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    HomeBusinessManhattan drivers fume over congestion pricing tolls to reduce gridlock

    Manhattan drivers fume over congestion pricing tolls to reduce gridlock

    This column originally appeared in “On The Way,” a weekly newsletter covering everything you need to know about NYC-area transportation.

    Sign up to get the full version, which includes answers to reader questions, trivia, service changes and more, in your inbox every Thursday.

    New York City’s motorists let out a whole lot of hot air from their windpipes this week after the MTA board gave its final approval for congestion pricing. As soon as June, they’ll pay a $15 base toll to enter Manhattan below 60th Street.

    “I think they’re robbing everybody for 15 bucks a day,” griped Borough Park driver Jason Lopez, 47, as he was stuck in Lower Manhattan gridlock on Wednesday, hours after the tolls were approved. “I’d rather take the ferry now.”

    Lopez’s response is exactly what the MTA wants. A key goal of congestion pricing is reducing traffic in Manhattan’s busiest areas by as much as 20% by pushing commuters out of their cars and onto mass transit. By law, the money from the tolls must pay for upgrades to subways, buses and commuter rails. The MTA says Manhattan’s air quality will improve as a result of the program.

    But don’t tell that to drivers like Financial District resident Melissa Carrasquillo, who thinks the whole scheme is yet another fee in a city that’s hard to afford.

    “It’s terrible for people that live in the city [Manhattan] to charge us for being in the same borough that we live in,” said Carrasquillo, 42, who noted that she scored a cheap downtown apartment with free garage parking years ago. “Some of us, we take mass transit, but some of us do own cars. And I think it’s terrible that they keep tacking on extra taxes and fees for us.”

    MTA officials point out they’ve made some concessions to drivers who live in the congestion zone: The 2019 state law authorizing the program grants people who earn $60,000 a year or less a tax credit equivalent to the tolls they pay.

    Cabdrivers also weren’t fans of the tolls. Members of the Taxi Workers Alliance interrupted the MTA board vote on Wednesday and chanted their disapproval over an aspect of the plan that would add an additional $1.25 surcharge to yellow and green cab trips that enter the zone.

    The Trucking Association of New York also took issue with the tolls, which will go up to $36 for large trucks, claiming in a statement the city will “soon see increased prices for basic goods.”

    Still, some drivers saw benefits to the plan — and thought the fees would be worth it if they reduce traffic in Manhattan.

    “I do think it is congested, and I do think we should pay our way,” said Darrell Martin, 57, a Tesla driver stuck in traffic on Church Street. “I’m probably one of the only New Yorkers you’re going to find driving that is actually for it.”

    Curious Commuter

    Reader question:

    “Why won’t the MTA do away with antiquated ‘weekend schedules?”

    – A. Reilly, Brooklyn

    Answer:
    The MTA runs fewer trains and buses on weekends because fewer people ride on those days. Subway turnstiles clock about 3.8 million entries per weekday, while transit buses clock about 1.2 million. That’s roughly double the ridership on Saturdays or Sundays. In the aftermath of the pandemic, riders have returned at a higher rate on weekends than on weekdays, largely due to the popularity of remote work. The MTA has recently offered some concessions to weekend warriors. The agency appointed a “weekend service czar” in 2022, and added more trains on the G, J and M lines last year.

    Have a question? Follow @Gothamist on Instagram for special opportunities and prompts to submit questions.

    If you’re not on Instagram, email cguse@wnyc.org or snessen@wnyc.org with the subject line “Curious Commuter question.”

    You must provide your first name and borough (or city if outside of NYC) to have your question considered.

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