Musicians, farmers, police officers and CUNY students are all among the 122 groups of people requesting exemptions from the upcoming Manhattan traffic toll to drive below 60th Street.
It's up to a panel of civic leaders from city planning, labor, business and real estate to decide how much the toll will be, and who, if anyone, gets a pass from being charged to enter Manhattan's Central Business District, or the CBD.
"Every time we give some drivers a break on the CBD toll, that will increase the toll rates for everybody else," said Juliette Michaelson, the MTA's special advisor to the panel, which is officially called the Traffic Mobility Review Board.
And so, the delicate balancing act began for panel members — appointed by elected officials — who held their first meeting Wednesday.
The members' questions and remarks provided some insight into the many considerations they have to make, like time of day and type of vehicle, and credits for tolls paid on bridges and tunnels.
"Can you articulate what's the most effective way to ensure the lowest congestion price on the broadest group of commuters?" asked John Banks, president emeritus of the Real Estate Board of New York.
John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union, asked about how the toll will hit late-night workers, including those scraping by.
"Low-income drivers that are barely making it as it is, and they have no transit option, are gonna get hit with this and there has to be a way around that," Samuelsen said.
Kathy Wylde, of the business group the Partnership for New York City, asked, "Would any vehicle with a commercial plate be treated or tolled as a truck?"
There are some exemptions laid out in the law — emergency vehicles and vehicles transporting people with disabilities; charging passenger cars and cabs once a day; and a 25% discount for low-income drivers after the first 10 trips in a month.
Residents in the congestion zone making less than $60,000 a year will get a tax credit equal to the tolls they paid.
Sam Schwartz, the city's former traffic commissioner and long-time proponent of congestion pricing, said the panel must hold firm on exemptions.
"Everybody wants an exemption and we just can't function that way," Schwartz said. "We don't grant exemptions for tolls at the Port Authority facilities, we don't grant exemptions at the tolls for the MTA facilities."
Lisa Daglian, director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA and a supporter of congestion pricing, said she found the questions insightful, particularly regarding the toll's effect on workers.
"You're tolled once a day if you're in a car, but if you come in at 11 o'clock at night and leave at 5 o'clock in the morning, is that once a day or twice a day?" she said.
The Traffic Mobility Review Board will keep meeting with the goal of getting congestion pricing in effect by April.