The Move NY plan remains in its formative stages and open to change, but some of the basics are in place. Its first goal will be to distribute bridge and tunnel traffic more evenly and dissuade bridge shopping on the East River. To that end, all the eastern crossings, including the currently free bridges, will cost the same price: $10.66 round-trip for E-Z Pass users, $15 cash. Those increases will be counter-balanced with toll reductions on the outer bridges of as much as 50 percent.
That takes care of commuters entering the island from everywhere but the west. (The outcome of Bridgegate aside, the plan does not involve the Port Authority bridges and tunnels that carry travelers from Jersey for various logistical reasons.) Next the plan takes aim at congestion in Manhattan itself. A toll cordon would be placed at 60th Street to charge drivers heading into the part of the city with the greatest demand: the midtown business district.
Those are the broad strokes; now for some of the finer details. Drivers will be encouraged to pay with a transponder (like E-Z Pass); those without one will be captured via license-plate cameras. Cars will pay the tolls each pass, but commercial vehicles will only have to pay once round-trip in a 24-hour period, to limit the burden on businesses. Yellow cabs will pay a surcharge south of 96th Street — the idea being that they contribute to congestion but in theirquasi-transit role shouldn’t pay the full cordon price every time.
All told the plan could generate up $1.5 billion in net revenue every year. The MTA would manage the money (under the terms of the plan, the agency would lease the four free East River bridges from the city, though the feds might have final say about that). Precisely where the money will go is what Schwartz and Move NY leaders hope to determine with public input awareness campaign. For now, most of it (roughly a billion) is earmarked for transit: maintaining current service and expanding into transit deserts, with anything extra stowed away for long-term capital projects. The rest would go toward the city’s roads and bridges, as well as subsidies for suburban buses or rail commuters.
The revenue number might attract local eyes, but it’s the traffic improvement that will get the attention of other cities. Schwartz and Move NY want traffic flows in the cordon area to improve by 20 percent. Right now the tolls are fixed, but Schwartz says they’ll be adjusted on a quarterly basis to make sure that mark is being met. If traffic is flowing above expectations, it could be lowered. If it’s still oozing like ooze, the tolls might go up.