The Time Has Come To Implement Congestion Pricing

It’s time to stop delays and deliberations around congestion pricing for New York City. 

By Peter Aronson

Congestion pricing, which calls for drivers who enter the city’s business district, between 60th Street and Battery Park, to pay a fee, was first proposed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2007. More than a decade and several iterations later, the city is awaiting final approval from the federal government.

 “In the years since congestion pricing was first proposed in New York City, regional population and commerce have grown and so too has traffic and gridlock – which causes higher greenhouse gas emissions and worse air pollution throughout the Tri-State Area,” said Patrick McClellan, Policy Director for the New York League of Conservation Voters. “The time has come for the state to turn plans into action–we must implement congestion pricing now.” 

Vehicle traffic is the state’s second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions and the city has pledged to reduce its emission to net zero by 2050. Implementing congestion pricing is a key component to achieving that goal. 

As ridership on the city’s subway system continues to rise post-pandemic, it is critical that the MTA reap the financial benefits of congestion pricing so it  has the necessary resources for staff, maintenance, and improved and more reliable service, which is key to encouraging people to ditch their cars for public transportation.

New York City would be the first city in the country to implement a congestion pricing plan. Here’s why it’s essential:

  • The city needs to reduce its carbon emissions and congestion pricing would inevitably do that. The plan would use the “power of the market” to compel more drivers to use public transportation.
  • The plan is expected to raise approximately $1 billion a year for the cash-strapped MTA, which when bonded would add $15 billion to the current MTA capital plan allowing the agency to buy more buses and subway cars and improve service, thereby making public transportation more attractive.
  • The areas most hard hit by the pollution caused by the traffic are some of the poorest, most disadvantaged communities in the city. Studies show that communities populated by people of color have a disproportionate share of air pollution, and this causes asthma, greatly impacting children. 

McClellan recently joined Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Dan Goldman in a rally near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, a traffic choke point, to support congestion pricing  and to quell opposition.

Nadler and Goldman recently published a joint editorial in the Daily News.

“It has also been exhaustively documented that congestion pricing is a critical piece of the puzzle to combating the rapidly worsening effects of climate change,” Nadler and Goldman wrote. “Following the implementation of congestion pricing in London, traffic was reduced while bus ridership increased so much that 30% of its roads could be repurposed for greener and more pedestrian‐friendly uses. And after implementation in California, the number of commuters carpooling surged by 40%, removing more polluting vehicles from our roads and highways. Recent studies have shown that half of New York drivers would drive less often if congestion pricing were implemented.”

They added: “Congestion pricing is the law of the land in New York City, and it is the will of the people. It is a vital tool for saving lives, improving transit, making our air more breathable, and setting our city up to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.”

For more details about the congestion pricing plan, please see this article by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

We urge everyone to support this plan, to help New York lower its carbon footprint, and to help set an example for cities around the country and the world. 

04.30.23 // AUTHOR: Devin Callahan //