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NYC poised for first congestion pricing system in the country

WRITTEN BY AMY PLITT

WRITTEN ON APRIL 1, 2019

 

More than a decade after New York came close to enacting the country’s first-ever congestion pricing program, it’s finally becoming a reality.

A tolling structure for Manhattan’s central business district (CBD)—roughly defined as the area below 60th Street in the borough—passed as part of the FY2020 budget, as both a means for reducing the traffic that clogs city streets, and introducing a new stream of revenue for the perpetually cash-strapped MTA.

But as AMNY notes, one thing the bill does not include is specifics on how much drivers entering the CBD will be charged—that will be determined at a later date, and set by a newly established, six-person Traffic Mobility Board, whose members will include one person recommended by the mayor, and others who live in areas served by Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road. That board will make its recommendations on tolls known next year.

Here are some of the specifics from the bill:

The new tolling program will be established and administered by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), in collaboration with the city’s DOT; that includes signage notifying drivers of the tolls, the infrastructure to collect fares, and more.

Of the funds collected, 80 percent will go towards capital projects (including improving accessibility and upgrading outdated signals) on subways and buses; 20 percent will be split evenly between Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.

The area where the new toll will apply includes all of Manhattan below 60th Street—with the exception of the West Side Highway, FDR Drive, and the Battery tunnel including “any surface roadway portion of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel connecting 14 to West St.”

Drivers will only be tolled once on any given day.

The plan includes some carve-outs—for emergency vehicles, and for drivers with disabilities—and will offer credits for some New Yorkers, including those who live below 60th Street and people making $60,000 or less per year. The Traffic Mobility Review Board will be responsible for recommending any other carve-outs or exemptions.

The TBTA and the DOT will issue regular reports on the effects of congestion pricing, including how it impacts traffic and air quality.

In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that congestion pricing was one of several difficult issues in the FY2020 budget—including broader MTA reform, and cash bail changes—that was able to get done. “It’s easy to leave the hard issues on the side. It’s easy. And that’s why they are hard issues. Because they were put aside year after year, after year, after year. Why? Because nobody wanted to pick them up. Because they were controversial and hard. We are here to do the hard ones, because those are the ones that need to be achieved,” Cuomo said.

For transit advocates, the congestion pricing agreement was the culmination months of pushing legislators to pass a bill—and years of work before that.

“New Yorkers have for too long been mired in traffic congestion and subway breakdowns. Now, thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature, riders and drivers will both see relief: congestion pricing will raise billions of dollars for Fast Forward, the MTA’s comprehensive plan to fix our subways and buses, and will reduce gridlock on our roads,” Nick Sifuentes, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said in a statement. “At long last, we’ll start to get our city moving again and make both crippling traffic congestion and constant subway breakdowns a thing of the past.”

“This state budget is great news for subway and bus riders, who have been advocating for fair and sustainable sources of funding to fix our ailing transit system,” John Raskin of the Riders Alliance said in a statement. “The billions of dollars raised through congestion pricing and other new revenue sources will help modernize the MTA with new train signals, new subway cars, and faster and more reliable bus service.”

The plan was also cheered by a number of business leaders, including the New York Building Congress and the Partnership for New York City.

But for as historic as this is, it’s important to remember that change won’t happen overnight: Per the language in the bill, the tolling program will not be implemented until the end of 2020 at the very earliest. That gives all of the appropriate parties the necessary time to figure out the specifics—including how much drivers will be charged—but it also means that funding for the MTA is still a ways off.

New York’s congestion pricing move may also lead other cities to implement their own traffic surcharges—Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle are among the municipalities that have been considering it.

Read the article at Curbed New York.

Published on

Apr 1, 2019 by New York Building Congress

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