NYC has a new plan to cut traffic. It might cost drivers an extra $23 drive into Manhattan

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WOODLAND PARK, N.J. – ⁠⁠⁠⁠A new tolling program in New York City’s midtown Manhattan, the first of its kind in the U.S., could ease traffic congestion in the world’s largest central business district — at costs of up to $23 for some drivers.

The Central Business District Tolling Program is aimed at reducing traffic, improving mass transit, speeding up travel times and improving air quality in New York City’s metro region, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in a report released Wednesday. Eight million daily trips are made to and from the district, including cars, public transit and bicycles, according the environmental assessment.

The congestion pricing model has worked in other global cities, like Stockholm, London and Singapore, according to the transit authority’s data. If it goes into effect, New York would have the country’s first congestion pricing program. 

The MTA’s report showed seven scenarios of the program’s possible impacts on traffic, pollution and tolling. The scenarios included varying credit options for tolls already paid at crossings and exemptions of certain types of vehicles, like buses, and what would happen if the agency did not implement congestion pricing.

Tolls to enter Manhattan’s Central Business District could range from $9 to $23 during peak hours, $7 to $17 during off-peak hours or $5 to $12 overnight, models showed.

Those would be in addition to tolls paid at other crossings into midtown Manhattan, like the Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel and George Washington Bridge, where tolls range from $11.75 to $16 for cars.

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Its authors predict all congestion pricing scenarios would lead to reduced traffic and increased transit ridership into midtown Manhattan — which are the program’s ultimate goals, along with raising $1 billion annually for the MTA’s capital fund to improve subways and buses.

“The assessment found that 85% of existing work trips to the Central Business District are made by transit, 5% by car from New York City, 3% by car from New York suburban counties, 3% by car from New Jersey, 0.2% by car from Connecticut, and 4% by other modes, including taxis, for-hire vehicles, bicycling and walking,” according to a MTA press release. “With initiation of the program, the number of vehicles entering the CBD would decline by 15.4% to 19.9%, depending on the tolling scenario.”

The Federal Highway Administration is expected to issue a decision on the environmental review in January 2023. If the agency finds no significant impacts, the Toll Mobility Review Board will have 310 days to issue recommendations  on how the tolling structure and exemptions should work and which crossings should receive credits. The infrastructure needed to process the tolls would also need to be put in place.

Five of the toll board’s six appointments were announced earlier this month. Calls were made to give neighboring New Jersey, which doesn’t have board representation, more input on the plan during public hearings last year.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he would not support a congestion pricing tolling program that does not give credit to New Jersey drivers at all three Hudson River crossings.

“We love it conceptually,” Murphy said about congestion pricing, but, he added, “There is no way, no how that will happen with a double taxation on New Jersey commuters. Period.”

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