Congestion pricing program in New York City lifts final federal ban

Congestion pricing in New York City has cleared its final federal hurdle, officials said Monday, confirming that the nation’s first program of its kind aimed at reducing traffic and pollution in Manhattan and funding mass transit will begin next year.

The plan would charge drivers to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street, one of the busiest and most traffic-congested business districts in the world.

Final approval was given by the Federal Highway Administration, a spokeswoman said Monday, and a local committee appointed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can now decide the final toll rates, including any discounts, exemptions and other allowances.

The MTA, which operates the city’s subways and buses and the metropolitan area’s commuter rail lines and oversees the fare program, has yet to set fare levels. But a report released in August showed that a plan under review would be charged $23 for a rush-hour trip to Midtown and $17 during off-peak hours.

The authority says the project will begin in the spring of 2024.

“Congestion pricing will reduce traffic in our congested city, improve air quality and provide critical resources to the MTA,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “With the green light from the central government, we look forward to implementing this project.”

In 2007 former Mayor Michael R. Supporters hailed federal approval of congestion pricing, first proposed in New York by Bloomberg but defeated by the state legislature the following year.

“It’s so important to focus on meeting our climate goals, improving our air quality and improving our quality of life, especially when it comes to our mobility,” said Rene Reynolds, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Public transport should be improved. “Congestion pricing can help us do that by eliminating congested roads and investing in mass transit.”

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Congestion pricing is expected to be approved by New York lawmakers in 2019 Generates $1 billion annually Other cities around the world have won similar projects for the MTA. According to Research prepared for the US Department of TransportationLondon, Singapore and Stockholm experienced less traffic after setting up their own tolls.

The money will be used to improve the city’s public transport network, including building new lifts in the tunnels and modernizing the signals that keep trains moving. By law, the money can only be used for capital projects, not operating expenses.

Experts say the plan would make getting around New York more equitable: It would charge drivers who can at least theoretically afford it, while helping those who don’t because they’d be less reliant on mass transit. Income.

The plan is moving forward despite fierce opposition from taxi drivers, ride-sharing companies and suburbanites who don’t want to pay to drive in Manhattan.

The loudest outcry has come from New Jersey leaders, who have threatened legal action over congestion pricing as evidence of a border war. said Janno Lieber, president of the MTA In an interview with CBS New York Earlier this month, the commission explored exempting drivers who have already paid tolls when crossing the Holland or Lincoln tunnels from New Jersey. But he didn’t buy into that idea.

The state’s General Assembly, controlled by Democrats, passed the so-called Stay in Jersey The bill provides grants to businesses to allow employees to work from their New Jersey homes. And the state’s Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy started A billboard campaign Criticism of the plan. On Monday Mr. Murphy’s office said it has retained Randy Mastro, a lawyer known for his aggressive tactics, to “explore all legal options” to fight the tolls.

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Senator Robert Menendez and Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Bill Bascrell Jr., all New Jersey Democrats, said in a statement Monday that they were “outraged” by the federal action and accused officials of failing to conduct a full review of the environmental impact. program in their state or its effect on low-income communities.

“This is nothing more than a money grab to fund the MTA,” the report said.

Other critics include taxi drivers and Lyft and Uber drivers, who say the MTA’s research indicates that the tolls could trigger fare hikes that could reduce demand for taxis and for-hire rides by up to 17 percent.

Last week, a group of taxi and rental car drivers called Ms. They staged a protest outside Hochul’s office and sent a letter demanding an exemption to the toll booths.

“We ask that New York City’s public transit system not be funded on the backs of an essential workforce that is still underpaid, overworked and assaulted and at risk,” wrote Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Coalition. It fights for better working conditions for taxi and app-based drivers.

To mitigate the negative impact of congestion pricing, The MTA has proposed Limits the number of times drivers of taxis and rental vehicles can be charged, Some offer discounts for low-income drivers And discounts will increase for overnight drivers in the area.

It also proposed to periodically check whether the toll booths are harming small businesses at the toll booths.

The MTA wants to invest millions of dollars into certain neighborhoods. That includes $20 million for a program to fight asthma and $10 million to install air filtration units in schools near highways.

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Last month, the highway administration tentatively approved an updated draft of a report commissioned by the MTA that found ways to limit the harm congestion pricing could cause to underserved communities. That initial approval opened the draft to a 30-day public review before final approval was given.

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