‘Fixing’ traffic

The FixNYC panel’s proposal announced last Friday is not yet a final plan, but it is a clear road map toward implementing congestion pricing in Manhattan. With Governor Andrew Cuomo and new Council Speaker Corey Johnson both on board with the general concept, it’s also clear that traffic pricing is going to happen.

The specifics are still being hashed out. Drivers would be charged a fee for entering Manhattan below 60th St. Under one scenario, drivers would have a one-time fee of up to $12 in effect during most of the day, with the overnight period free. Trucks would pay around double that. Under another scenario, the toll would be in operation 24 hours, with bigger fees in effect for drivers during peak rush hours. For-hire cabs would be charged around $2 to enter the zone, as well as for each trip within it. The F.D.R. Drive would be free, but not the West Side Highway.

Cuomo reportedly does not, however, favor tolling the currently free East River bridges, preferring to focus on drivers “entering the zone” of what police call Manhattan South. The revenue would be used to fund the ailing subway system.

Obviously, it’s a lot to digest. But as we all know, Manhattan is gridlocked. You can often walk faster than the virtually standstill traffic in Midtown. This goes for the Village and Downtown, too.

Some blame the bike and bus lanes. But, sorry, we need those. The explosion of bicycle commuting is a transportation success story, and mass transit must continue to be prioritized.

Of course, one major reason for the increased traffic is the massive spike in for-hire vehicles flooding the streets: Uber, Via, Lyft, Juno — thousands upon thousands of more cars and vans.

Meanwhile, according to Transportation Alternatives, only 4 percent of outer-borough residents drive to Manhattan for work.

Naturally, there’s going to be a lot of discussion about this proposal. Some of our local politicians have been sounding off on the idea, some more enthusiastically than others.

Speaking to Community Board 3 Tuesday night, state Senator Brad Hoylman embraced the idea. He noted that, on average, only 22 percent of Manhattanites own cars.

“It has done amazing things in global cities,” he said of traffic fees. “London reduced its traffic by over a quarter [with] their charge.”

One concern he did mention hearing from constituents is that people will park their cars outside the zone, then enter it by mass transit or cab — which will take away parking spaces for residents.

“I want to see residential parking,” he said.

Borough President Gale Brewer was more measured talking to The Villager this week. She said she supports congestion pricing, but worries if the technology would work. For example, she noted, there are millions in uncollected fees owed the New York State Thruway due to cashless tolling.

Brewer also wondered about scofflaw drivers who cover their license plates, plus slush covering the plates — as in, how will cameras see them? — and also about rental cars.

We have faith, though, all these issues will be worked out. We must tackle the larger issue of gridlock and reducing traffic. We’ll get there.

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