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New York City officials consider first US congestion pricing program

Dec 01, 2023

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New York City officials are considering implementing the first congestion pricing program in the United States. The Traffic Mobility Review Board released a proposal on Thursday, Dec. 1 revealing the details.

The plan aims to address the persistent issues of congestion and air pollution in Manhattan’s Central Business District while generating approximately $1 billion annually to fund improvements for the city’s mass transit systems, overseen by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

“I know there’s going to be an impact, but we have to also deal with the larger picture — protecting and cleaning up our environment, protecting the quality of air, protecting mobility on our streets and also protecting our financial stability of the MTA, because without that, it all collapses,” said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

According to the proposal, passenger cars entering Manhattan from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends would be subject to a $15 charge. Small trucks would face a fee of $24, while large trucks would be charged $36. To encourage off-peak travel, those entering Manhattan through the four tolled tunnels during daytime congestion hours would receive a credit, resulting in a $5 reduction for cars.

“Absent this, we’re going [to] be choking in our own traffic for a long time to come, and the MTA is not going to have the funds necessary to provide quality service,” said Carl Weisbrod, chair of the Traffic Mobility Review Board.

The plan includes toll rate discounts for non-peak hours and frequent low-income vehicle owners. Additionally, taxi drivers would impose a $1.25 surcharge per ride for entering the congestion zone, while ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft would pass on an extra $2.50 to their passengers. New York City officials based their plan off other congestion pricing programs in cities worldwide, including London, Singapore and Stockholm.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has argued that the plan unfairly impacts his constituents and has taken legal action with the Garden State, suing the federal government for approving New York’s proposal in July.

Everyone in the region deserves access to more reliable mass transit, but placing an unjustified financial burden on New Jersey commuters is wrong. We are left with no choice than to continue addressing our concerns through litigation.

Gov. Phil Murphy

“The Traffic Mobility Review Board’s recommended credit structure is wholly inadequate, especially the total lack of toll credits for the George Washington Bridge, which will lead to toll shopping, increased congestion in underserved communities and excessive tolling at New Jersey crossings into Manhattan,” Murphy said in a statement. “Everyone in the region deserves access to more reliable mass transit, but placing an unjustified financial burden on New Jersey commuters is wrong. We are left with no choice than to continue addressing our concerns through litigation.”

Both Uber and taxi drivers have also expressed opposition to the plan, advocating for exemptions. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance estimates that without an exemption, individual drivers could face a significant loss of up to $8,000 per year in income.

If this proposal is implemented, thousands of driver families will get dragged back into crisis-level poverty with no relief in sight.

Bhairavi Desai, New York City Taxi Workers Alliance

“If this proposal is implemented, thousands of driver families will get dragged back into crisis-level poverty with no relief in sight,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance.

“I think the $15 proposal is the beginning of the conversation. Now it’s time to hear from communities, to deliberate, and to make a determination of who is going to be exempted, who is not going to be exempted,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “We don’t want to overburden working class New Yorkers.”

Before the implementation of this congestion pricing proposal can become, it must first receive approval from the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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IN WHAT WOULD BE THE FIRST CONGESTION PRICING PROGRAM IN AMERICA – NEW YORK CITY OFFICIALS ARE PLANNING TO CHARGE MOST DRIVERS FIFTEEN DOLLARS TO ENTER MANHATTAN’S CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT.

THE PROPOSAL RELEASED THURSDAY FROM THE TRAFFIC MOBILITY REVIEW BOARD IS DESIGNED TO REDUCE CONGESTION AND AIR POLLUTION, WHILE ALSO BRINGING IN ABOUT $1 BILLION ANNUALLY TO FUND UPGRADES FOR THE CITY’S MASS TRANSIT SYSTEMS.

HERE’S HOW IT BREAKS DOWN –

FROM 5 A.M. TO 9 P.M ON WEEKDAYS AND 9 A.M. TO 9 P.M. ON WEEKENDS

PASSENGER CARS WOULD PAY $15 TO ENTER MANHATTAN

SMALL TRUCKS WOULD PAY TWENTY FOUR DOLLARS

LARGE TRUCKS – THIRTY SIX DOLLARS

THOSE ENTERING MANHATTAN THROUGH THE FOUR TOLLED TUNNELS DURING THE DAYTIME CONGESTION HOURS WILL RECEIVE A CREDIT. CARS WOULD PAY $5 LESS.

THE PLAN ALSO CALLS FOR TOLL RATE DISCOUNTS WHEN TRAVELING DURING NON-PEAK HOURS AND FOR FREQUENT LOW-INCOME VEHICLE OWNERS.

TAXI DRIVERS WOULD ADD A $1.25 SURCHARGE PER RIDE FOR ENTERING THE CONGESTION ZONE – AND RIDE-SHARE COMPANIES LIKE UBER AND LYFT PASSENGERS WOULD SEE AN EXTRA $2.50.

NYC OFFICIALS BASED THEIR STRATEGIES ON SIMILAR PLANS IN SEVERAL CITIES AROUND THE WORLD – INCLUDING LONDON, SINGAPORE AND STOCKHOLM.

CRITICS OF THE CONGESTION PRICING INCLUDE NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY – WHO CLAIMS IT WOULD UNFAIRLY AFFECT HIS NEW JERSEY RESIDENTS. 

IN JULY, THE GARDEN STATE SUED THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR APPROVING NEW YORK’S PLAN.

MEANWHILE, BOTH UBER AND TAXI RIVERS HAVE ALSO EXPRESSED THEIR OPPOSITION TO THE PLAN, AND ARE ASKING FOR AN EXEMPTION FROM IT.

THE NEW YORK TAXI WORKERS ALLIANCE ESTIMATES THAT WITHOUT AN EXEMPTION, INDIVIDUAL DRIVERS COULD LOSE UP TO EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR IN INCOME. 

THE PROPOSAL STILL HAS TO BE APPROVED BY THE BOARD OF THE METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, WHICH RUNS THE CITY’S MASS TRANSIT SYSTEMS.