New York Greenlights New Tax on Drivers Entering Lower Manhattan, Derided as a ‘Disgusting Cash Grab’ by Critics

‘This isn’t just a policy failure,’ a New York City Council member, Robert Holden, says, ‘it’s an act of war on the working class.’

AP/Ted Shaffrey
Commuters wait to drive through the Holland Tunnel into New York City during morning rush hour. AP/Ted Shaffrey

America’s first congestion pricing program is slated to take effect at New York City this summer after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority overwhelmingly voted on Wednesday to approve a plan that critics describe as a “disgusting cash grab.”

Passenger vehicles will be charged an additional $15 to enter Manhattan at 61st Street and below, while trucks could be charged between $24 and $36, depending on size. Exemptions include government vehicles, yellow school buses contracted with the Department of Education, and city-owned vehicles.

The new toll does not apply to taxis, though drivers will now face a $1.25 surcharge per ride, while Uber, Lyft and other rideshare drivers will have $2.50 surcharge.

The new charges come on top of the $14 to $15 drivers have to pay to enter Manhattan via one of the bridges or tunnels connecting it to the mainland. All-told, it means drivers to the lower part of Manhattan will be charged $30 for the privilege of driving into New York City.

The MTA championed the program as “historic,” asserting in a statement that it “will reduce traffic in Manhattan’s central business district, reduce pollution, and provide critical funding for transit improvements.” Governor Hochul cheered it on as well. When the board overwhelmingly voted in favor of the plan in December, it said the additional charges on drivers entering Manhattan would contribute millions of dollars to the cash-strapped transit system. 

Yet the MTA, the biggest mass-transit provider in the United States, is struggling to restore its revenues to pre-pandemic levels amid fare and toll evasion. A report from the Blue Ribbon Panel discloses that the operator lost $690 million in 2022 as an estimated 400,000 riders entered the subway system every day without paying. Weekday subway ridership is about 70 percent of 2019 usage. 

The congestion pricing plan will take effect as early as mid-June unless a lawsuit stops it. Local politicians have already suggested they will wield legal challenges. Governor Murphy of New Jersey, a state that sees nearly half a million commuters to Manhattan, said in a statement he will seek out every option to fight “an unfair tolling scheme that discriminates against New Jerseyans, especially lower and middle-income drivers.”

A New York City Council member, Robert Holden, called the new plan “a disgusting cash grab that punishes our most vulnerable — those with no choice but to commute from transit deserts,” he said in a statement. “This isn’t just a policy failure; it’s an act of war on the working class.” Mr. Holden issued a warning to the MTA. “Mark my words: we’re taking this fight straight to the courts,” he said. “See you there.”


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