Rental companies say congestion pricing plan will be ‘devastating’

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Long Island rental companies driving to and from Manhattan for a living said the MTA’s proposed congestion pricing plan could be ‘devastating’ for businesses, costing them hundreds of dollars a day in new tolls .

These businesses want to be exempt from the central business district toll program, which, if approved by federal regulators, could come into effect by the end of 2023. But proponents of the plan have said all motorists should pay their fair share, given that leasing companies contribute significantly to the congestion that the toll plan seeks to solve on congested Manhattan streets.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority concluded a series of public hearings on congestion pricing last week. A public comment period will last through Friday, and the Federal Highway Administration is expected to vote on the proposal by the end of this year.

After covering project expenses, such as the installation of toll technology, all revenue would go to the MTA Capital Program, which funds transit infrastructure improvements. About 80% would go to buses and subways, 10% to the Long Island Rail Road, and 10% to the Metro-North Railroad.

WHAT THERE IS TO KNOW

  • Long Island Businesses That Depend On Driving in Manhattan say they will be particularly affected by the MTA’s proposed congestion pricing plan, which would charge new tolls for operating a vehicle below 60th Street.
  • taxi companies based on Long Island, Uber and Lyft drivers and tour operators are all pushing to be exempt from the new tolls, which they say will discourage customers from using their services.
  • Proponents of congestion pricing say the tolls will help relieve congestion on Manhattan streets, reduce pollution and generate funds needed for improved transit infrastructure, including on the LIRR.

Under the proposal, cars traveling under 60th Street in Manhattan could be charged up to $23, and those without an E-ZPass up to $34.50. While most drivers would be charged once per day, commercial drivers could be charged each time they enter the toll zone.

$23 What you will pay if the maximum exemptions and toll caps are placed on taxis, Uber/Lyft drivers and buses

$9 What you will pay if no exemptions or caps are placed on taxis, Uber/Lyft drivers and buses

The plan has angered many motorists, but none more so than those who drive for a living and believe they will be disproportionately affected. That includes so-called “gig” drivers, like Merrick’s Jacky Lin, who drives for Uber and Lyft.

Trips to Manhattan are “very important” to transit drivers on Long Island, but because the cost of tolls would be passed on to passengers, many potential fares are likely to dry up, Lin said.

“It would ruin it,” said Lin, an organizer with the Independent Drivers Guild, who estimates the new tolls could eliminate 40% of fares in Midtown and Midtown Manhattan. “It would certainly put [some drivers] unemployed. … They might as well take the LIRR … It will be much easier.

MTA: exemptions are bad for others

The MTA is seeking recommendations from a six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board on the rate structure and how much to charge. Among the options being considered are plans that would exempt rental vehicles, taxis and buses from tolls. Other proposals would limit the number of times per day they could be billed.

MTA officials, who said they don’t have a preferred option, noted that the more exemptions granted, the more other drivers will have to be billed to meet the annual revenue goal for the MTA. ‘agency. Without exemptions, the toll could be as low as $9 during peak hours.

The MTA also said reducing congestion in Manhattan would benefit taxis and rental vehicles by allowing them to make trips faster and qualify for additional fares.

John McCarthy, MTA’s head of external relations, said Uber and Lyft drivers who oppose the agency’s efforts are one of the reasons Manhattan streets are so crowded.

“Anyone who has been to New York City in the last decade knows that rental vehicles are part of the story of congestion in Manhattan’s central business district, which has adverse effects on air quality and slows the economy,” McCarthy said in a statement.

Recognizing the potential impact of tolls on taxi and transit drivers, the MTA has offered to help some become bus drivers for the transit agency, including waving a $70 exam fee. $.

In a statement, Uber spokesman Josh Gold rejected the MTA’s plan and noted that rental vehicles had already “paid nearly $1 billion in congestion charges over the past three years. “.

“Double taxation on future trips threatens to put tens of thousands of drivers out of work – despite the MTA’s plan to convert a handful of bus drivers,” Gold said.

Lyft senior policy officer Ruth Fasoldt also said ride-sharing companies should “not take responsibility for paying a double congestion charge…which will hurt this sharing economy industry, its drivers, and people.” its passengers.

“Too expensive to go to town”

Other businesses on Long Island could also be hit hard. Lawrence Blessinger Jr., vice president of All Island Transportation, which owns several taxi companies in Nassau County, said the fares could be “very devastating” to his business.

“There will be less fares in the city. I think you’ll see more people going out, socializing at night, who will end up staying local, because it’s going to be too expensive to go into town,” Blessinger said. “It’s less work for the drivers.”

Transportation consultant Bruce Schaller, who led New York City’s effort to adopt congestion pricing 15 years ago, said Long Island taxi and rental companies would actually be less affected than most by the new tolls, because their participation would keep the tolls as low as possible, and because the extra cost would be included in what is “already a substantial fare to travel that distance”.

“If you pay $80 and you get an extra $5 or whatever, that’s a whole lot different than if you pay $15,” said Schaller, who believes exemptions should be kept to a minimum. “Everyone is part of the problem, and everyone must be part of the solution. … The goal is to encourage people not to drive to Manhattan.

Michael Weiss, owner of Long Island Coach Bus/Metro Limousine Service in Freeport, said the pricing plan comes as drivers are already feeling the effects of rising gas prices and insurance rates, as well as a shortage of drivers. He noted that the cost of renting a coach for a trip to the city has risen from about $1,450 to $2,250 in two years, and would need to rise further to cover new tolls.

“It’s horrible right now to own a transportation company,” Weiss said. “I love what I do, but if things get worse there isn’t much profit left.”

Andrew Lynch, vice president of Hampton Jitney, said at a public hearing on congestion pricing Aug. 29 that rather than charging them more, buses like the one his company operates should be encouraged to go to Manhattan, because the dozens of passengers they carry could otherwise drive their own cars.

“Private bus operators, by their very nature, are actively reducing congestion right now,” Lynch said. “You cannot and should not penalize a form of public transport that is already part of the solution.”

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