The Regional Plan Association dropped a white paper in September on the incoming system of charges on autos passing into and through the Manhattan business district. The report was full of controversial recommendations, like having the Metropolitan Transportation Authority charge drivers not just when they enter the area below 60th Street, but when they exit it. The report argues this is necessary because the point of the congestion pricing program isn’t just to amass $15 billion for the atrophied mass transit system, but to slash the number of cars on city streets.

Dr. Rachel Weinberger, senior fellow for transportation at the RPA and a co-author of the report, compared the planned surcharge on drivers getting off of or onto the West Side Highway or FDR Drive to “carbon taxes” that simultaneously seek to generate revenue and slash emissions.

The RPA is proposing that the MTA utilize new technology to track drivers’ time and movement inside and outside the zone, which would allow the authority to charge based on time spent in the business district and crack down on deliberate circumventing of the tolls. The RPA acknowledged this might spark privacy concerns, but noted that the existing EZ Pass system already enables some tracking of vehicles, as do Metrocards and cell phones.

The association’s paper also calls for no new exemptions to the surcharge – modifying what it describes as the “unenforceable” carveout for cars carrying the disabled – and hiking the toll during rush hours and other high traffic periods of the week. All of these are likely to prove politically polarizing.

An unappointed traffic mobility review board will be responsible for laying out the details of the program before the MTA puts it into effect in 2021.

Source:Crain’s New York Business

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