The federal government granted final approval to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s congestion pricing program on Monday, the final step needed to create the nation’s first system of congestion pricing, including what tolls to charge and which drivers will receive exemptions

The MTA has yet to set the exact amount for the toll, but has signaled it will range between $9 and $23 per day to drive a car into the Central Business District.

The agency is considering major discounts for drivers who come in overnight and lower income commuters without easy access to frequent transit service.

“Congestion pricing will reduce traffic in our crowded downtown, improve air quality and provide critical resources to the MTA,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul. “I am proud of the thorough environmental assessment process we conducted, including responding to thousands of comments from community members from across the region.”

She added: “With the green light from the federal government, we look forward to moving ahead with the implementation of this program.” 

Advocates for the charge say it kills two birds with one stone: The toll will discourage people to take trains or buses into Manhattan instead of driving, helping to cure some of the worst congestion in the country; while the revenues would help improve subway service to make transit more convenient and reliable.

The federal government has granted the MTA final approval for the agency’s planned congestion pricing in Manhattan.
Stephen Yang

Opponents argue the MTA should find the money through other means, including finding ways to lower its costs, which are among the highest in the world.

Some of the loudest protests against the new charge have come from New Jersey, where politicians have assailed the legislation as a “cash-grab” from commuters.

“This is nothing more than a cash grab to fund the MTA,” said US Senator Bob Menendez and Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell in a statement. “All New Jersey drivers entering Manhattan using the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels and George Washington Bridge must be exempt from New York’s Congestion Tax.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the congestion pricing program will reduce traffic and provide the MTA with additional resources.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said the congestion pricing program will reduce traffic and provide the MTA with additional resources.
Matthew McDermott

Lawmakers in Albany approved the tolling program in 2019 as the MTA campaigned for funds to overhaul its decrepit century-old subway signals with a new computerized system, replace subway cars that date back to the 1970s and help finance upgrades for the commuter railroads.

The legislation says that the city’s subways and buses will get $13 billion of the expected $15 billion in improvements, while $1 billion will be set aside for the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.

The law also allows Manhattanites who live south of 60th Street to discount the cost of the toll from their income taxes and exempts traffic on the FDR Drive and West Side Highway from paying the charge.

Federal regulations required the congestion pricing program undergo an extensive environmental review, which determined that imposing the toll could slash the number of cars entering Manhattan’s business district by as much as 20 percent.

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