New York Becomes First U.S. City to Introduce Congestion Pricing

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Chicklet Chicklet on Apr 02, 2019

    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!!

    • See 2 previous
    • Bkojote Bkojote on Apr 02, 2019

      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...

  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Apr 02, 2019

    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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