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Gov. Cuomo eyes Manhattan congestion pricing plan

Adding charges on “for-hire” vehicles such as Uber and Lyft could help ease the massive, mind-numbing traffic in the borough, the governor said.

Traffic on East 42nd Street in Manhattan looking

Traffic on East 42nd Street in Manhattan looking west from the Tudor City overpass on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Saturday said adding charges on “for-hire” vehicles such as Uber and Lyft could help ease the massive, mind-numbing traffic in Manhattan.

“That is one of the first places I would look to reduce congestion and to raise money,” Cuomo said Saturday. “The for-hire vehicles, there’s real potential there.”

Cuomo’s comments followed the release Friday of a task force report on easing city traffic, which is creating controversy for its recommendation for such congestion pricing.

The plan would phase in charges on “for-hire vehicles, trucks and private cars,” he said.

For now, he said for-hire vehicles were his priority.

“If they want to cruise through the central business district to pick up fares, they should have to pay for it or we should limit the number,” the governor said.

His remarks reflect a pay-to-drive option in the report produced by the governor-appointed panel Fix NYC. The proposal calls for adding new surcharges that could range from $2 to $5 per trip for taxis, limousines and for-hire vehicles such as Uber and Lyft. Private cars could pay more than $11 once a day to enter the pricing zone.

The surcharges would affect Manhattan trips below 60th Street, an area which has long suffered from congestion but which Cuomo said had become “terrible, worse than gridlock.”

The proliferation of for-hire vehicles has worsened the gridlock in Manhattan, he added.

“We used to have yellow cabs. We now have yellow cabs and black cars and green cars and every color in the rainbow,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said the proposal was among “two things that jumped out at me” in the report. The other is reducing the outer-borough bridge tolls that are “crazy high.”

The plan has already drawn a chilly response from the State Senate GOP spokesman and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who favors a new tax on New York City’s highest earners earmarked for transit.

Uber representative Alix Anfang noted the company favored congestion pricing.

“Uber commends the Fix NYC Advisory Panel for laying out a comprehensive set of recommendations to address congestion in Manhattan while funding the MTA,” Anfang said in an email. “Uber supports comprehensive congestion pricing that is applied to all vehicles and dedicates money to mass transit.”

Attempts to reach Lyft and the New York City Limousine Association on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Cuomo, speaking as a “Queens boy,” recalled that as a child, a ride into Manhattan was a “shock to the system.”

He added, tongue-in-cheek, “And you needed a passport, I think, when I was a young boy. Maybe not but it felt that way.”

The governor made clear that the report, which he called “a smart plan,” was a long way from spurring actual changes.

Many of the recommendations require the installation of equipment, which will also take time, he said.

“We’ll have a long talk with the legislature, so no decision will be made quickly,” he said.

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