MTA congestion pricing has a growing list of groups demanding toll exemptions

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The groups seeking exemptions are diverse and independent. They range from police officers visiting the city and residents of Midtown to motorcyclists, taxi drivers and city employees who live in New Jersey. Some are calling for tax reductions and credits while others are calling for general exclusions.

MTA Income Mandate

The congestion pricing legislation passed by Albany two years ago requires the MTA to achieve an annual return of $ 15 billion that can go towards its unfunded investment plan. The MTA predicts that it can tie congestion pricing revenues to reach $ 15 billion, but it needs to collect net revenues of $ 1 billion per year to reach that point.

Who pays for that billion dollars is still up for debate and will be a point of contention during the 16 months that the MTA plans to conduct a federally-mandated environmental assessment that includes public education and testimony from supporters and detractors. . Groups in New Jersey, the outer boroughs and Midtown have already requested exemptions in the first week of public hearings.

At present, the price of the toll is still undecided.

“It varies because politics is turned into Swiss cheese,” said Danny Pearlstein, director of policy at the Riders Alliance, a transportation advocacy group supporting congestion pricing. “It’s a Whack-a-mole game: if you push it somewhere, it spawns somewhere else.”

So far, the MTA’s Transportation Mobility Review Board, a six-member panel responsible for recommending the price of electric tolls and the number of exemptions granted, has allowed only two exceptions: vehicles that carry people with disabilities. and emergency vehicles.

The law offers Midtown residents earning less than $ 60,000 a year a tax credit for tolls paid.

A growing list

The list of groups who want to avoid the tax is growing. The Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association and the Police Department’s Captain’s Endowment Association argue that officers using personal cars to get around should be exempt. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents thousands of the city’s taxi drivers, doesn’t want its drivers to pay another tax on top of the surcharge taxis and rental vehicles already owe for driving in Manhattan below. from 96th street.

Hoylman and MP Harvey Epstein introduce joint legislation to provide a more inclusive tax credit for Midtown residents. Their legislation includes exemptions for patients and hospital staff inside the congestion charging zone and discounts for those who travel into town on mopeds and electric vehicles.

“For god’s sake, this is really a little absurd,” said Charles Komanoff, an independent researcher who developed the state’s formula for congestion pricing. “The more you exempt, the more you’ll get rid of it on the real toll payers. “

Komanoff noted that while emergency vehicles are exempt, medical workers, police, firefighters and doctors who drive them should be required to pay congestion fees when traveling to the city.

Pandora’s box

Some transportation experts fear that giving relief to some municipal workers or a group of employees over another could open the door to more exclusions that will dilute the intent of the law.

“It’s one thing for a police car crossing a bridge, but a cop going to work – come on, everyone has options for getting to work,” said Jon Orcutt, former director of policy at City Department of Transportation. “The point of all of this is to get everyone to travel more sustainably. “

Congestion pricing also has the potential to negatively affect low-income New Yorkers. Commuters coming from New Jersey, or the transit deserts of the Bronx, northern Queens, and parts of eastern Brooklyn, often live in low-income communities and are likely to lobby for the same type of exemptions than the ones Hoylman and Epstein are fighting for in Manhattan. .

“I hope the Traffic Mobility Review Board will look at other ways low income people can get reimbursement fees,” Hoylman said. “You certainly don’t want the exception to swallow the rule, which is the danger when you start ticking boxes for them. “


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