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MTA Announces Details of Plans Enabling Individuals With Disabilities to Apply for Exemption from Congestion Pricing Toll

Bridges and Tunnels
Updated February 26, 2024 2:30 p.m.

One Vehicle Exempted Per Person With Disability for Trips to the Central Business District 

Program Complements Exemption Plan Designed for Organizational Vehicles Transporting People with Disabilities


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announces details of plans that would enable individuals with disabilities and organizations that transport such individuals to apply for an exemption from the central business district toll, as provided in the 2019 New York State legislation mandating central business tolling.

The first plan, to be known as the Individual Disability Exemption Plan (IDEP), would enable people with disabilities to apply for the exemption for a vehicle they are registered to own or a vehicle they designate, such as that registered to a family member or caregiver.

The second plan, known as the Organizational Disability Exemption Plan (ODEP), would enable public and private organizations that transport people with disabilities (such as Access-A-Ride or ambulette services) to apply to register so that their qualifying vehicles are exempt from the central business district toll.

Under the IDEP, individuals seeking an exemption for their designated private vehicle would be asked to provide vehicle-specific information and qualifying disability information. Current Access-A-Ride (AAR) Paratransit customers will be able to use their AAR eligibility as a qualifying credential in their IDEP application. The MTA is working with City and State partners to determine whether any other existing programs can be used to provide similar qualifying credentials. There would be an assessment process for applicants who do not already have qualifying credentials.

Each applicant seeking to enroll in IDEP would be asked to identify one vehicle to be exempt from the congestion pricing toll, which designated vehicle they would use as their primary vehicle for traveling to the central business district. This vehicle is not required to be registered in the applicant’s name.

For the Organizational Disability Exemption Plan (ODEP), qualifying organizational vehicles will include Access-A-Ride (AAR) dedicated carrier vehicles, taxi or for-hire vehicles doing broker trips booked in advance through AAR, and other organizational vehicles used to transport people with disabilities such as ambulettes or adult “day rehabilitation (or dayhab)” vehicles.

“Based on feedback from the disability community and examples from other cities, we believe the disability exemption program is a fair and equitable approach that meets the requirements of the law and serves the needs of people with disabilities,” said MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo. “I’m proud of the hard work that the MTA has done to put together this program and the commitment to continuing to work with advocates to ensure a transparent and effective process as we roll this program out.”

"We are proud to be a partner in the development of the disability exemption plans for the central business district tolling program," said MTA New York City Transit Vice President, Paratransit Chris Pangilinan. "Congestion pricing will bring numerous benefits for our Access-A-Ride customers, not just IDEP eligibility, but also faster and more reliable paratransit service in Manhattan and throughout the city. We eagerly await the implementation of congestion pricing."

“Today’s announcement moves the Central Business District Tolling Program closer towards being a reality that works for all New Yorkers, and that delivers on the bold promises of this first-in-the-nation initiative,” said Allison L. C. de Cerreño, Chief Operating Officer, MTA Bridges and Tunnels. “We are putting in place a system for disability exemptions that ensures fairness, minimizes fraud, and minimizes complexity so that individuals with disabilities can get the exemptions to which they are entitled. All eyes are on New York right now, and over the next several months, our team at Bridges and Tunnels will be working tirelessly to ensure a fair and transparent process. Together, we are ready to deliver less congestion and a better future.”

“I have long championed congestion pricing because I believe it is the best way to get cars off our overly crowded road,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “Congestion pricing will allow us to reimagine our streets with green space for parks, protected bike lanes, and dedicated bus lanes that will make commute times faster and more efficient.  An essential part of the plan since its 2019 enactment by the New York State Legislature was an exemption for people with disabilities in qualifying vehicles transporting individuals.  I heard from the disability community that the original proposal to rely only on vehicles with a disability-based license plate was insufficient. I’m proud to say that the MTA listened to me and the disability community and now will instead allow individuals with disabilities to apply for an exemption and designate one vehicle that will be exempt from the congestion pricing toll.  This is a far fairer way to ensure that those with the disabilities who must travel by an automobile can do so and receive the exemption as envisioned by the law.”

Jose Hernandez, President of the NYC chapter of United Spinal, said: “The New York City chapter of the United Spinal Association has always been a fierce advocate for public transit accessibility. That's why we support and advocate for the MTA's congestion pricing initiative. The money from congestion pricing will finally bring transportation equity to the MTA's subway system, providing the means to achieve 95% subway accessibility by 2055. While the MTA system is being modernized and upgraded to be more accessible, individuals with disabilities who travel within the central business district by car deserve some exemptions. I'm glad the MTA is moving away from using DMV license plates for the exemption, to a fairer system. The one vehicle per person with a disability approach will be more fair and less prone to fraud.”

Consistent with the legislation, each application would be reviewed by MTA Bridges and Tunnels to determine approval. The IDEP and ODEP applications would go live 60 days before the start of congestion pricing tolling.

The Central Business District Tolling Program was mandated by the State of New York in April 2019 and modeled on urban congestion pricing programs around the world to reduce traffic congestion and raise needed revenue to improve public transportation. Other cities around the world that have similar programs have also experienced improved regional air quality. Congestion pricing is estimated to fund $15 billion for capital projects that increase sustainability and improve public transit for millions.

IDEP replaces a previously proposed plan that would have been based on disability license plates.