Drivers entering Manhattan’s central business district could have to pay a toll as soon as the end of 2023, thanks to a proposed policy called congestion pricing.
Congestion pricing varies based on the amount of traffic within a given district, and is used in other crowded world cities such as London and Singapore. New York would be the first American city to implement such a policy.
The policy was passed into law by the state legislature in 2019, calling on New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to develop the Central Business District Tolling Program (CBDTP).
The actual implementation, however, requires approval from the Federal Highway Administration after an environmental assessment is completed.
Tolls would be in effect from 60th Street in Manhattan all the way southwards to the end of the island, with the exception of FDR Drive, the West Side Highway, the Battery Park Underpass, and any portions of the Hugh Carey Tunnel that are surface roads.
Drivers would pay via the E-ZPass electronic toll system. E-ZPass is used by various toll entities across 19 states.
The toll pricing has not yet been set. According to the environmental assessment, the law establishing the CBDTP stipulates that the program must:
• Charge passenger vehicles only once daily for remaining in or entering Manhattan’s central business district.
• Implement variable tolling by changing prices at set times or days.
• Allow district residents making less than $60,000 yearly to receive a New York state tax credit for tolls paid.
• Exempt qualifying emergency and disability transportation vehicles from the tolls.
A six-person Traffic Mobility Review Board will ultimately decide on rates and recommend them to the MTA’s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, who will then begin the process of setting the tolls.
The CBDTP assessment was released Wednesday, revealing just how much congestion New York City deals with.
New Yorkers lose 102 hours a year on average to traffic, costing themselves $1,595 in lost productivity and other costs.
Manhattan in particular deals with bad congestion. From 2010 to 2019, travel speeds in Manhattan’s central business district dropped from 9.1 mph to 7.1 mph, according to the environmental assessment.
Officials plan to invest the largesse from the CBDTP into public transit. New York City’s subway and buses would receive 80% of the profits, while the Long Island and Metro-North railroads would receive 10% each.
“We must get congestion pricing done so we can invest in public transit, curb emissions, and reduce traffic, which has roared back to pre-COVID levels,” New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement.
Suburban and out-of-state officials, speaking for commuters dissatisfied with using New York City transit, have already come out against the CBDTP.
“While the environmental assessment is under review by New Jersey state agencies … the Murphy Administration will not support a double tax of New Jerseyans that provides no direct relief for our state’s commuters,” a spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wrote to Politico in an email.
Ed Day, the executive of suburban Rockland County northwest of New York City, told WABC-TV, “How sad is that? How much is it going to cost to cross a bridge to go to the city and come to work when you have no choice but to take a car?”