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Task Force Unveils Manhattan Congestion Pricing Plan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A task force put together by Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled its congestion pricing plan to unclog Manhattan streets and raise money for mass transit.

The state Legislature is expected to take up the plan, which is being recommended by the governor's Fix NYC panel.

The panel wants to charge drivers a fee to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street. It would affect cars, trucks, taxis and all for-hire vehicles.

Lawmakers would have to decide how much to charge, but the panel suggests up to $11.52 for cars, $25.34 for trucks and a $2 to $5 surcharge for taxis and for-hire vehicles.

Sources say there would be carve-outs for the working poor and hours can be adjusted to help nurses, teachers and other shift workers, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported. Drivers who pay a toll at the Holland and Lincoln tunnels would not pay an additional congestion fee.

"New York City is in crisis right now. I have never seen traffic speeds so low," said transportation engineer Sam Schwartz, a member of the panel. "It is not a tiny drop in traffic speeds. It is dramatic. It's devastating. We have to address."

In a statement, Cuomo said he received the panel's report and will "discuss the alternatives with the legislature over the next several months."

"There is no doubt that we must finally address the undeniable, growing problem of traffic congestion in Manhattan's central business district and present a real, feasible plan that will pass the Legislature to raise money for MTA improvements, without raising rider fares," he said. "The report accurately points out that the objective is not to raise tolls entering the borough of Manhattan, but more specifically those trips adding to the congestion in a defined central business district."

As for Mayor Bill de Blasio's demand for a millionaires' tax to pay for mass transit, sources say the panel never considered it because it is regarded as dead on arrival in the Legislature, Kramer reported.

On Friday, the mayor was still pushing to tax the rich, but he said he saw some good things in the plan.

"We see improvement on the question of fairness to Brooklyn and Queens by taking the bridges out of the equation," he said on WNYC radio. "I think the focus on for-hire vehicles and trucks is a step in the right direction."

The mayor said he also wants a lock-box guarantee that all the money would go toward city transit needs, and not on other things.

"That was never the intention, and that's certainly not the board's understanding," MTA Vice Chairman Freddie Ferrer told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell.

The plan is expected to generate over $1 billion for the governor's Subway Action Plan by the year 2020, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

"No one believes that we're going to have a vast reduction of people who are in vehicles, but we'll have the peak reduced, and that makes a big difference in traffic," said panel member Mitchell Moss, director of the NYU Rudin Center of Transportation. "The Legislature has the authority to determine exactly where this pricing will be."

A highly placed source told Kramer there was no chance the governor and Legislature would adopt the proposed fees in total.

Cuomo was already offering other options.

"I'd like to see the outer-borough bridges reduce their tolls," he said.

Rhe goverrnor is also zeroing in the exploding number of car services such as Uber .

"The for-hire vehicles who are now making a business out of circulating in downtown Manhattan and adding congestion, they're going to have to pay their fair share," Cuomo said.

The plan calls for fixing mass transit this year before any congestion fees go into effect.

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said he hopes that within a year "the subways will be back to the way it was when I was here five years, where no one was talking about delays.

To handle more people who stop driving, Lhota said he wants "better trains, more trains, cleaner trains, faster trains and less delays."

The plan is already being debated by drivers.

"I really dislike it because I think the city is getting too expensive for younger people to live in it," said Midtown resident Lindsay Karp.

"Every answer shouldn't be to dig into the pocket of the small guy," a driver named Ray told WCBS 880's Ethan Harp. "That's not the answer for everything."

"Whatever has to be done to address this gridlock and traffic in New York has to be done," said Karim from New Jersey. "Nobody wants to pay more, I understand that. I get that, but it's out of control."

"As a cab driver, I don't think it's fair because we hardly make a living now," said cab driver Alfred Ducredin.

The panel is recommending the congestion fee be in effect weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., but members of the panel say the Legislature and the governor will make the final decision.

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