Memo on Traffic Mobility Review Board 7/19/23

July 24, 2023


From: Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies
Date: July 19, 2023
RE: Traffic Mobility Review Board (TMRB) (7/19/23)


  • On July 19, 2023, the Traffic Mobility Review Board held a meeting to consider the tolling model for the Congestion Pricing Program.
  • This was a preliminary meeting, with a presentation from the MTA on the various considerations from TMRB and a Q&A from the board.

Introduction of Board Members and Staff

  • Carl Weisbrod, Chair
  • John Banks (REBNY President, 2015 – 2019)
  • Scott Rechler (Regional Plan Association)
  • Elizabeth Velez (Velez Organization)
  • Kathryn Wylde (Partnership for NYC)
  • John Durso (Long Island AFL-CIO)
  • John Samuelsen (Transport Workers Union)
  • Juliette Michaelson, Special Advisor
  • John McCarthy, Chief of External Relations
  • Quemuel Arroyo, Chief Accessibility Officer
  • Allison de Cerreno, Chief Operating Officer of Bridges and Tunnels
  • Michael Wojnar, Senior Advisor for Innovation and Policy

Overview of Congestion Pricing Program

  • Congestion is “choking the region” and the best way to manage traffic is through pricing.
  • NYS law mandated in 2019 that MTA Bridges and Tunnels establish a congestion pricing program, to reduce congestion, improve regional air quality, and generate net revenues to invest in transit infrastructure.
  • CBD is defined as Manhattan south and inclusive of 60 St, excluding through-traffic on FDR Drive, West Side Highway, Battery Park Underpass, and portions of the Hugh Carey Tunnel.
  • The project commits over $200M to mitigate potential effects.
  • In June 2023, the federal government found that the program is expected to achieve its goals without significant impacts on the environment.

TMRB’s Role

  • The charge of the TMRB is to develop a proposed tolling structure that reduces traffic congestion and generates sufficient revenue to fund $15B for MTA transit improvements.
  • The TMRB’s recommendations will go to the MTA Board for their approval
  • TMRB’s proposed toll structure must:
  • Exempt both qualifying authorized emergency vehicles and qualifying vehicles transporting people with disabilities
  • Vary tolls, and price the overnight toll at or below 50% of the standard toll, from at least 12am to 4am
  • Not charge more than one toll per day for passenger vehicles, NYC taxis or for-hire vehicles (FHVs)
  • Provide a 25% discount to qualifying frequent, low-income drivers after the first 10 trips per month
  • TMRB also has the ability to recommend a tolling structure for taxis and FHVs.
  • Seven key areas for consideration
  • Discounts by time period
  • Discounts for those already paying a tunnel toll
  • Toll rates for buses
  • Toll rates for trucks
  • Toll rates for government-owned vehicles
  • A plan for taxis and FHVs
  • Other discounts/exemptions
  • The goal is to keep tolls low, but still in range of the revenue target.
  • Every discount and exemption requires higher toll rates overall.
  • The recommended tolling structure should be within the bounds of what was studied in the Environmental Assessment.

Q&A from the Board

  • John Banks asked a “simplistic question”: What is the most effective way to ensure the lowest pedestrian price for the program?
  • MTA responded: The most effective way to ensure the lowest toll is to give the fewest exemptions or credits. For every discount/exemption/crossing credit provided, everyone else must make up the difference.
  • In addition to reducing congestion, a requirement of the project is to raise sufficient net revenues of $15B for MTA’s capital programs.
  • John Banks’ follow up question: Is everyone who is not exempted subsidizing those who have exemptions?
  • MTA: Yes.
  • John Durso: How does the MTA plan to use congestion pricing, and how does that translate to increasing trains, buses, and subway safety?
  • MTA: The $15B revenue will go into the 2024 Capital program, for projects that expand capacity, increase reliability and accessibility, and address environmental and security programs.
  • John Durso expressed concern about the time frame. How long will it take to gear up for implementing these projects?
  • MTA: Some of these capital projects will be launched in the next few years. However, the capacity that exists in the system is more than enough to absorb the additional ridership projected by the environmental assessment (EA).
  • John Samuelsen: The “window” overnight does not reflect the needs of blue collar workers or shifts that they work, and he feels that the 4-hour window is not helpful. He asked if there’s been any research done on low-income workers and if they hail from a transit desert. In that case, even if someone “wanted” to change their behavior, they could not.
  • MTA: There are provisions in the program at the moment to accommodate low-income drivers. There are 2 provisions for low-income drivers, who live both inside and outside of the CBD. They are continuing to look at this issue.
  • If the 12am-4am window moves to add time, they will have a more difficult time lowering congestion.
  • Carl Weisbrod said that more analysis is needed on the driver side and the “shift” side.
  • Elizabeth Velez: As best as we can determine, have the FHV and taxi levels resumed back to pre-pandemic levels?
  • MTA: Things have changed since 2018, with FHV reaching 96% of their 2019 trip levels and taxis reaching 48% of their pre-pandemic levels.
  • Elizabeth Velez: Could the proposed charge be borne by companies, passengers, or drivers?
  • MTA: It would depend – could be borne by drivers or passed on to passengers.
  • Kathy Wylde: Would any vehicle with a commercial plate be treated or towed as a truck, as opposed to a passenger vehicle (subject to one toll per day)?
  • MTA: Only passenger vehicles would be subject to one toll per day. Commercial vehicles can theoretically be charged more than once a day, if that is the recommendation of the group.
  • In the legislation, only passenger vehicles must be charged once per day. TMRB can make a recommendation on the frequency of charges for other types of vehicles.
  • Kathy Wylde: Would utility vehicles responding to an emergency be treated as an emergency vehicle?
  • MTA: Under the legislation, they would not be exempt as an emergency vehicle, but TMRB could make recommendations on these vehicles.
  • Emergency vehicles per the law include ambulances, blood delivery vehicles, and fire vehicles.
  • Certain types of ambulances could be public or private.
  • Kathy Wylde: DOT has had a pilot project with night deliveries. What are the findings at this point?
  • MTA: Program participants benefited from reduced travel times, with labor savings of up to $9.47/hour and lower greenhouse gas emissions from less idling.
  • The MTA will be rolling out incentives to help businesses with costs.
  • Carl Weisbrod: Have we assumed that credit crossing would be the same for all kinds of vehicles?
  • MTA: Depending on how low or high the credit is, there is a change in the “effective toll,” which affects the different types of traffic diversions.
  • John Banks asked if the MTA could gather an analysis on various vehicle types, e.g. if all buses were exempted.
  • MTA: Yes, they are able to prepare that information.
  • In concluding the meeting, Carl Weisbrod acknowledged that they have only “just scratched the surface” regarding the specifics of the program.

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