Public hearings on proposed congestion pricing begin Aug. 25

Public hearings on proposed congestion pricing begin Aug. 25
The LIRR's Jamaica Station. The first of six public hearings on the Central Business District Tolling Program will be held on Aug. 25. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On Aug. 25, the first of six public hearings on the Central Business District Tolling Program to reduce traffic in the southern third of Manhattan will take place.

The hearing will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will be on Zoom and also live streamed.

The MTA’s proposed congestion pricing plan, according to the project’s environmental assessment, could increase the daily entry fee into Manhattan. The plan calls for a toll to be paid to enter a zone that extends from 60th Street to the Battery.

If implemented, peak-hour travel could cost between $9 and $23 in any of the seven toll price scenarios. Off-peak travel could cost between $7 and $17 and overnight travel might cost between $5 and $12.

The Manhattan Central Business District is one of the biggest in the world. But in 2020 and 2021, in a report from INRIX, a private analytics company, the city ranked as the most congested in America

According to the executive summary of the congestion pricing plan, the region around New York City suffers from driver congestion costs of 102 hours of wasted time per year and around $1,595 per driver annually. It also notes that between 2010 and 2019, travel speeds in the Manhattan Central Business District fell by 22%, from 9.1 mph to 7.1 mph.

The environmental assessment states that over 1,262,400 of the roughly 1.5 million people who work in the Central Business District commute from outside the city. Long Island accounts for 8% of these commuters — a little over 100,000 individuals.

The congesting pricing proposal seeks to lessen traffic while generating funds for upcoming transportation improvements. Officials say these changes will have a positive impact on the environment, the economy and emergency response times.

According to the report, truck traffic may be decreased by up to 81% and car traffic by up to 20%.

Officials expect congestion pricing to raise $1 billion per year, which will fund public transportation improvements. Of this, 10% would go to the LIRR.

Further, officials want to provide a source of funding for capital projects and produce enough yearly net profits to allocate $15 billion for capital projects for the MTA Capital Program.

Not everyone has welcomed the initiative with open arms. Some Long Island Republicans claim that Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has sided with “out-of-touch” New York City politicians, putting Long Islanders at a disadvantage.

Legislator Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore) says in a petition he created that congestion pricing amounts to a commuter tax on suburban drivers of $1 billion per year.

“Nassau is already one of the highest taxed counties in the nation and with inflation and gas prices continuing to soar, we do not need this added tax for going to work or visiting the city,” the petition reads. “LIRR train tickets are also outrageously high, forcing commuters who choose to take the train to pay an exorbitant amount as well, just for living on Long Island.”

During a rally Aug. 16, Legislator Kevin McCaffery (R-Lindenhurst) shared a similar view.

“This is a tax that is not only on the residents of Suffolk and Nassau County,” he said, “but also the residents of New York City who are going to have to absorb those increases.”

If implemented, drivers earning less than $60,000 a year would be eligible for a tax credit.

The subsequent hearings are scheduled for Aug. 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31. They will also take place on Zoom.

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