A broad coalition – comprised of organized labor, environmental advocates, business groups and private companies – is launching a new lobbying effort to introduce congestion tolls in Manhattan. The alliance, known as the Fix Our Transit coalition, is pushing state lawmakers to approve the tolls, which would be levied on vehicles entering the busiest parts of Manhattan as a way to raise money for New York City’s deteriorating subways and transit system.

The coalition announced its effort in late November. Groups signing on include several chambers of commerce, labor unions like the AFL-CIO, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, several members of the clergy and various companies, including Uber, Lyft and Brooklyn Brewery.

The involvement of so many different organizations – including some that regularly disagree on other issues – reflects the growing momentum behind congestion tolling, an idea that until recently was considered a legislative long shot. Congestion tolls are likely to be the topic of significant debate when lawmakers return to Albany for the 2019 session in January. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the idea, and many lawmakers support it, too, as a way to reduce traffic congestion in Manhattan, while also raising badly needed revenue for transit.

A key difficulty for lawmakers will be working out the details, such as who will pay the toll, how high it will be, where the toll zone will be located, and whether regular commuters will be given a discount. Another challenge: ensuring that transit agencies get the necessary funding before the new tolls cause ridership to increase and put added strain on the system.

Critics say congestion tolls will hurt lower-income commuters who rely on their cars to get to work or day care while raising the cost of living in a part of the country that is already among the most expensive.

Fix our Transit claims congestion tolls could raise more than $1 billion each year.

Source: Crain’s New York Business

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