- Under the MTA’s Central Business District Tolling Program (Program), vehicles traveling in parts of Manhattan south of 60th Street, the central business district, would be charged a variable toll.
- The MTA is seeking revenue of roughly $1 billion dollars a year from the Program while reducing the number of vehicles in New York City’s central business district.
- On May 12, 2023, the MTA publicly released the Final Environmental Assessment (EA) of the Program, opening a public comment period that extends through June 12, 2023, and paving the way for federal environmental approvals if the Program is initiated.
The Bottom Line
The nation’s first variable tolling program in a central business district (CBD) reached a new milestone, bringing New York City’s MTA closer to its goal of launching congestion pricing in Manhattan by the second quarter of 2024.
Under the MTA’s Central Business District Tolling Program (Program), vehicles traveling in parts of Manhattan south of 60th Street would be charged a variable toll. The MTA is seeking revenue of roughly a billion dollars a year from the Program while reducing the number of vehicles in New York City’s central business district. On May 12, 2023, the MTA publicly released the EA of the Program, opening a public comment period that extends through June 12, 2023, and paving the way for federal environmental approvals if the Program is initiated.
As a condition for the Program to apply to the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Value Pricing Pilot Program, which gives transportation agencies the option to manage traffic congestion through tolling, the Project must go through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process with FHWA as the federal lead agency. The Project’s sponsors include the New York State Department of Transportation, the MTA and one of its operating agencies, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) which is the tolling entity, and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT).
The EA assesses impacts to traffic and public transportation for a regional transportation network containing 22 million people taking 28.8 million journeys per average weekday in a 28-county area covering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Further, 80% of the revenue from the Program will be used to improve New York City Transit, which operates NYC’s subways and buses, while 10% will go toward the Metro-North Railroad and 10% to the Long Island Railroad.
Authorization for the TBTA to design, develop, build, and operate the CBD Tolling Program was granted by the state legislature in 2019 through the MTA Reform and Traffic Mobility Act (Mobility Act). The Mobility Act only permits passenger vehicles to be charged once a day for entering or remaining in the CBD, although the toll rates would be variable and change at certain times. The Mobility Act also requires that CBD residents making less than $60,000 receive a New York State tax credit.
In its draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), FHWA found that the EA addresses public input, considers the impacts, and mitigates adverse effects. FHWA authorized the release of both the EA and the FONSI before making its final determination. The EA finds that the benefits of reducing congestion in Manhattan’s central business district (CBD) include, but are not limited to:
- A reduction of approximately 15-20% of the number of vehicles entering the CBD;
- Improved speeds for bus service and paratransit services which serve a greater share of low-income and minority households than other modes of transportation;
- Use of the Program’s revenues to promote a more equitable, accessible transit system, including through the bus systems which services low income and minority communities and completing accessibility improvements; and
- Improved regional air quality as some commuters will shift from vehicles to transit resulting in a decrease in vehicle miles traveled not only in the CBD but also in the New York Metropolitan region.
FHWA is required to consider how the Program would result in disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority and/or low-income populations (collectively, environmental justice (EJ) populations). To mitigate adverse effects, the sponsors of the Program committed $207.5 million in mitigation measures focused on EJ communities. Prior EJ commitments included providing a tax credit for low-income CBD residents, but the EA includes new commitments, which include, but are not limited to:
- The tolling of taxis and for-hire vehicles only once a day;
- A toll discount of 50% for trucks, and other vehicles from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m.; and
- A 25% discount for low-income frequent drivers after the first 10 trips in the CBD each calendar month.
Tolling in Manhattan could start as soon as 310 days after the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) completes its review of the Program’s potential environmental effects and issues a final decision. Last year, the MTA said passenger vehicle tolls could range from $9-$23, which would be in addition to existing bridge and tunnel tolls.
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