Jersey commuters get one more chance to comment on NYC’s congestion pricing plan

The last New Jersey-centric hearing about New York City’s controversial Congestion Pricing plan to charge a toll to drive in Manhattan’s Central business district will be held virtually Tuesday night.

This hearing, scheduled to be held online between 6 and 8 p.m., is slightly different from the ones that came before it last week and in September.

While anyone can comment, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials especially want to hear from minority populations, the working poor and other disadvantaged communities about how paying an additional toll to drive below 60th Street in Manhattan would affect or benefit them.

This is the third iteration of congestion pricing that has been proposed. New York would use the revenue, estimated at about $1 billion annually, to issue bonds to fund $15 billion in capital improvements over the next four years to refurbish an aging subway and bus system.

The meeting can be watched on Zoom or YouTube and will be live streamed by the MTA. Comments are also being taken online at the MTA website and by phone at 646-252-7440. Written comments may be sent to CBD Tolling Program - 2 Broadway, 23rd Floor New York, NY 10004.

Last week, the MTA got a little preview at an Oct. 4 hearing of issues that might affect different communities.

Regina Gorman said the plan could hurt New Jersey senior citizens who have medical appointments at hospitals in the central business district. Those seniors should be exempted because many, who can’t physically use public transportation, would be unfairly subject to a congestion pricing fee for driving, she said.

That comment countered a study released by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign that examined census data that showed high income commuters tended to drive while lower earning commuters took public transportation to Manhattan.

The Tri-State study said that congestion pricing would affect a low number of commuters from New Jersey driving to Manhattan, ranging between 0.6% and 3.2 % of Manhattan commuters, who statistically were higher income earners compared to those who used public transit. That study used U.S. census data.

Kadar Ecquerkas, who said he is a medallion taxi driver, testified on Oct. 4 that already struggling cab and for-hire vehicles would be hard hit by the congestion fee and suggested they should be exempt from the fee.

Supporters of congestion pricing, including several people who said they live in Hoboken, Jersey City and Newark, said residents of those cities would benefit from reduced air pollution and the associated respiratory and other illness associated with dirty air. Residents of waterfront communities also said they hoped to see relief form tunnel traffic that blocks local streets if the plan becomes a reality.

A large issue for Jersey commuters is whether credit will be given for tolls paid at the three Hudson River crossings. An initial report recommended crediting tolls paid at the Holland and Lincoln tunnels toward a congestion pricing fee, but it said nothing about doing that for George Washington Bridge commuters.

Hearing comments will go into an environmental analysis that the MTA was directed to conduct by the Federal Highway Administration.

That and other issues, such as a call for the MTA to share revenue with NJ Transit and PATH to compensate them for extra riders seeking to avoid the congestion fee, would be decided by a board that would make recommendations to the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority. That body would decide about the specifics of congestion pricing program.

Also on Oct. 4, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-NJ, called on the FHWA to require the MTA conduct a more stringent Environmental Impact Statement analysis of congestion pricing. Manhattan’s Central Business District has 443 lane miles of federal aid roadways that have been renovated and upgraded thanks to countless federal investments, he cited as a reason.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-10-12 02:05:44 -0700