Paving the Road for Congestion Pricing

As New York begins to emerge stronger from the pandemic, congestion pricing is needed now more than ever to reduce vehicular pollution and improve public transportation. To achieve this, the NYLCV strives to efficiently work with the new governor in order to confront the transit crisis and address the climate emergency, as we, along with other advocates, stated in a letter to Hochul earlier this month.

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act demands we minimize our emissions from transportation, as air pollution from vehicles presents a danger to the climate and New Yorkers.. In just lower Manhattan, about 1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, consisting mostly of carbon dioxide, come from automobile and truck traffic every year. Such traffic has brought congestion and pollution, affecting the safety of driving and the health of citizens. Congestion pricing would thus limit this and encourage commuters to use other safer and cleaner modes to get around the city

Due to the pandemic, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s services are facing a fiscal crisis. This includes subways, trains, and buses, all of which collectively account for over 80% of trips to the Manhattan central business district. During pre-COVID times, 33% of transit trips in the United States took place on a subway or a bus in New York City, a city that only encompasses 2.5% of the country’s population. It is thus crucial to fix and better the city’s public transportation, as people rely on it to be able to travel in the area. Congestion pricing would provide the funds needed to help address this issue by improving the city’s subway, bus, and commuter rail network.

From an economical perspective, this influx of car traffic has brought gridlock to neighborhoods in all of the boroughs. Before Covid-19 hit, traffic congestion cost businesses and families $20 billion in wasted time and resources annually. Now, with the pandemic causing public transportation to lag, this number may grow. As the city tries to restore public education, housing, health, and the economy in general, this gridlock will delay recovery. People are returning to offices and retail soon, so this is even more important as city life begins to grow again. Thus, congestion pricing can help New York City’s economy return to pre-Covid levels of growth.

If we want to minimize the impact of climate change, enable public transportation to be the crux of the city’s commuting system, and allow the economy to flourish, congestion pricing is pivotal. In fact, a recent study found that a toll of $5 would result in a reduction of over 70,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year, and a toll of $20 would eliminate 40% of midtown traffic per year. With this in mind, the NYLCV hopes the new governor will help us take this step to implement North America’s first congestion pricing program.

We look forward to setting the stage for other cities in the country with congestion pricing, as the Biden administration focuses on tackling climate change alongside us. Now, we urge this to be implemented without further delay, with the Biden administration endorsing the program and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg allowing the MTA to proceed with an environmental assessment. The MTA and the state and city DOTs have come to an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration as well. Thus, we have signed onto the letter to Governor Hochul urging her to move forward with the environmental assessment and to implement congestion pricing as soon as possible.

09.05.21 // AUTHOR: Carlos Castell Croke //