On August 10th, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York City and New York State Departments of Transportation, and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released the long-awaited environmental assessment (EA) for congestion pricing in Manhattan’s central business district (CBD). Congestion pricing, which will reduce traffic, reduce the air and climate pollution caused by traffic, and raise at least $1 billion per year in dedicated funding for the MTA, was first authorized by the State legislature in 2019. Congestion pricing requires federal approval because some of the streets in the Manhattan CBD are part of the National Highway System. Part of this approval process involves completing an environmental assessment to weigh all of the real – and potential – benefits and costs of congestion pricing on a range of issues identified by the National Environmental Policy Act. Public comments on the EA are open until September 9th, and we are urging all environmentalists in New York to weigh in with supportive comments.
The New York metropolitan area has the worst traffic congestion in the country, and study after study over the last 45 years has found that congestion pricing, in which vehicles are charged a toll to drive into the Manhattan CBD, is the most effective tool for reducing this congestion and the air and noise pollution associated with it. Under the State law authorizing congestion pricing, the program would raise at least $15 billion for the MTA – funding that is badly needed to upgrade signals for more reliable trains, make more stations accessible to people with disabilities, and make other capital improvements that will make mass transit better for everyone in the MTA service area.
The congestion pricing EA modeled seven different tolling scenarios and found that all of them reduce traffic in the Manhattan CBD and lead to a net reduction in traffic in the region. The EA also found that the more exemptions that are allowed, the higher the toll would have to be to raise necessary funds for the MTA and the more that traffic would be diverted into neighborhoods outside the CBD, including environmental justice communities like those along the Cross Bronx Expressway. For this reason, NYLCV is urging that the final congestion pricing plan, to be decided on by a recently-appointed body called the Traffic Mobility Review Board, to have only exemptions that are absolutely necessary and for the City and State to mitigate any potential negative traffic and air quality impacts on environmental justice communities.
You can find NYLCV’s talking points on the EA here, and we urge all environmentalists in New York to use these points to submit comments of your own here before September 9th. Congestion pricing has the potential to be one of the biggest steps New York has taken to improve air quality and mass transit in decades and now is the time for environmentalists to make sure the MTA hears their support.