New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Daily News Transit advocates vow to fend off exemptions to Manhattan congestion pricing by Clayton Guse

Transit advocates vow to fend off exemptions to Manhattan congestion pricing

Transit advocates vowed Thursday to ensure congestion pricing isn’t killed by New Yorkers looking for a free ride.

“We have 20 months until this goes into effect,” said Alex Matthiessen, who began forming coalitions around congestion pricing in 2010 after Mayor Bloomberg’s plan failed to muster enough support two years earlier. “There’s all kinds of possibilities for mischief-making, for rollbacks, for backlash.”

The groups are worried the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will allow for too many exemptions to the toll, which will charge cars upwards of $11 to enter Manhattan below 60th St.. The West Side Highway and FDR Drive will be exempt.

The new state budget exempts emergency vehicles and some cars carrying disabled people from paying. Any other carve outs will be decided by the MTA board with input from a new six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board.

“As people try to kill congestion pricing with death by 1,000 paper cuts and having exemptions here and there, we need to stand strong,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).

The congestion pricing language written into the budget will make it difficult for the MTA to dole out exemptions. The MTA is required to generate enough money from the program to fund $15 billion worth of MTA infrastructure improvements.

More exemptions would force the MTA to set a higher tolls for drivers in order to hit that $15 billion target.

Environmental advocates also worry that the need to slash pollution and car traffic has been lost in the conversation surrounding congestion pricing.

“We want to make sure that we’re actually reducing congestion because we’re only going to see the environmental benefits if we actually do that,” said Julie Tighe, executive director of the NY League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group.

“This coalition needs to keep the pressure on that [Traffic Mobility] Review board and on the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority to make sure that we’re not carving all those things out.”

Matthiessen, who as a part of the Move NY group helped form the framework for congestion pricing, said he will be watching the MTA closely in the coming months.

“I think one of our first goals is to influence the appointments [to the Traffic Mobility Review Board] as much as we can,” he said. “We have to make sure that the plan that’s implemented in January 2021 fulfills the promise that we have all been working so hard to achieve.”

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