Among all the ideas for reducing NYC congestion, the Move NY Fair Plan is very unusual--it would reduce traffic volume in especially congested areas plus generate a lot of money to improve public transit options throughout the metropolitan area.
The heart of the plan is the "toll swap." Tolls on the 7 MTA bridges would be reduced, while new tolls would be charged on routes into the CBA that are now free. The toll swap is supposed to do 3 things:
Fairer cost-sharing. Plan supporters say that tolls should be a fair balance that reflects the relative level of congestion and the availability of public transit alternatives to driving. Now, more that a million trips in and out of the heavily congested CBD are made every day, for free. At the same time, drivers using the 7 MTA bridges and two tunnels pay high tolls that keep going up. (PDF, p.10, fig.2) Under the new system, drivers using the 4 East River bridges or any avenue crossing Manhattan at 60th St. would pay the same toll as drivers using the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn Battery tunnels (now, $5.45 EZ-Pass). Tolls on the 7 MTA bridges would drop by $1-$2.50. (PDF, p.18, fig.10). Time-of-day pricing would adjust tolls to reflect congestion levels: lower fees for evenings and weekends; higher fees during rush hours. Tolls in all locations would be collected using gate-less electronic tolling technology to avoid bottlenecks.
There wouldn't be double-tolling: the Harlem River bridges would still be free, and a driver coming from the Triborough/RFK bridge would pay $5.45 total as long as he entered the CBD within an hour. (PDF, p.17). There are special rules for commercial vehicles, taxis, and FHVs, discussed in the next subtopic - 4.2 - Special rules for commercial vehicles, taxis and FHVs.
Ending harmful traffic patterns. A separate problem with the current toll system is that it encourages drivers to make bad route choices to save money. This "bridge shopping" sends heavy traffic (including large trucks) over roads and through neighborhoods not designed to handle it. For example, trucks headed to Jersey from Long Island use the free Manhattan bridge and Canal Street, rather than pay up to $80 on the most direct route over the Verrazano Bridge. In Queens, thousands of drivers exist highways and jam city streets to use the free Queensboro bridge rather than pay tolls for the tunnel or Triborough Bridge. (PDF, p.11, fig.3).
The result is major congestion, air quality problems, and increased accidents in areas leading to and from the free bridges. Balancing tolls across the area removes the financial encouragement to make these bad routing choices, and will improve traffic-related problems in Williamsburg, Chinatown, the Upper and Lower East Sides, Downtown Brooklyn, Hunters Point, Long Island City, Astoria, and Flatbush Avenue. See Plan's Borough Fact Sheets (PDF).
New funding for transportation needs. As Topic 5 - Money problem-solutions? discusses, NYC congestion can't really be solved without some serious new money to invest in better transit options. The toll swap is estimated to bring in $1.5 billion each year--even after reducing tolls on the 7 MTA bridges and investing in electronic collection technology for all new and existing toll points. (PDF, p.20-23; see also Audit of Revenue Projections PDF). The Plan has a strategy, described in the subtopic below (4.3 - Making sure new revenue gets spent on transportation), for making sure this money actually goes to transportation.
See Topic 6 - Improving transportation infrastructure and the Borough Fact Sheets (PDF) for specific ways the Plan wants to spend this money to give underserved areas new transit options, and improve existing subways, roads, and bridges.
The end result is estimated to be 100,000 fewer auto trips daily into the CBD; travel speed should increase 15%-20% in the CBD, and 6% on surrounding roads and bridges. (PDF, pp.20-21) At the same time, the combination of improved transit service and less congestion is predicted to mean 115,000 net additional trips daily to the CBD.
Support and Opposition. The Plan has gotten broad support: unions and business groups; community organizations and churches; environmental groups; trucking and FHV groups (including Uber); and groups representing cyclists, pedestrians, and straphangers. The NY Times, the Daily News, the NY Post, Newsday, Crain's, Fox 5 and other media have endorsed it. So have a lot of local officials. Even AAA is positive about the Plan. (See this magazine, p.24). The main local opposition is a group of Queens officials, who say new tolls are unfair to Queens residents with few public transit options. Plan supporters' respond that the Plan is the best hope for getting the money to bring more public transit to Queens; also, some proposed improvements that directly affect Queens (e.g., more SBS routes, restored service cuts, reduced bus and commuter rail fares) could be done before new tolls are implemented.
Some (including Governor Cuomo) have dismissed the Plan as just rehashing the 2008 congestion charge proposed by Mayor Bloomberg. There are actually a lot of differences (see this list (PDF) by Plan supporters), but probably most important are the strategies for guaranteeing that the new toll money creates more, cheaper transit options throughout the area. Surveys in Washington DC (PDF) and the NYC area (PDF) found that people who generally oppose congestion charges are much more positive about a plan they believe will reduce congestion and reliably fund better public transit.
►Would the toll swap be fairer than the existing system, so long as current bridge tolls really are reduced and the money is spent on improving transportation options for the outer boroughs and suburbs?
►Do you see other positive, or negative, consequences from the toll swap strategy?