Manhattan tolls, MTA overhaul plans announced by Cuomo and de Blasio

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have agreed to a plan for new tolls on motorists entering the heart of Manhattan.

The deal announced Tuesday by the two Democrats represents significant progress for the tolling proposal, which must be approved by state lawmakers.

Tolls would vary based on the time of day. Actual toll amounts would be likely be set next year and first imposed in 2021.

Speaking on New York City public radio, Cuomo said tolls would raise badly needed transit revenue while also discouraging vehicular traffic.

The agreement also calls for overhauling the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

It suggests that if lawmakers legalize marijuana, some of the resulting tax revenue should support transit improvements.

The 10-point plan announced by the Mayor’s Office includes:

  1. Plans to consolidate several functions, including construction management, legal, engineering, procurement and human resources, according to a news release from the mayor’s office. The restructuring is expected to be done by June. “The restructuring plan must be coupled with a change in culture, which will generate fresh ideas and new perspective from new and recently appointed senior and mid-level management recruited from the private sector and other cities and states,” the news release states.
  2. Congestion pricing: Electronic tolling devices will be installed on the perimeter of the Central Business District, defined as streets south of 61st Street in Manhattan. FDR Drive will not be included in the Central Business District. Toll amounts will account for peak and off-peak hours,  and emergency vehicles will be exempt. Some groups, including vehicles operated by or transporting people with disabilities and individuals who have an identifiable hardship or limited ability to access medical facilities, will also be exempt or receive discounts. Tolls are expected to be set no later than December 2020.
  3. “Cost-containment actions and improved management” will aim to control costs, according to the plan. “The MTA should be able to operate with mass transit fare increases limited to inflationary increases of 2 percent per year.”
  4. MTA Board appointments are expected to be modified to ensure terms end with the appointing elected official’s tenure.
  5. New York State officials plan to work with the MTA, city and district attorneys to combat fare evasion. The stated goal is not to criminalize fare evasion, but rather prevent it and increase enforcement.
  6. An independent audit, set to be completed no later than January of 2020, aims to determine the MTA’s actual assets and liabilities.
  7. Transportation, engineering and government experts who have no existing financial relationship with the MTA, should review the Capital Plan, including review toll and fare increases proposed by the MTA. Cuomo, de Blasio, the State Assembly and Senate, and organizations representing subway riders and driving commuters will work to appoint committee members.
  8. “The MTA will have all major construction projects and planned projects pursued as ‘design build.’”
  9. “The MTA will immediately expedite the completion of the Subway Action Plan including: signal repair; water management; station enhancements; rail welding; friction pad installation; increased refurbishment efforts; and other service improvements.”
  10. Cuomo and de Blasio should work with the Legislature to “effectuate provisions in this framework.”
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