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Low-income New Yorkers living in proposed congestion pricing zone could get a tax credit

Highway Tolls
Tony Dejak

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority hosted a series of hearings this week to examine how its congestion pricing plan will affect low income populations, known as Environmental Justice Communities.

The proposal, which is subject to review from the Federal Highway Administration, could charge a fee to drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street, ranging from $9 to $35. Final rates will be determined by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. If approved, the tolls will go into effect in 2023. Until then, it still has a lengthy review process ahead.

Dr. Allison de Cerreño, the MTA’s deputy chief operating officer, said the percentage of low-income people who will be affected by the project is small.

“Ninety-five percent of low-income individuals travel to Manhattan's central business district by transit and 5% by vehicle during the morning peak period,” she said. “When we consider the travel patterns for all commuters, low-income drivers account for under 4% of the total vehicle trips into the Manhattan central business district in the morning peak period.”

Under the proposal, those living in the toll zone who make less than $60,000 per year will receive a tax credit. Commuters traveling on FDR Drive, West Side Highway and the Battery Park Underpass connecting FDR Drive and Route 9A, will also be exempt.

If the program is implemented, the system would go through a series of evaluations, the MTA said.

The goal of the proposal is to generate funds for public transit. The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North would each receive 10% of the funds generated from the program. It is also expected to reduce congestion, noise and pollution.

Andrew Lynch, the vice president of the private bus company Hampton Jitney, which operates routes from eastern Long Island to Manhattan, said the program could force bus companies like his to reduce service.

“Penalizing private buses will mean more cars using more energy and producing more carbon which will worsen air quality in minority and low-income populations around New York City,” he said.

Leah is a former intern with WSHU Public Radio.