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Transit guru bringing congestion pricing back

One of the city's foremost transportation experts is resurrecting the ghost of congestion pricing.

"Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, a transportation commissioner in the Koch administration who coined the traffic term, Tuesday is presenting the final version of his congestion pricing vision at a time when the question of funding the MTA, its repair needs and infrastructure projects is still open.

"Politically, this is far more palatable," Schwartz told amNewYork.

Schwartz's "Move NY" plan to raise $1.5 billion a year reverses what he called "the great mistake of 1911," when the mayor nixed the East River bridge tolls.

The difference between Move New York and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ill-fated congestion pricing scheme is that this proposal calls for a steep cut in tolls where there are few mass transit options, like the Verrazzano and the Throgs Neck bridges, ending "bridge shopping" by motorists.

"More people will actually see tolls go down than tolls go up," he said.

Under the Move NY proposal, drivers with EZ Pass who cross 60th Street or come into Manhattan from the four East River bridges will pay $5.54, drivers who pay a toll to enter the city will have that deducted from the cost of entering Manhattan's central business district.

Meanwhile, seven bridges tolled today would see cuts between 39 and 48%.

Yellow taxis would see the congestion toll waived for a surcharge based on distance traveled below 96th Street and wait time; livery and black car cabs would pay the fare like a regular car.

The finalized Move NY plan -- which will be announced at a news conference Tuesday -- will be pitched to garner support among elected officials the business class and transportation community.

Schwartz said his plan is better than making the MTA borrow money or hiking existing taxes that fund transportation.

"I don't think debt is the way to go," Schwartz said. "I find there's very little appetite for a gas tax."

The money generated under the Move NY plan will mostly go to mass transit, with 25% to be spent on roads and bridges.

The Move NY coalition -- which includes transportation experts, elected officials business and civic leaders -- was formed in 2010 to what the group calls "the crisis enveloping the city's transportation system."


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