New York

MTA proposes $9 to $23 toll from drivers in lower Manhattan

Motorists should pay somewhere between $9 and $23 to drive in Manhattan below 60th St. during peak hours under the MTA’s congestion pricing plan — but the exact amount will depend on what price breaks are given to drivers who pay bridge and tunnel tolls to reach the city.

That’s the word from Metropolitan Transportation Authority number crunchers in a plan published Wednesday on the agency’s website.

The $9 charge for motorists would be a base rate for peak hours, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends, an environmental assessment suggests. Off-peak charges would be $7, and the overnight charge would be $5.

After that, the possibilities get complicated.

If motorists driving in Manhattan below 60th St. get credits for paying tolls at bridges and tunnels leading from New Jersey or the other four boroughs, the peak hour rate could rise to between $10 and $23, the off-peak rate would be between $8 and 17, and the overnight rate would be between $5 and $12.

The variation depends on the size of the price breaks, and who gets them. For example, if taxis are exempted from congestion tolls, and for-hire vehicles are charged no more than three times per day, the peak toll might be $14, the off-peak toll might be $11, and the overnight toll would be $7.

According to the plan, the tolls would reach the highest rates if motorists get “high crossing credits” for paying bridge or tunnel tolls.

In such a scenario, the peak congestion toll would be $23, the off-peak toll would be $17, and the overnight toll would be $12.

Those higher tolls would be paid by all motorists to subsidize the discounts given to other drivers, including those paying bridge and tunnel tolls. The discounts “would require that the overall toll rates increase,” the plan explains.

Higher congestion tolls to offset discounts for those who pay bridge and tunnel tolls are not a worry for New Jersey politicians and motorist advocacy groups.

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy has supported congestion pricing discounts to offset bridge and tunnel tolls, and “will not support a double tax of New Jerseyans that provides no direct relief for our state’s commuters,” said Bailey Lawrence, a Murphy spokesman.

The peak hour tolls on the Hudson River crossings from New Jersey to Manhattan are $13.75 with an EZ Pass, or $16 cash.

AAA has also supported easing congestion pricing for people who pay bridge and tunnel tolls. In testimony at an MTA hearing last year, AAA said the MTA “should equalize tolls for all entrants to the pricing zone.”

Under all the MTA’s scenarios in the environmental assessment, cars, motorcycles and commercial vans would be tolled once per day — meaning they could move in and out of the zone several times, but pay just one toll. Taxis, for-hire vehicles and buses might be charged multiple times per day.

Different rates likely would be charged to vehicles without EZ Passes. Rates may also vary according to type of vehicle — for example, big trucks would likely pay more than sedans or motorcycles.

Some other scenarios for when motorists would pay congestion tolls:

— A driver parks their car for a week in the congestion zone south of 60th St. in Manhattan. Then, they drive out of the city on Friday, and return to the congestion zone on Monday. They’d be tolled twice — once for Friday, and once for Monday. But they wouldn’t pay a toll for the days the car parked in the congestion zone without moving.

— Another week, the same motorist parks their car for several days south of 60th St. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, they drive out of the congestion zone, and they return the same day before midnight. They’d be tolled once, because under the MTA’s proposal, passenger cars could be tolled only once per day.

The MTA has said it hopes to start charging the tolls in 2023 or 2024. The tolls are aimed at raising money for the agency’s capital program — including fixes to subway and train service — and at reducing traffic in Manhattan below 60th St.

The possible pricing schedules are included in an environmental assessment the MTA and city and state transportation agencies are providing to the federal government.

Ultimately, the tolls will be set by the MTA board upon the recommendations of a Traffic Mobility Review Board.

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