panel that will make the decision on how much it will cost to drive to midtown Manhattan.