Some of the revenue from congestion pricing could be in...

Some of the revenue from congestion pricing could be in jeopardy as more drivers find ways to avoid paying tolls, including by using devices that hide their license plates from cameras. Credit: Ed Quinn

MTA officials on Wednesday renewed their calls for lawmakers to strengthen penalties for toll evasion, which they said cost the transit authority nearly $50 million last year.

The increased efforts to punish toll beaters came as the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, at a monthly board meeting, announced that the MTA's congestion pricing system is “ready to go,” with installation of new tolling hardware nearly complete.

The MTA is counting on collecting $1 billion in new tolls from the plan, which will charge most vehicles $15 for driving below 60th Street in Manhattan. But MTA officials said some of that revenue could be in jeopardy, as more drivers find ways to avoid paying tolls, including by using devices that hide their license plates from cameras.

“This isn’t, ‘A leaf blew onto my plate,’ or ‘My plate was dirty,’ ” MTA Bridge and Tunnels president Cathy Sheridan said, as she showed MTA Board members a video of cars with devices that automatically covered, or flipped, their license plates with a press of a button.

Sheridan said unpaid tolls cost the MTA almost $50 million in 2023. The MTA previously said it lost $46 million in 2022 from toll evasion. And, while she said the MTA has stepped up enforcement efforts, including by more frequently pulling over offenders, the agency’s efforts are hamstrung by ineffective laws that don’t allow for violators to be arrested or have their plate obstructing devices confiscated.

Sheridan noted that the MTA has pushed for a change in the law to make toll evasion a “theft of services,” a misdemeanor that would carry penalties ranging from a fine of $100 to a year in jail. The measure has been included in Gov. Kathy Hochul's proposed state budget for the last two years. Currently, toll evasion is mostly dealt with through civil summonses.

“We are confident these proposals will become law and give us more teeth in our enforcement efforts,” said Sheridan, who noted that, beyond avoiding tolls, drivers hiding their license plates can also get away with more serious crimes.

In his last meeting as the Suffolk County representative on the MTA Board, Sammy Chu urged fellow board members to advocate for strengthening the laws on toll beating. “We need external help at this point, and that’s beyond policing,” Chu said.

The public will have an opportunity to sound off on their tolling concerns at a series of public hearings beginning Thursday at 6 p.m. on the MTA's congestion pricing plan. The hearings, which will be held in person at the MTA's Manhattan headquarters and virtually over Zoom, are among the last steps before the Central Business District Tolling Program can launch.

Allison de Cerreño, chief operating officer for MTA Bridges and Tunnels, at a Manhattan meeting of the MTA Board, said Wednesday that installation of the equipment needed for the new tolls — including poles, mastheads and cameras — is 95% complete. Following testing of the new system, the MTA hopes to begin charging the new tolls as early as June, although the effort could be delayed by several ongoing lawsuits.

The MTA says the first-of-its-kind program in the United States will reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and generate $1 billion annually to be invested in the transit system. 

The MTA is paying TransCore, a transportation technology firm, $507 million to design and install the congestion pricing hardware. Most of the “detection points” for the program are being set up along 60th and 61st streets, de Cerreño said, and 104 of the 110 locations have already been completed.

“We're well underway, and nearing the end of the build,” said de Cerreño, who noted that infrastructure is “designed to fit the urban landscape.”

MTA officials on Wednesday renewed their calls for lawmakers to strengthen penalties for toll evasion, which they said cost the transit authority nearly $50 million last year.

The increased efforts to punish toll beaters came as the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, at a monthly board meeting, announced that the MTA's congestion pricing system is “ready to go,” with installation of new tolling hardware nearly complete.

The MTA is counting on collecting $1 billion in new tolls from the plan, which will charge most vehicles $15 for driving below 60th Street in Manhattan. But MTA officials said some of that revenue could be in jeopardy, as more drivers find ways to avoid paying tolls, including by using devices that hide their license plates from cameras.

“This isn’t, ‘A leaf blew onto my plate,’ or ‘My plate was dirty,’ ” MTA Bridge and Tunnels president Cathy Sheridan said, as she showed MTA Board members a video of cars with devices that automatically covered, or flipped, their license plates with a press of a button.

Sheridan said unpaid tolls cost the MTA almost $50 million in 2023. The MTA previously said it lost $46 million in 2022 from toll evasion. And, while she said the MTA has stepped up enforcement efforts, including by more frequently pulling over offenders, the agency’s efforts are hamstrung by ineffective laws that don’t allow for violators to be arrested or have their plate obstructing devices confiscated.

Sheridan noted that the MTA has pushed for a change in the law to make toll evasion a “theft of services,” a misdemeanor that would carry penalties ranging from a fine of $100 to a year in jail. The measure has been included in Gov. Kathy Hochul's proposed state budget for the last two years. Currently, toll evasion is mostly dealt with through civil summonses.

“We are confident these proposals will become law and give us more teeth in our enforcement efforts,” said Sheridan, who noted that, beyond avoiding tolls, drivers hiding their license plates can also get away with more serious crimes.

In his last meeting as the Suffolk County representative on the MTA Board, Sammy Chu urged fellow board members to advocate for strengthening the laws on toll beating. “We need external help at this point, and that’s beyond policing,” Chu said.

The public will have an opportunity to sound off on their tolling concerns at a series of public hearings beginning Thursday at 6 p.m. on the MTA's congestion pricing plan. The hearings, which will be held in person at the MTA's Manhattan headquarters and virtually over Zoom, are among the last steps before the Central Business District Tolling Program can launch.

Allison de Cerreño, chief operating officer for MTA Bridges and Tunnels, at a Manhattan meeting of the MTA Board, said Wednesday that installation of the equipment needed for the new tolls — including poles, mastheads and cameras — is 95% complete. Following testing of the new system, the MTA hopes to begin charging the new tolls as early as June, although the effort could be delayed by several ongoing lawsuits.

The MTA says the first-of-its-kind program in the United States will reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and generate $1 billion annually to be invested in the transit system. 

The MTA is paying TransCore, a transportation technology firm, $507 million to design and install the congestion pricing hardware. Most of the “detection points” for the program are being set up along 60th and 61st streets, de Cerreño said, and 104 of the 110 locations have already been completed.

“We're well underway, and nearing the end of the build,” said de Cerreño, who noted that infrastructure is “designed to fit the urban landscape.”

Animal cruelty case update … Riverhead farmland preservation … LIRR IOU invoices Credit: Newsday

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Animal cruelty case update … Riverhead farmland preservation … LIRR IOU invoices Credit: Newsday

Gilgo-related search in Manorville ... UBS Arena MTV Awards ... Jericho fatal crash ... Girls softball league

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