Momentum Builds for Congestion Pricing

In our previous blog post, we introduced the history behind congestion pricing and the many forms the proposal took since its introduction by Sam Schwartz in the 1970s. We also explored the obstacles and opposition the policy faced.

By 2017, New York City was faced with a subway state of emergency—crowding, daily delays, and deficient basic infrastructure. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had not previously supported congestion pricing, publicly declared support for it.  

Governor Cuomo authorized a panel, Fix NYC, to advise the state on its congestion and public transportation issues, and evaluate the potential of a congestion pricing plan. The Fix NYC panel proposed a one-way charge of $11.52 for cars and $25.34 for trucks during weekday business hours in the Central Business District. This revenue would go directly to MTA capital improvements.

In Spring of 2018, New York City Transit President Andy Byford proposed an approximately $40 billion Fast Forward Plan. The 10-year initiative includes over 650 new subway cars, 2,100 new buses, 5 signal lines, 50 accessible subway stations, and a redesign of bus routes in all five boroughs. The proposal also includes a commitment to significantly increase the capacity of electric buses before moving to an all-electric fleet, as well as a commitment to increase resiliency from flooding in subway stations.

A 2018 study by the Partnership for New York City found that traffic congestion is contributing to more carbon pollution, crowded driving lanes, and a whopping $9.17 billion a year in travel costs for commuters. An analysis by the Riders Alliance found that express bus riders from Brooklyn and Queens, two of the farthest and longest places to commute from, would save one to two hours of riding per week if congestion pricing were implemented. It would increase traffic speeds in the central business district by 20%.  

Early this year, a group of transit experts, advocates, and environmental organizations including NYLCV, business groups, and labor groups that support congestion pricing formed the Fix Our Transit coalition. The coalition is meeting with legislators and asking them to support the inclusion of congestion pricing in the State budget.

This January, Governor Cuomo included congestion pricing in his Executive Budget. His plan includes a one-way charge for cars and trucks entering Manhattan below 60th Street. This would potentially generate between $810 million and $1.1 billion annually for the MTA and the funding will remain in a lock box to prevent reapportionment for other uses.

Support for congestion pricing keeps growing. Over 500 NYLCV members have taken action to tell their representatives that they support congestion pricing. Many legislators have publicly announced their support of congestion pricing including State Senators Brad Holyman, Alessandra Biaggi, Andrew Gounardes, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Julia Salazar, along with Assembly Members Maritza Davila, Mathylde Frontus, Amy Paulin, Aravella Simotas, and Latrice Walker.

Last week, Mayor de Blasio announced his support for congestion pricing after years of opposition. He claimed that congestion pricing has the greatest prospects for success compared to alternative MTA funding mechanisms and that action is needed immediately in order to solve the City’s transit crisis.

With the support of NYLCV members, 2019 will finally be the year that congestion pricing is implemented.