May 12, 2023

ICYMI: Governor Hochul Announces Central Business District Tolling Program Final Environmental Assessment And Draft ‘Finding Of No Significant Impact’ Now Available

Milestone in Process Toward Authorization of Nation's First Central Business District Tolling Program; Would Improve Regional Air Quality, Tackle New York City's Severe Congestion Problem and Deliver Critical Capital Funding for Transit 

Updates to Environmental Assessment Build on Commitments to Environmental Justice Communities 

Release of Documents Begins 30-Day Period of Formal Document Availability for Public Notice 

Traffic Mobility Review Board to Work on Recommendations on Toll Rates and Structure 

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York State Department of Transportation and New York City Department of Transportation have released the Final Environmental Assessment for the Central Business District Tolling Program and a draft "Finding of No Significant Impact," prepared by the Federal Highway Administration. 

"This is a significant milestone, bringing us closer to a future where New Yorkers have cleaner air, better public transit and less traffic clogging our streets," Governor Hochul said. "This program is critical to New York City's long-term success, ensuring our commuters and businesses are able to grow and thrive." 

Today's release of the documents begins a 30-day period in which they are formally available for public review online here. Those who prefer hard copies may view them at locations listed on the website. After the 30 days elapse, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will make its final decision, completing its review of the potential environmental effects of allowing the Central Business District Tolling Program. Following entry into a tolling agreement with the Federal Highway Administration, tolling could begin up to 310 days later, during which contractors would design, build, test and activate tolling equipment. 

During that period, a six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board (TMRB) would develop recommended toll rates along with any potential discounts, crossing credits and/or exemptions. The recommendation would be presented to the MTA Board acting in its legal capacity as the board of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the MTA agency that would collect the tolls. Following the filing and publication of a proposed tolling structure and a public comment period, the MTA would hold a public hearing before any tolling structure is adopted. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, "The federal government has given congestion pricing another green light, and we're ready to get it done right. This about more than reducing traffic. We'll invest in our transit system and clean up the air in the most polluted communities. Building a stronger future means ensuring progress includes everyone, and we don't push consequences into overlooked communities. This plan will serve all New Yorkers and won't leave anyone behind. I want to thank U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, Governor Hochul, Congressman Torres, and all of the advocates who kept their foot on the gas in moving this forward." 

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, "Congestion pricing means less traffic, safer streets, cleaner air, more economic opportunity, and better transit."  

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "The State Department of Transportation, in collaboration with the MTA and NYCDOT, greatly appreciates FHWA for its diligence in certifying the Environmental Assessment for the Central Business Tolling Program.  This has been a rigorous process with a robust public engagement and while there is still work left to be done, we will continue to work with our partners and the community to advance this process." 

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said, "Congestion pricing will improve our quality of life, speed up buses, make our streets safer and our air cleaner. This marks a critical step forward in delivering a program centered on equity and environmental justice. We are a proud partner in congestion pricing and look forward to continuing work with our partners at the city, state, and federal levels to advance the first such program in the United States." 

Representative Ritchie Torres said, "From the moment I entered public office, I have championed congestion pricing with hope of curbing congestion, improving air quality, reducing asthma rates, and stabilizing the MTA - the lifeblood of America's largest city. At the same time, I've said that any congestion pricing plan must recognize and respect the unique environmental and public health needs of the Bronx. I'm proud to have successfully secured $155 million over five years in new investments to significantly reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, including the replacement of transport refrigeration units on diesel trucks, the construction of electric vehicle infrastructure, the development of school asthma programming, the renovation of local parks and green spaces, and the enhancement of air quality monitoring. My thanks to Governor Hochul, MTA Chair Lieber, Mayor Adams, and the Biden Administration for listening to the concerns of our community and joining me to advance an environmentally just congestion pricing plan that begins to reverse the long and ugly history of environmental racism in the Bronx and beyond."  

Representative Jerrold Nadler said, "The approval of congestion pricing by the FWHA is a victory for New Yorkers in our fight for cleaner air, safer streets, and improved mass transit. I have fought for congestion pricing from its inception because it is the best way to get cars off our overly crowded roads and allow us to reimagine our streets to create green space for parks, protected bike lanes, and dedicated bus lanes to make commute times faster and more efficient. I'm proud of my work to make New York the first in the nation to implement this approach which will deliver critically needed funding for the MTA. Now that this program has the green light from the federal government, I look forward to my continued partnership with the MTA, the Traffic Mobility Review Board, and community leaders to finally implement congestion pricing without delay." 

Representative Dan Goldman said, "New York City is ready to serve as a model for the nation and pave the way for vital improvements in our air quality and public transportation system through congestion pricing. This proven and critically important policy will reduce traffic, benefit the environment, improve our transportation infrastructure and make our streets safer. Congestion pricing is one step closer to being the law of the land in New York and ushering in our city's future. Let's get it done." 

Representative Adriano Espaillat said, "I am pleased the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), and New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) have released their Final Environmental Assessment for the Central Business District Tolling Program. It is critical we continue to fully evaluate all aspects of the tolling program during this sensitive period. I look forward to furthering my collaboration at the federal level with these agencies to ensure the successful rollout of this program with adequate stakeholder input and to ensure vital updates to working New Yorkers." 

State Senator Liz Krueger said, "Those of us who live and work in Manhattan know very well the negative impacts of traffic congestion on our daily lives - the air pollution, the noise, the risks to pedestrians posed by our overcrowded streets, and the frustration of being stuck in traffic on those occasions when we need to use a car or taxi. We also know the benefits of well-funded, reliable, fast public transit. Congestion pricing is a tried and tested approach that will reduce congestion, improve the quality of life of Manhattanites, and provide desperately needed funds to support the subways and buses that the vast majority of New Yorkers rely on every day. I am glad to see this process finally moving forward, with several more opportunities for public input, and I look forward to full implementation as soon as possible." 

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, "In 2019, congestion pricing was an idea whose time had come. In 2023, it's long overdue. I was proud to vote for the first in the nation central business district tolling program because it will mean better transit for all New Yorkers, cleaner air and quieter streets for my constituents, and more convenience for all road users. I thank Governor Hochul and the MTA for expeditiously issuing the Final Environmental Assessment so that we can finally implement this critical program." 

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, "Manhattan has some of the lowest rates of car ownership in the country, but some of the worst traffic. Congestion pricing will help reduce the number of vehicles on city streets, while also providing the public transit system with funding it desperately needs. The MTA is making important commitments to ensure that there are no significant adverse impacts, which is a big step. But there are still details that need to be worked out, so I encourage New Yorkers to participate in the public hearing process. Now is the time to ensure that this program is set up for success." 

Association for a Better New York Chairman Steven Rubenstein said, "We commend the MTA on achieving these major steps toward congestion pricing's long-awaited approval and implementation. For the city and its businesses to thrive, New Yorkers need reliable public transit and streets that aren't constantly snarled by traffic. Congestion pricing will make our region more economically competitive, sustainable, and livable." 

Reinvent Albany Senior Policy Advisor Rachael Fauss said, "We think it's great news for New Yorkers that the federal government has given a preliminary green light to congestion pricing. We look forward to Governor Hochul's continued strong leadership to ensure the program starts as soon as possible to bring $15 billion in needed funding for the MTA's capital plan. Now it's time for the Traffic Mobility Review Board to use facts and common sense to recommend toll levels to the MTA board and put the congestion pricing law into practice." 

Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA Executive Director Lisa Daglian said, "The FHWA Letter of Legal Sufficiency and mitigation package detailed in the final EA and draft FONSI signal that congestion pricing is well on its way. This first next step toward a region with more transit investment, less traffic, and better air quality is a big win for riders and the millions of others -- including drivers --who will benefit from Congestion Pricing. We applaud USDOT, Governor Hochul, the MTA and its partners, NYS DOT and NYC DOT, for being so diligent in their efforts to ensure that mitigation efforts will be put in place to address the potential equity impacts that were raised during the review process, including discounts for low income drivers, limits on fees for taxis and for hire vehicles, and air quality improvements, to bring better outcomes for environmental justice communities, particularly in the Bronx. Where New York leads, others will follow." 

Regional Plan Association President and CEO Tom Wright said, "For decades, New York City has struggled with crushing traffic congestion, which pollutes the air we breathe, clogs our roads, damages our communities, and weakens our economy. This has only gotten worse since COVID, as more commuters switched to individual cars. With the release of the Congestion Pricing Environmental Assessment, we are one step closer to finally addressing this issue and implementing a policy which will benefit drivers, transit riders and communities alike. RPA congratulates Governor Hochul and the MTA for reaching this important milestone and we look forward to working with the MTA, New York City and the entire tri-state region to ensure the program reaches its full potential by reducing incentives for toll shopping, limiting exemptions and funding mitigating measures. Done right, congestion pricing will result in a healthier city and region, vital funding for transit upgrades and improvements, and a more prosperous region." 

Transportation Alternatives Deputy Executive Director for Public Affairs Elizabeth Adams said, "Congestion pricing is a win for everyone — regardless of if you walk, bike, take transit, or even drive into the Central Business District. With the go-ahead from the federal government, it's time for New York State to implement congestion pricing without delay and take steps today to permanently reclaim that space from cars. Without so much congestion of our street space, we can build streets that truly serve the people of New York City — with more green space, better transit, and cleaner air." 

Riders Alliance Executive Director Betsy Plum said, "Riders are thrilled that Governor Kathy Hochul finally has all the power she needs to raise the money to fix our subway and deliver the reliable and accessible service every New Yorker deserves.   After years of delays, which transit riders are all too familiar with, the federal government has at last decided that millions of New Yorkers, commuters, and visitors to our city can have nice things after all. Congestion pricing is the single largest source of funds to upgrade subway signals that cause chronic delays, purchase reliable, state-of-the-art new subway cars, and build new station elevators to welcome every New Yorker into the system. Congestion pricing will also cut the gridlock that wastes an estimated $20 billion annually that families absorb in more expensive goods and services and that slows our buses down to a crawl. The case for congestion pricing, with all of its benefits, could not be stronger than it is today." 

Environmental Defense Fund State Director for New York and New Jersey Mary Barber said, "We are pleased that the federal process to approve New York City's congestion pricing program is moving the city one step closer towards relieving traffic congestion, reducing emissions and funding essential upgrades to New York's public transit system. Congestion pricing is a foundational policy in support of New York's sustainable future. We look forward to Gov. Hochul's continued climate and clean energy leadership by ensuring this program is implemented swiftly and with other complementary policies, like truck and bus electrification, that prioritize and ensure benefits to disadvantaged communities." 

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Renae Reynolds said, "Congestion pricing will bring many benefits to our city and region. We are energized by the announced mitigation plans of the MTA and Governor Hochul. Their implementation, including enhanced electrification infrastructure and significant reductions in diesel emissions in overburdened environmental justice communities like the South Bronx, will help move us forward in our efforts for an equitable, sustainable, healthy, and livable region." 

New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe said: "We are thrilled with the federal government’s release of the Finding of No Significant Impact for congestion pricing. We cannot drive our way out of the climate crisis and this program will provide much-needed funding for the MTA to expand and improve service, which will help get commuters off the road and onto public transit. And with effective environmental mitigation measures put in place, congestion pricing will not only reduce traffic in Manhattan, it will improve air quality and public health throughout the New York metropolitan region. We are grateful to Governor Hochul and the MTA for their continued advocacy throughout the process. When it comes to congestion pricing and investing in mass transit, the message is clear: it’s full speed ahead." 

Move NY Campaign to bring Congestion Pricing to NYC Founder and Director Alex Matthiessen said, "The federal approval of congestion pricing is a huge victory for the New York metro area and for the nation as a whole, as other cities look to adopt this innovative program to reduce traffic and improve mass transit. Especially important is the robust package of mitigation measures New York has committed itself to, which should help jumpstart a long overdue effort to create a more equitable, just and sustainable NYC." 

Bike New York Advocacy Director Jon Orcutt said, "Bike New York applauds the progress of congestion pricing, and looks forward to implementation of the system and much-needed traffic relief in and around New York's central business district. Congestion pricing has had great street safety benefits in London, and we can use all the help we can get in that regard in New York today." 

The Final Environmental Assessment Builds on Previous Commitments to Environmental Justice Communities

Together, the MTA and two departments of transportation are committing $207.5 million over five years for mitigation measures largely focused on environmental justice (EJ) communities and populations. This includes a $47.5 million set aside for a new low-income discount and $5 million for additional monitoring of traffic, air quality, and transit station elements. 

As reflected in the Final Environmental Assessment, the mitigation measures would address potential adverse effects in environmental justice communities. New commitments in the Final Environmental Assessment include: 

- A low-income driver discount program would provide a 25% discount for low-income frequent drivers on the full CBD E-ZPass toll rate after the first 10 trips in each calendar month (excluding the overnight period)

- Taxis and for-hire-vehicles may not be tolled more than once a day

- Regional mitigation measures

-            Provide a discount of at least 50% on the peak toll for trucks and other vehicles from at least 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. 

-            Expand NYC DOT's Clean Trucks Program to accelerate the replacement of old diesel trucks to lower-emission vehicles

-            Expand NYC DOT's Off-Hours Delivery Program 

- Place-based mitigation measures

-            Retrofit refrigeration trailers (TRUs) at Hunts Point Market from dirty diesel to clean hybrid diesel

-            Expand electric truck charging infrastructure

-            Renovate parks and expand vegetative barriers along highways in EJ communities

-            Install air filtration units in schools near highways

-            Expand the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's asthma case management program in schools and establish a new asthma center in the Bronx

The TMRB may recommend policies related to discounts and exemptions that go beyond the commitments in the EA. 

These commitments are an expansion from the commitments earlier outlined such as prioritizing the electrification of bus depots located in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan EJ communities, providing a tax credit for low-income CBD residents with adjusted gross income less than $60k and eliminating the $10 E-ZPass tag deposit fee. For the full list of commitments, see here. 

Program Benefits  

Across the 28-county area studied in the environmental review, the assessment finds that of those who commute to work in Manhattan's Central Business District (CBD), only 11% drive and 85% use public transportation. By reducing congestion and creating revenue for public transportation, the program would benefit millions of people every day. Through the new package of mitigations, the program will also significantly invest in air quality in environmental justice communities. 

Less traffic congestion. New York is among the most congested cities in the United States. Congested streets slow down buses, delay delivery services, raise the cost of doing business, and degrade our quality of life.  The Environmental Assessment estimates a roughly 15-20% reduction in the number of vehicles entering the Central Business District, or about 110,000 to 143,000 fewer vehicles daily, about as many as enter Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge today. 

New York City buses serve a greater share of low-income and minority households compared to other modes of transportation, including subways. Local bus speeds have declined 28% in the Central Business District since 2010 and Select Bus Service in Manhattan is 19% slower than Select Bus Service in other boroughs. While ongoing MTA initiatives such as the bus network redesigns have shown improvement in speeds, congestion pricing would not only improve travel times for bus service, but also paratransit service. 

A more equitable, accessible transit system. The program would generate net revenues sufficient to leverage $15 billion for the MTA's 2020-2024 Capital Program which includes transformational projects. The MTA's transit system, and particularly the bus network, promotes equity by serving low-income and minority communities. The funding would allow the MTA to progress on its aggressive timeline of completing accessibility improvements, along with performing necessary state-of-good repair work to the more-than-a-century old transit system. 

A healthier, more sustainable future. Congestion pricing would improve overall regional air quality with one of the most comprehensive plans the region has implemented to support a greener future. The environmental assessment found in all tolling scenarios an overall decrease in vehicle-miles traveled in the Central Business District and region overall, and that the program would encourage some commuters to shift from their vehicles to transit. 

Outreach and Community Engagement Unprecedented in Scope

Over the course of the environmental review process, the Project Partners held 19 early outreach sessions, of which nine were focused on environmental justice communities, 10 meetings with Environmental Justice Technical Advisory and Stakeholder Working Groups, and six public hearings after the release of the draft Environmental Assessment in August 2022. Nearly 950 speakers participated in early outreach sessions and public hearings, combined. Additional meetings were held separately for elected officials, community boards, transit and environmental advocates, and other interested parties. 

The MTA and two departments of transportation received and responded to more than 22,000 individual comments and more than 55,000 form submissions. There were more than 25,000 views cumulatively of online videos of the public hearings. 

The Environmental Assessment's Study Area

Incorporating and documenting all public input, the Final Environmental Assessment analyzes the impact of Central Business District Tolling on traffic congestion, transit, air quality and numerous other environmental indicators in 28 counties across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Study Area contains 22 million people, including 12.3 million residents residing in environmental justice communities, and five Tribal Nations. 

The Environmental Assessment assesses impacts to traffic and public transportation for a regional transportation network with 28.8 million journeys per average weekday, 61,000 highway linkage points, 4,600 traffic analysis zones, 44,267 bus stops or transit stations, 4,170 transit routes, and more than a dozen public transportation providers in addition to the MTA, including NJ TRANSIT, PATH, ferries, and regional bus systems including Westchester County Bee-Line, NICE, and Suffolk County Transit. 

Background on the Central Business District Tolling Program

The Central Business District Tolling Program was mandated by the State in April 2019 and modeled on urban congestion pricing programs around the world to reduce traffic congestion and raise needed revenue to improve public transportation. The program would charge vehicles a toll for traveling in Manhattan south of and inclusive of 60th Street, excluding through-traffic on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, West Side Highway, Battery Park Underpass, and roadway portions of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel connecting to West Street.

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