By on April 1, 2019

It was a bit of a struggle, but the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo have signed on a (decidedly progressive) $175 billion state budget. While the deal has a number of noteworthy inclusions, spurred by the newly elected Democratic majority in the State Legislature, the one we’re most concerned with involves charging motorists for the privilege of driving on streets of lower Manhattan.

Along with interesting initiatives to ban plastic bags and impose new taxes on high-end homes, New York has decided to become the first American city to introduce congestion pricing. 

As a resident of the city, I’m not particularly enthused with the change — as it subjects vehicles traveling below 60th Street to a toll. While the amount has not been decided, The New York Times reports that revenue would ultimately be funneled into the city’s lackluster subway system and “other regional transportation needs.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has increased its prices over the last few years, hopeful that fresh funds could help streamline trips. However, injecting more money into the MTA hasn’t helped. Despite extensive renovations to several high-volume lines, delays persist. Meanwhile, critics have accused the MTA of rampant mismanagement and even political corruption. Signal issues are ongoing and equipment failures are becoming increasingly frequent.

Passengers are becoming less willing to believe the MTA hasn’t the money to solve the issue, with some claiming subway workers are already grossly overpaid (managers average an annual salary of over $200,000, according to NYT). But an equally strong case could be made for the city’s transportation infrastructure being quite old and in need of a multi-billion dollar revamp.

Regardless of the reason, New York’s subway has become rather risky to rely on as way of commuting. This, in turn, has compelled many area residents to avoid taking the subway as often, boosting the usage of taxi cabs or ride-hailing services like Uber. The byproduct?Magnified traffic congestion. Hoping to avoid another fare hike while streamline above-ground traffic, New York has decided to place the burden on the backs of motorists. Though just how much they’ll be on the hook for has yet to be settled upon.

From The New York Times:

The congestion pricing deal deferred many of the difficult decisions — how much to charge drivers and who will receive exemptions — to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and a new traffic mobility review board. Eighty percent of the revenue will be directed to the subway and bus network, and 10 percent each to the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad.

The agreement also calls for an overhaul of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that oversees New York City’s bus and subway system. Mr. Cuomo, who effectively controls the authority and who has been heavily criticized for the subway’s shoddy performance, has scapegoated the agency in recent months. As part of the budget deal, the authority’s policies will be changed to encourage speedier capital projects and to increase oversight.

“There’s two aspects to it. It’s M and M: management and money. I’m not going to ask New Yorkers for more money for the MTA unless I know there’s a better management system at the MTA. And this does both,” Cuomo said during a press conference on the matter, adding that he was aware the city’s subway system has only gotten worse over the years.

“This is probably the broadest, most sweeping state plan that we have done,” he said. “There are a number of national firsts and it really grapples with the tough issues that have been facing this state for a long time.”

While criticisms of the plan include suggestions that the working poor couldn’t possibly afford a congestion charge, studies advocating for the fee claim that most low-income individuals can’t afford to drive in Manhattan anyway. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to make them feel better, but at least they won’t have to pay more to ride the often-delayed subway system.

[Image: 4kclips/Shutterstock]

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57 Comments on “New York Becomes First U.S. City to Introduce Congestion Pricing...”


  • avatar
    zipper69

    In evitable. London did it years ago and it’s tightened the limits over the years. Big, old cities like NYC simply cannot cope with the volume of daily traffic.

    Of course, if they would invest a few million in rapid transit mass transport systems the problem would be alleviated.

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      A few million? I think you meant billion.

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      zipper,
      I think you are on the right track about public transport. I think the amount you suggested is a little short.

      The problem with NYC congestion is common throughout the world. The problem is a lack of infrastructure development.

      You’ll the first people to complain are the ones who don’t want to pay taxes. They whine about the lack of government services and whine about poor roads, etc. They just whine.

      Maybe it will take another Great Depression for governments to invest in needed infrastructure to create jobs.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      “Do not take this rental car into London. You will get fined and I will charge the fines to your credit card. Most customers who ignore me end up with over a thousand pounds in fines. Don’t do it.” – The rental car owner who rented me a car last fall. On the plus side, there’s no reason to take a rental car into London. Take the train into King’s X, ride the underground all day, and take the train back out of town for what the gas would have cost. Plus, no parking to deal with. NYC will be the same way. Park in Jersey and ride the subway all day. If I lived in NYC I probably wouldn’t own a car.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Surprised they didn’t think of it sooner being a Democratic run city.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Congestion or value pricing has been proposed by both Democratic and Republican mayors since 1965. Tolls used to exist on the East River bridges until around 1910.
      The economic theory of value pricing comes from the Noble economist William Vickrey.
      A good explanation from Wikipedia.

      “Vickrey worked on congestion pricing, the notion that roads and other services should be priced so that users see the costs that arise from the service being fully used when there is still demand.[4][5][6] Congestion pricing gives a signal to users to adjust their behavior or to investors to expand the service in order to remove the constraint. The theory was later partially put into action in London.”

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      Umm….superdessuke, it has taken decades for NYC to be where it is now, not just since the last election or even 6 decades ago, sort of like the US economy wouldn’t be where it is now since the last election. It takes decades.

      Maybe NYC needed to invest more in public transport infrastructure since WWII. If past investment occurred NYC might even be economically better off now. Like saving money and building wealth, it takes time.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      They first had to eliminate lanes and parking for bicycles to create the congestion. How else are they going to have congestion in a city where it’s too expensive for most residents to own a car?

      Most of the heavy traffic before the bicyclization was caused by visitors looking for a place to park, and narrowing streets for bike lanes only made it worse. Messing with the traffic signal timing completed the justification to charge more money.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Floridians – Prepare for exponential increase in population beyond the exodus already occurring from New York.

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      We’ll have to arrange for a congestion tax as well.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The problem with the members of the exodus is that they are fleeing the high-tax dystopias created by Democratic politics and yet they aren’t smart enough to avoid soiling their new environs with the same toxic ideas that destroyed their previous homes. They’re like a replicating virus.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    I was horrified when this was first introduced in London, but having now experienced a London where you can get from Holland Park to the City by cab in 30 minutes rather than 60, I’ve come around.

    Maybe one of these days you’ll be able to get from Eighth Avenue to the FDR in ten minutes? Dare to dream.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      does the cab cost more?

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Americans don’t view things with the same eyes Brits do.

      Americans believe in meeting the challenges of traffic and urban living. We want to improve things, to solve the problems.

      Congestion pricing is none of those things…congestion pricing is playing “small ball” in the World Series. Congestion pricing is tantamount to saying “We give up! We can’t fix this!”

      • 0 avatar
        James Charles

        R Henry,
        I think most any nation want think as you wrote. Many factors come into play. NYC is a big city and it will encounter big city problems like any global big city. Big cities are not just in America.

        Maybe Americans like yourself can visit other cities. I know Paris has a superior public transport system compared to NYC. The inner city of Paris is stuck from the age of the city, but the Parisian suburbs are not so bad.

        • 0 avatar
          R Henry

          Good sir, I have travelled all over the world, likely to more cities than you. My assertion stands. Ameicans view such things differently–Americans…New Yorkers want to be better than Parisians and Londonners.

      • 0 avatar
        theBrandler

        R Henry, this is exactly right. Government, at it’s lowest effort has always been a “tax or ban” proposition to try to solve problems. Neither works, and yet no government learns from this. Taxes simply push the problems elsewhere and bans simply turn innocents into criminals.

        Real solutions to problems like this are never simple, and often the problems arose because of complacency and corruption over an extended period of time. Fixing them requires getting rid of the corruption and overcoming the complacency for an extended period of time.

        It’s rare that a government is able to do that, but on occasion it happens and problems sometimes actually get solved – like the great stink in old London.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        Seeing as congestion pricing has gone a long way toward solving the challenges of traffic and urban living in cities that have tried it, I’m not sure what your point is.

        And a team that bats in a bunch of runners with singles and doubles will beat a team that keeps swinging for the fences and striking out, be it in the World Series or little league.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Congestion pricing ‘solved the challenges of traffic and urban living’ by making car use a luxury. Good luck when the working class has had enough degradation.

          • 0 avatar
            Astigmatism

            The use of a private car below 60th Street in Manhattan has been a luxury for a very long time. The working class already takes public transit, and will likely appreciate the billions of dollars in extra spending that the congestion fees will provide.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @RHenry, That attitude largely died in America with JFK. Other nations have addressed and corrected issues, New Zealand, Australia, Iceland and Norway are just some examples.

        In the USA however bandaids are offered or the problems are ignored. How is offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ solving the problem? Or building a wall? Crime, inner city blight, drug addiction, the hiring of ‘illegal immigrants’, political corruption, income disparity, racism, these are all issues that many Americans seem to have offered no solution to.

        • 0 avatar
          R Henry

          Failure of the political class is not the collapse of the American Spirit.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            However the American voters have allowed that failure. The fault can also be apportioned to them for voting against their own interests, by being largely uninformed, or most importantly not even voting.

            That demonstrates a failure or breakdown of the American Spirit.

            Autocracy, dictatorship and or corrupt governments cannot exist when an informed, educated electorate is actively engaged in the democratic process.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            Failure of politics is a result of voter failure. Most of us don’t get involved in primary elections and local elections. Most of us don’t know the names of the mayor of our cities.

            Example: Roughly 10% of voters voted in the last local election for mayor and city council in Los Angeles. And yet we complain mightily about the homeless problem, foolish ideas (road diets, ignoring chronic homelessness, releasing violent criminals early because jails are full) implemented by imbecilic ideologues.

            It’s on the voters to pull their heads out.

      • 0 avatar
        bkojote

        Hi, urban planner, gearhead, and American here.

        I think you’re being overly obtuse here and making a play on ‘American exceptionalism’ to avoid getting called out the solution you’re implying was a staple of the Robert Moses era and failed miserably (and nearly destroyed the city.)

        New Yorkers want the same thing Londoners and Parisians want- a healthy urban fabric, reliable mass transit, and significantly less traffic. You can’t scale auto traffic and have all of that in a city of 7 million. And as London has shown it’s an entirely viable solution because it forces the market to confront the cost of such services.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      ” but having now experienced a London where you can get from Holland Park to the City by cab in 30 minutes rather than 60, I’ve come around.”

      And presumably not having experienced being unable to afford a cab, nor the new taxes. So that what used to take 60 minutes by car, now takes 4 hours, and being urinated on, on public transport. Or, two hours of walking, while being splashed on by the cab you are riding around in….

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’ve only visited NYC once about 10 years ago and I wouldn’t drive there for anything. Judging by all the yellow cabs I don’t think many New Yorker’s do either.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      If they cut the number of cabs in half (or a third?) wouldn’t that make a significant difference in congestion. Never been there but in every TV show and movie it seems like the place is infested with taxis.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The infrastructure cannot accommodate the traffic. Eventually all ‘mega cities’ will have to implement similar rules. Perhaps as a stop gap measure, until autonomous or possibly even ‘flying’ vehicles become readily available?

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      Arthur,
      I agree with you.

      Unfortunately NYC is huge which has its up and down sides. Tax money should be collected across the US to fix NYC’s transport deficiencies. NYC is disproportionately a large chunk of the US economy and this money flows back across America. If NYC does well its benefits are far greater than any other city in the US. All in America benefit from NYC.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        No. Oklahomans shouldn’t be paying for NYC’s self made problems.

        Local politicians pilfering money away from transportation tax revenue is part of the reason cities have not maintained their infrastructure. Local politicians then come hat in hand to voters claiming there’s not enough money.

        Don’t buy this garbage.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          By this logic, the next time Oklahoma City gets hit by a F5 tornado, New Yorkers should give them the finger on FEMA funds. After all, deciding to put a major city smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley is a self-made problem.

          I get why people resent paying taxes to pay for someone else’s issues, but we’re all in this together. Is this a nation, or a bunch of nation-states?

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            Mike, Please note I said ‘self made’. Natural disasters aren’t self made at least not in the context discussed.

            The worst thing you can do for those who are irresponsible is enabling. Accepting higher taxes in a place like NYC is a terrible idea because there’s no accounting for how the money is already being mis-spent today.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Cities grow where they grow, and the places where they grow are often problematic. The problem doesn’t have to be natural disasters – it can be anything that is particular to a city’s geography, or general location, that makes growth more challenging (and expensive).

            You’re right about New York’s irresponsible spending, but the solution to that isn’t to watch the city grind to a halt as punishment. Do that, and the effects are nationwide.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            Right, the better solution would be to elect people with better ideas with the courage to implement them and the balls to tell bribers to pound sand. A tall order. Almost insurmountable based on what we’re seeing.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    In Pittsburgh, the bus fare and parking costs keep rising, income taxes are triple what people pay in the suburbs, the city has a state-appointed supervisor to manage the derelict deficit, three major tax-supported sports venues have been built in the last 20 years, and yet the city’s leaders wonder why people flee to the suburbs.

    Over the years, there have been various attempts to grab money from residents in the surrounding counties to prop up the mismanaged City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

    Coincidentally, the city hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1933.

    Born and raised in the suburbs, I lived within the Pittsburgh city limits for 1 year – never again. For all I care, they can raise taxes to the sky.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      In Honolulu, the last two Democratic* mayors have shoved down our throats a mass transit system that was initially supposed to cost $2.5 billion. That was circa 10 years ago; now the projected cost is $9.2 billion –for all of 20 miles, none of it underground– with the incompetent transit agency basically admitting it doesn’t know what the final cost will be. The Feds have subpoenaed the records but the agency is resisting, likely because nobody wants to be arrested for corruption/terminal incompetence.

      $9.2 billion just to build the thing, with the idiot** mayor now saying he/future mayor will have to raise property taxes just to operate the thing, which is projected to be in the 100s of millions annually. The existing bus system already requires massive subsidies –and ridership is falling– but no one with a brain wants to admit defeat and stop this train in its tracks (pun intended) before it bankrupts the island.

      *Theoretically, we have a non-partisan city gov’t, but this is the bluest of the blue states. Republican sightings are rarer than the Yeti.

      **In conjunction with his white elephant train, the idiot is now deliberately increasing congestion by taking away lanes on several main drags to create protected bicycle lanes.

      • 0 avatar
        James Charles

        The other James,
        I read an article a week or so ago about Honolulu’s rapid transit joke. I couldn’t believe a simple survey was not done along the designated transit path! There was issues with different site along its route, corruption ….. and the cost blowout is huge. I wonder if anyone will go to prison.

      • 0 avatar
        James Charles

        Oh, and driving in Honolulu is on par with Sydney, you get nowhere fast.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I happen to notice everyone who flaunts living in the city limits is not from here and really doesn’t “get it”.

      The dream of every kid growing up in the City of Pittsburgh is to escape the City of Pittsburgh.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Ok this is great the Verrazano bridge just went up to 19 Bucks to cross and now if I go into NYC I will pay more tolls in the form of congesting pricing. Plan on NY get more pricy for all tons of crap, the reason the roads suck are trucks unloading everywhere, their still gonna be there , so If I get this right it was either this or raise subway fares 30%, well raise the damm fares 30%, why do I as a driver pay for the subway, the roads are third world around nyc. and this will not do anything to fix them. take a train you say, they are overpacked and run like crap.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      The issue of truck traffic, created over the past 20+ years by ‘just in time’ deliveries is something that does need to be addressed.

      Each truck takes the space of multiple cars. Trucks parked and loading/offloading on streets creates more congestion.

      I would recommend banning all truck traffic within large cities, every weekday from 7:30am to 9:00am and from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. That should increase the amount of space available for car traffic, immediately anywhere from 20% to 40%.

  • avatar
    markf

    Maybe they should implement “Congestion pricing” on the hoards of homeless camping in the streets. Maybe try solving a real problem for once……

  • avatar

    When I moved to Bay Area in 2000 bridge toll was $2. Now it is $5 and in next several years it is planned to gradually increase to as high as $10. Inflation is not that high but greed of government employees is.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    TTAC rule (like EV adoption rates): If it didn’t happen in all 50 states, it didn’t happen anywhere.

  • avatar
    chicklet

    Despite the headline, this massive tax on New Yorkers has nothing to do with congestion! The arrogant, far-left governor needs a few more billion to toss into the sinkhole of his personally run transit system, which recently legalized fare-evasion. He’ll get some of it back by taxing certain motorists.

    Got a friend in government, you’ll get a placard. Work for government, they’ve got almost 35,000 cars in their fleet so you’ll be driving and parking wherever you want for free. Poor- exempt. Sick-get in free.

    It’s no coincidence that ‘congestion’ rose as the subways fell apart. The city’s first attempt to fix the mess was bicycles. They closed hundreds of miles of lanes and are now surprised there’s more traffic! Pedestrian plazas, mini-malls, triple-double parking near any government building is OK, because they had a plan all along- once traffic slowed to a stop, tax the drivers!

    At best, this massive tax is predicted to reduce cars by 6%, but commercial vehicles will pay double or triple, so every single item New Yorkers will buy becomes more expensive. It’s not about traffic, it’s about cash for the governors friends. If you wanted to reduce traffic, you’d have trucks delivering after midnight, but nobody even mentioned that one. His scheme has absolutely nothing to do with congestion, don’t believe the headline. It’s about power- the governor just flexed his muscle to make people leave New York for good. Bye-Bye!!

    • 0 avatar
      James Charles

      Fare evasion legalised? I couldn’t find anything on the net about NYC legalising fare evasion.

      Ever thought about the cost to manage fare evasion? Not just the missed ticket, but administering fare evaders. So you want to pay lots more in taxes to nab fare evaders when that money could be better invested.

      If people can’t pay for a fare they most likely can’t pay a fine and eventually court costs, then more prison space with gaurds, etc….. just because of a fare evader? I think NYC has bigger criminal issues to fix first.

    • 0 avatar
      bkojote

      I don’t think anyone would consider Cuomo to be far-left considering he didn’t boot the IDC crooks. And if you think Citibike is the cause of congestion in New York City…

  • avatar
    jkross22

    If NYC politicians don’t want a Trump type running the city and Albany, they better start getting a clue…. loss of trust in government makes people feel desperate enough to try anything. That should be the lesson learned from Trump’s win.


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