New York governor proposes ‘congestion pricing’ for drivers in Manhattan

Motorists would have to shell out $11.52 to drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan under a new proposal commissioned by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ease traffic congestion and raise vital funds for mass transit.

Trucks would pay even more – $25.34 – while taxi cabs, Uber rides and for-hire vehicles would be charged between $2 and $5 per ride. The pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street.

The idea, called “congestion pricing,” involves using electronic tolling to charge vehicles for entering certain parts of town during especially busy times. The proposal is expected to face stiff opposition in the Legislature, which must approve portions of the plan. Similar plans have failed before after concerns were raised about the impact on commuters.

The exact amounts of the surcharges could change as state lawmakers, Cuomo and city leaders debate the details. Officials could also vary the surcharges based on the time of day, with the highest fees during rush hour.

“There are going to be some naysayers,” said former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member who served on a task force created by Cuomo to study the idea. The panel released its proposal Friday. “It’s clear that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”

London and Singapore already have similar congestion surcharges in place. Supporters of the idea say it will address gridlock and raise money for mass transit. Skeptics, including Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, worry that tolls could be a burden, especially to middle class and low-income commuters. Similar concerns doomed a congestion pricing plan from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg a decade ago.

Yasmin Sohrawardy, who drives from Queens into Manhattan twice a week for her job as a financial software developer, opposes any proposal to charge drivers.

“The people in the outer boroughs, who don’t have access to public transportation the way people do in Manhattan, can’t possibly afford this,” said Sohrawardy, 47. “It’s going to be extraordinarily expensive. If you live in Manhattan, you can take subways, buses or taxis.”

Cuomo stopped short of fully endorsing the proposal’s details but said it’s clear something must be done to address traffic and raise money for a subway system beset by breakdowns and delays. He noted that as a Queens native, he’s sensitive to the concerns of commuters.

“I have outer borough blood in my veins, and it is my priority that we keep costs down for hard working New Yorkers, and encourage use of mass transit,” he said.

Only 4 per cent of those who live in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn or Staten Island commute to Manhattan in a vehicle, according to figures released by the task force. Of those commuters, fewer than 5,000 are considered poor.

The fees on taxis and for-hire vehicles could take effect within a year, followed by trucks and then cars in 2020, according to the report. The task force said that none of the fees should be charged until mass transit repairs are made.

The task force calculated the amount of the fees based on existing bridge tolls. They suggested that tax credits could be created for low-income motorists to reduce the cost of the surcharges on those who can least afford them.

Cuomo created the task force last year after he declared a state of emergency in the subways. Details from a draft of the proposal were first reported Thursday night by The New York Times.

De Blasio said he wants a guarantee that revenue from the surcharge will go toward public transportation. He said the proposal is a “step in the right direction” compared to earlier versions, though he continues to push for a millionaires’ tax to raise revenue for transit.

“We need to know a lot more,” he said on WNYC radio Friday. “What we still don’t see is money … being put in a lock box that would only fund transit in New York City.”

State lawmakers are likely to ask their own questions. Some say they’d like to see exemptions for drivers heading to medical appointments or driving children to and from school.

Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan of Long Island told reporters earlier this month that while he’s open to discussing congestion pricing he wasn’t ready to support the idea.

“No, not what I’ve listened to,” he said. A spokesman said Friday that Flanagan hadn’t yet reviewed the specifics of the new proposal.

Congestion pricing has long been a goal of many environmental groups and transit advocates, and several cheered the proposal Friday.

Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, noted that travellers using the subway, buses, ferries and trains already pay a fare to reach Manhattan.

“The only folks who don’t pay at all are drivers – and those cars are clogging our streets, polluting our air, and harming the economy,” he said. “If you choose to drive into the most transit-rich neighbourhoods in the United States, it’s only fair that you also pay your fair share too.”

Traffic congestion will cost the New York City region an estimated $100 billion over the next five years, according to a report from The Partnership for New York City.


New York governor proposes ‘congestion pricing’ for drivers in Manhattan

Man accused of beating daughter who refused to wear hijab

Gatineau police have charged a man for allegedly beating his teenage daughter over the course of more than a year because she refused to wear a hijab.

The 35-year-old father is facing one count each of assault, assault with a weapon and uttering death threats, police said in a news release Thursday.

In what police described as a case of so-called “honour-based” violence, the father began the series of assaults upon learning his daughter had removed her religious head covering when she left the family home.

Gatineau police said they hope the courage the young girl showed would motivate others to speak out against similar incidents. The release also included some phone numbers for local resources for victims of violence.

Below is a list of the community resources:

  • Centre d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels: 819 778-3555
  • Association des femmes immigrantes de l’Outaouais: 819 776-6764
  • Centre d’entraide La Destinée: 819 561-7474
  • L’Antre-Hulloise: 819 778-0997
  • Pour Elles des Deux Vallées (Buckingham): 819 986-8286
  • L’Autre chez soi (Aylmer): 819 685-0006
  • Le Centre Mechtilde (Hull): 819 777-2952
  • Maison Unies-Vers-Femmes (Gatineau): 819 568-4710



Canadian travel warning issued for Jamaica after military lockdown


Canadian sun seekers in Jamaica are being urged to “exercise a high degree of caution” following a spate of violent crime in the popular winter getaway.

The Canadian government has issued a travel warning in the wake of a military lockdown in St. James Parish, which includes the popular tourist destination Montego Bay.

The government’s safety note urges anyone staying at a resort in the affected area to “restrict your movements” to the property.

Those who venture beyond should use transportation arranged by the resort and only use organized tour operators for excursions and travel.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said escalating criminal activity was endangering public safety, necessitating a state of public emergency and the deployment of military forces.

A married couple from Winnipeg was found dead earlier this month while visiting Jamaica.

“If you are in the affected area, be extremely vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local news,” says the Canadian travel warning.

The “exercise a high degree of caution” advice falls below the government’s next risk level, which calls for avoiding all non-essential travel.

There are currently more than 60 countries where the Canadian government warns travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution,” including other Caribbean nations such as the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

TTC planning new shuttle buses to connect riders to Mimico GO station

Getting to the GO station could soon be a lot easier for residents of Humber Bay Shores and the Mystic Point neighbourhoods.

On Thursday the TTC unveiled plans for a new community shuttle bus, connecting tens of thousands of people to the Mimico GO station.

The frequency, and costs of the run, are still being worked out while the community has a chance to provide input, but the goal is to have it running by the summer.

“We are going to try to get this thing going hopefully by the summer. This will get people to and back from the GO station Mimico,” Mark Grimes, councillor for Etobicoke-Lakeshore told CityNews.

Although there are tens of thousands of people living in the largely vertical neighbourhoods, there is currently no transit connection to the GO station — forcing people to park illegally on side streets to catch the GO or get in their cars to commute downtown.

“Transit is seriously lacking,” area resident Sandra Dundek says. “It’s always congested — even when it’s not rush hour.”

To make matters worse, even more people are moving into the area. There are over a half dozen developments under way in the Mystic Point / Humber Bay area, with several others in the works in nearby Mimico.

In 2016, Mimico station had an average weekly ridership of 3200 passengers — making it the 6th busiest station on the Lakeshore West line. But Grimes believes ridership would be much higher if the station was located closer to the higher density neighbourhood of Humber Bay Shores.


TTC planning new shuttle buses to connect riders to Mimico GO station


Britain’s top prosecutor blasted as ‘complacent’ after insisting that nobody has been wrongly jailed in rape trials farce

Britain’s top prosecutor has come under fire for claiming there are no innocent people in jail as a result of failures to disclose crucial evidence.

Alison Saunders, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, insisted the justice system was working properly, despite a string of rape trials collapsing.

But critics condemned her as ‘complacent’ after problems with police and prosecutors handing over texts and photos to defence lawyers.

Yesterday Mrs Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, met senior police officers, senior judges and barristers to discuss concerns that vital material was not being disclosed.

Asked on Radio 4’s Today if it was possible innocent people were in prison because of disclosure failures, she replied: ‘I don’t think so.

‘Because what these cases show is that when we take a case through to trial there are various safeguards in place, not least of which the defence indicating what their defence is going to be.

‘Disclosure is a vital matter which we take very seriously, but it is clear that there are systemic issues across the entire criminal justice system. The problem we have found recently is around the ever-increasing use of social media, all the digital material we obtain.’


Last month the trial of 22-year-old criminology student Liam Allan, who was charged with six counts of rape, was halted by a judge after it emerged his accuser had sent hundreds of messages to friends which would have cleared him immediately.

Father-of-two Isaac Itiary, 25, who was charged with 11 crimes including the rape of an underage girl, walked free after phone messages supporting his claim that the girl posed as a 19-year-old were finally disclosed while he was in the dock.

Meanwhile, the rape trial of Samson Makele, 28, collapsed on Monday after his defence team unearthed key images from his mobile phone, missed by police and the CPS, which showed him and his alleged victim apparently cuddling in bed.


But yesterday Mrs Saunders suggested photos and social media accounts did not need to be fully checked in rape cases, even though such evidence was crucial in clearing Mr Allan and other defendants.

She said police were obliged to pursue ‘all reasonable lines of inquiry’ but added: ‘That doesn’t mean going into every single avenue of your life.’

Tory MP and former minister Anna Soubry wrote on Twitter: ‘Appalled at the ill-informed comments of DPP Alison Saunders. Have been longstanding problems with disclosure.

‘Those duties extend to investigation of all allegations not just a few serious offences. I fear Alison Saunders is part of the problem.’

Nick Rhodes QC, a criminal barrister and part-time judge, added: ‘Alison Saunders here displays the precise complacent attitude that lies at the root of the failures in the approach to disclosure shown by her department and the police.’

Scotland Yard has launched an urgent review of around 30 sex cases due to go to trial.

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