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Hampton Jitney Gets a Break

Wed, 04/03/2024 - 11:17
The Hampton Jitney is a popular means of transportation on the South Fork.
Durell Godfrey

"Buses providing scheduled commuter services open to the public would be exempted" from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's central Manhattan congestion-tolling program, according to a breakdown of the plan approved by the M.T.A. board on March 27.

That represents a win for the Hampton Jitney, which for the last few months has been rallying its passengers to lobby the M.T.A. for exactly this type of exemption. Otherwise, the company was facing a toll increase from $41.12 to $53.12 per tunnel crossing, depending on the time of day a bus enters the city's central business district, and riders' fares would almost certainly have been raised to match.

Hampton Jitney representatives did not reply to multiple requests for comment by press time this week, but its president and chief executive officer, Geoffrey Lynch, told the Express News Group last week that "we are grateful to all of our passengers who supported our exemption request, and pleased to see that the M.T.A. recognized that commuter operations like Hampton Jitney will help the congestion mitigation the toll program is trying to accomplish."

The M.T.A.'s approval of the congestion tolling plan came after a 4,000-page review of the facts and environmental impacts and a four-month public feedback process that yielded some 25,000 comments — of which 60 percent were in favor of the plan.

Studies showed that as many as 900,000 people enter Manhattan's central business district in vehicles each day, stalling the average speed of travel to seven miles per hour. "The broader impact of congestion is commensurately huge — measured in higher air and noise pollution levels, lost productivity, increased emergency response times, and an eroded quality of life," the M.T.A.'s Traffic Mobility Review Board said in a November 2023 summary of the proposal.

"New York has more traffic than any place in the United States, and now we're doing something about it, and I couldn't be prouder of the M.T.A. team," John (Janno) Lieber, the authority's chairman and chief executive officer, said last week.

According to Mr. Lieber, Marc Herbst, Suffolk County's representative to the M.T.A., "was convinced, even though he represents a more car-dependent part of our region, that this was the right thing to do and that we had done all the work that supported an action of this significance."

The new tolling plan is set to begin on or about June 15. Under the plan, in addition to commuter buses like the Hampton Jitney, vehicles including city buses, school buses, N.Y.C.-licensed commuter buses, municipal utility vehicles, and emergency vehicles are exempt. Other vehicles must pay tolls based on the time of day they enter the central business district, defined as 60th Street and below (excepting certain streets like the F.D.R. Drive and West Side Highway).

"Passenger vehicles and passenger-type vehicles with commercial license plates" will pay one $15 peak-period toll or one $3.75 overnight toll per day. For trucks, the toll is $24 or $36 for the peak period ($6 or $9 overnight), depending on their size. The motorcycle rate is $7.50 ($1.75 overnight). City-licensed taxis, green cabs, and for-hire vehicles are exempt; instead, their passengers will pay the toll as part of their fares "for trips made to, from, within, or through the [business district] at a rate of $1.25 per-trip for taxis, green cabs, and for-hire vehicles" and $2.50 per-trip for for-hire vehicles on trips that are "dispatched by a high-volume for-hire service," such as Uber or Lyft.

These rates apply to EZ-Pass users; those without EZ-Pass tags are billed via the Tolls by Mail system at rates 50-percent greater than EZ-Pass tolls. A discount program for low-income travelers will be established.

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