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The Big Apple To Adopt Congestion Tolls

“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, 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.” —Nick Sifuentes, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign (Featured image by The Village Voice)

“I believe the time has finally arrived to explore congestion relief pricing in major cities. Here in Los Angeles, our congestion challenges are just as bad, if not worse, than Manhattan’s.” —Phil Washington, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

After over a decade in the Big Apple, my firm recently moved our offices out of New York City. There were many factors behind the decision but one material one was the tremendous increase in the volume of NYC traffic. Just crossing town is now an hour-long affair. Many employee commutes have become unbearable. NYC congestion has been exacerbated by an increase in population, growing commerce, and, of course, more drivers. However, ride-hailing applications such as Uber and Lyft have probably also contributed to the problem.

The new toll will be enforced for all vehicles that travel into the central business district (CBD) which is defined as the area below 60th Street. Several years ago London implemented a similar tax which has helped lower the congestion in that city by up to 15%. It is anticipated that this tax will raise up to $15 billion per year in revenues which will be used to improve public transportation. The toll amount is unknown but is expected to take effect by 2020. It is anticipated that cities like Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle will eventually implement similar congrestion tolls.

Here are some of the specifics from the bill according to a recent article by Amy Pitt in the Curbed NY Website (read her excellent and extensive full story here): 

  • 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.

You can also read a detailed review of the new NYC toll in the New York Times—click here.

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2 Responses to The Big Apple To Adopt Congestion Tolls

  1. GLK April 6, 2019 at 1:18 pm #

    There is an inverse curve between needed taxes and politicians needing votes. So infrastructure is ignored until it reaches critical proportions and problems affect quality of life in an obvious fashion. Then increased taxes are sold as necessary and politicians stay in office. Problem is money is perpetually depreciating. So all the benefits and buffers built into an initial tax policy are destined to erode under inevitable financial entropy. So what’s great for the city today will not be enough tomorrow – in perpetuity. Basically the tax being outlined here is an existence tax. You exist in numbers greater than our city can accommodate so we need to charge you for the burden of your existence. America is a big country. I cannot imagine why anyone possessing the resources would choose to stay in any city that is poorly managed and unaccommodating.

  2. Bob Barmak April 6, 2019 at 10:41 am #

    I will bet that little of the monies raised will go to fix the infrastructure, including all public transportation. These promises have been made many times in the past when tolls, taxes have been raised. In the beginning maybe the monies raised will go to a specific account to fix the initial items on the list (e.g., subway, bridges), however, the monies then go to a general fund and are never seen again.

    Also, the entire premise is false as at this point NYC, Long Island, NJ and to some extent CT must work together since the public transportation system is so integrated or interdependent. As example, imagine if the Path Station were extended to Grand Central and it was on the same payment network as the MTA? Or if the 7 train extended into Secaucus, NJ. Imagine the Park & Drive that could be expanded/built and the reduction in cars going into NYC? How about the 3rd tunnel connecting NY/NJ?

    Before I go too far into dreamland, hopefully this time around the scheme works 🙂