New York Drivers to Be Charged to Enter Lower Manhattan in 2024

New York Drivers to Be Charged to Enter Lower Manhattan in 2024
Vehicles wait in traffic to enter Holland Tunnel in Lower Manhattan, New York, on July 2, 2021. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Drivers in New York City will soon be charged to enter Manhattan, marking a win for environmental activists who say the move will help reduce congestion and improve air quality, but raising concerns over the impact on business owners, including taxi drivers.

Announcing the news in a June 27 press release, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said the Federal Highway Administration had given the green light to the state’s congestion pricing program following a 30-day public availability period assessing the environmental impact of the plan.

Hochul said the agency had found that the congestion program would have “no significant environmental impacts” and would reduce congestion and overall vehicle miles traveled, improving regional air quality.

Additionally, the program is expected to generate financial support—up to $1 billion yearly—which will go toward upgrading the city’s public transportation system, including subway, bus, and commuter rail systems operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Hochul said.

“Congestion pricing will reduce traffic in our crowded downtown, improve air quality and provide critical resources to the MTA,” Hochul said. “I am proud of the thorough Environmental Assessment process we conducted, including responding to thousands of comments from community members from across the region. With the green light from the federal government, we look forward to moving ahead with the implementation of this program.”

The scheme was first proposed in 2007 but faced delays owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also faced intense scrutiny from senior officials, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

According to Hochul, now that the toll program has been given the green light it could start as soon as May 2024, bringing New York City into line with places like London, Singapore, and Stockholm where similar tolling programs have been implemented in highly congested business districts.

Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul gives a speech in New York on Jan. 31, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

‘Cleaner Air, Safer Streets’

It is unclear exactly how much drivers would pay to visit popular parts of Manhattan, though under one of the tolling fee suggestions (pdf) currently being considered, drivers would be charged $17 during off-peak hours or $23 during rush hour to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street.

The exact tolling rate structure will be determined by MTA in partnership with the Traffic Mobility Review Board, officials said.

Democratic Mayor Eric Adams praised the new toll program on Tuesday, and said the fees are about “more than just reducing traffic.”

“This will lead to more resources for public transit, cleaner air, and safer streets,” Adams said. “Getting congestion pricing right also means ensuring that historically disadvantaged communities are not further burdened, and we are pleased to see that the environmental assessment now includes $155 million in investments to reduce truck pollution, improve asthma care, and expand parks.”

“We look forward to continued discussions with the MTA, our state partners, and the Traffic Mobility Review Board as implementation proceeds,” Adams said.

An assessment of the toll program (pdf) found that across the 28-county area studied in the environmental review of those who commute to work in Manhattan’s Central Business District, just 11 percent drive while more than 80 percent use public transportation.

The assessment also found that the toll program would reduce the number of vehicles entering the Central Business District by around 15–20 percent a day, or 110,000 to 143,000 fewer vehicles daily.

Overall, the pricing plan will help “support a greener future,” according to the assessment.

An Uber car waits for a client in Manhattan
An Uber car waits for a client in Manhattan a day after it was announced that Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick will take a leave of absence as chief executive in New York on June 14, 2017. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Concerns Over ‘Poorly Designed’ Program

However, not everyone has welcomed the new toll, which comes as the increased cost of living is already squeezing households.

New Jersey officials including Murphy, a Democrat, and Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) have all voiced concerns over the new toll plan, which they fear will negatively impact New Jersey locals.

In a statement published on June 12, Murphy branded the congestion pricing program “poorly designed” and “devised without adequate input and regard for New Jersey’s interests.”

If the program is allowed to move forward, Murphy said, it will “unfairly toll New Jersey commuters while disproportionately burdening environmental justice communities in the Garden State.”

“We have always been receptive to a thoughtfully crafted congestion pricing proposal,” said Murphy. “But we take serious issue with any scheme that is designed not to lessen congestion or pollution, but to line the coffers of the MTA on the backs of hardworking New Jerseyans.”

Taxi and ride-share drivers and their companies have also raised concerns about how the pricing scheme could impact their businesses, although some MTA proposals have included caps on tolls for taxis and other for-hire vehicles.

“Despite the limited environmental review conducted so far, what remains obvious are the severe and long-lasting detriments that will be endured not just by our commuters and transportation agencies, but by residents of environmental justice communities who will see traffic unfairly redirected into their neighborhoods,” Murphy continued in his statement. “Until the appropriate environmental review is completed for a project that will literally affect millions of New Jerseyans, we will continue to evaluate every legal option at our disposal.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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