The MTA’s plan to heavily tax cars driving in the busiest parts of Manhattan is taking shape. The agency announced in October that the Tennessee-based technology company TransCore has been selected for a $507 million, seven-year contract to “design, build, operate and maintain” the tolling infrastructure that will enforce New York City’s congestion pricing scheme.
The tolling system will not go live until at least January 2021 – and the prices and exemptions will be set by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board no earlier than Nov. 15, 2020.
TransCore’s technology will need to track every vehicle entering Manhattan south of 61st St. Cars on the West Side Highway and FDR Drive will be given a pass.
The system will need to generate enough money to pump $15 billion into the MTA’s next five-year capital plan, which aims to aggressively modernize the subway’s signaling system and add accessibility features to an additional 66 subway stations.
TransCore’s car-taxing technology will be hung on existing street poles along the congestion zone. The new infrastructure will likely include 40-foot-long arms hanging off light poles above city streets – rather than “unsightly” gantries.
Some fear Congestion Pricing will take NYC motorists back to the era before 1950, when parking rules were so strict it was illegal to leave cars on Manhattan streets overnight. Others are concerned suburbanites seeking parking will clog Manhattan north of 60th St. to avoid the congestion fees, raising the possibility of a system that restricts parking in some neighborhoods to uptown residents who buy city permits.
“This kind of program is a fair thing to do for residents who live in transportation deserts who could lose their parking spots through congestion pricing,” said City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, who introduced one of three bills last year to set aside parking spots for neighborhood residents who buy city permits. Councilman Mark Levine, who sponsored a similar bill covering northern Manhattan, said New Jersey drivers already dump their cars uptown.
According to the city Department of Transportation, residential parking permits may present problems and require “numerous trade-offs and limits to the potential benefits,” like permit auctions that price out low-income drivers. The DOT is also concerned about the challenges of rolling out and enforcing the program. Some experts believe city officials must take a more radical approach to managing street space – such as using digital meters to charge for residential parking spaces based on local real estate values.