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Air Quality

Variable Pricing at MTA Bridges and Tunnels Would Ease Traffic

2:18 PM EDT on September 26, 2007

throgsneck.jpgOver the past few weeks, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has been collaborating with environmental economist Charles Komanoff to assess the impact of various value-pricing scenarios on travel patterns at MTA toll facilities, like the Throgs Neck Bridge, at right. From this week's Mobilizing the Region:

A TSTC analysis recommends that the MTA enact variable tolls on its bridges and tunnels, which would create significant time savings for drivers. The MTA has proposed increasing its revenue from fares and tolls by 6.5% in early 2008, but has not yet determined the specifics of this increase.

In a memo sent to the MTA last month, the Tri-State Campaign recommended the MTA implement a $5.75 peak-hour toll between 6 am and 6 pm, the same time period the congestion pricing plan proposed in PlaNYC would be in effect. The off-peak toll would remain unchanged at $4.50. By encouraging some drivers to shift their trips to off-peak times, this toll scheme would reduce peak-hour traffic by 4.9-11.8 percent and save drivers 1.2 - 3.0 million hours a year. This reduction in total driving time would also create air quality benefits.

A $6.75 peak-hour toll charged during a narrower peak period (6-9 am inbound and 3-7 pm outbound), coupled with a $4.50 off-peak toll, would reduce peak-hour traffic by 3.7-10.8 percent and save drivers 0.5 to 1.5 million hours a year.

Both TSTC variable toll schemes would raise approximately the same amount of revenue as a 50-cent raise in the base one-way toll to $5.00. This flat toll hike would not create an incentive for drivers to avoid peak hours, and so would have very little effect on peak-hour traffic.

The MTA could also reduce congestion on its bridges and tunnels by doing away with its antiquated barrier-arm toll plazas and implementing high-speed electronic tolls. The Port Authority recently announced eventual implementation of cashless tolling on all of its bridges and tunnels. To view the memo, click here.

Photo: Globalglenn on Flickr

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