Bridge Toll Plan Headlines Congestion Commission Report

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One of four options presented in the Traffic Mitigation Commission's Interim Report. Download the report.

When the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission meets today, it is expected to deliberate four proposed alternatives to Mayor Bloomberg's original congestion pricing plan. While Chairman Marc Shaw writes that that the commission "may choose to modify," "combine elements" or "put forward a wholly different plan," debate has already begun in the media, focused mostly on the proposal to add tolls to all free bridges on the East and Harlem Rivers.

Under that plan, a $4 toll would be imposed on all crossings into and out of Manhattan, 24 hours a day, with higher tolls for trucks. The plan would reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 7 percent -- qualifying the city for $354 million in federal funds -- while raising an estimated $859 million annually for transit.

Pols including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Council Member John Liu are adamantly opposed to tolling the remaining bridges. Liu -- who chairs the council's transportation committee -- pre-empted today's TCMC discussion with another salvo, via the Daily News.

"You can't seal off Manhattan like that," said Liu (D-Queens), who supports congestion pricing. "To think of Manhattan as a castle surrounded by a moat will not get anybody anywhere."

The News points out that in 2006, "Although 557,043 vehicles used the nine free bridges spanning the Harlem River, only 494,576 vehicles crossed the free Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges."

Another proposal, as outlined with the others in a 72-page commission report (pdf), would operate similarly to the mayor's plan, but would move the pricing boundary to 60th Street and remove the $4 fee for trips originating within the zone. It would also raise parking meter rates, eliminate the resident parking tax exemption, and impose a $1 surcharge on cab rides that start and/or end within the zone. Estimated annual revenues for the "Alternative Congestion Pricing Plan" are pegged at $520 million.

The other two plans are the "Combination Plan," which would reduce VMTs by just 3.2 percent and is apparently not considered a viable option as written, and the odd-even license plate scheme, which would raise zero dollars for transit and will ideally end up but a gleam in Richard Brodsky's eye.

Meanwhile, maverick advocate Ted Kheel grabbed some prime op-ed space in today's Daily News to push his plan to double the $8 congestion charge while making transit free. And a new Quinnipiac Poll -- released, true to form, just ahead of the congestion commission meeting -- finds that 60 percent of New Yorkers support congestion pricing to improve transit, though you still wouldn't know it from the headlines.