New York Approves Congestion Pricing, First in the Nation

April 1, 2019 Updated: April 1, 2019

New York State lawmakers approved a new congestion pricing program for Manhattan on March 31 as part of the state’s $175 billion budget—the first U.S. city to have one. But the major details, such as how much drivers will have to pay and how it will be implemented, haven’t been hashed out yet.

The program is aimed at lessening the traffic in congested parts of Manhattan by charging drivers who are heading into the city—pushing drivers to reconsider public transportation. New York City now joins other cities outside of the United States that have already employed such a system, such as London, Stockholm, Milan, and Singapore.

On March 31, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters at a news conference that the toll would be set in 2020 by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) once they have a capital plan established.

“Today, we’ve gotten it done,” Cuomo said. “First state in the nation.”

The governor also described the traffic in Downstate New York as a “problem that is only getting worse.” His office didn’t respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.

Vehicles, including cars and trucks, would be tolled when they enter the congestion toll zone, a large area with more than 600,000 people. The zone would run from 60th Street, near the bottom of Central Park, all the way down to Manhattan’s southern tip.

Revenue from the tolls would go toward fixing the metropolitan area’s increasingly unreliable mass transit system. A proposal released in 2018 by an advisory panel said the tolls could raise about $1 billion a year.

“It forms a Central Business District, charges a higher rate for traveling in the Central Business District,” Cuomo told reporters. “It’s designed to reduce congestion [and] raise revenue.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio listen to questions from reporters in New York City on Nov. 13, 2018. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

There are some notable exceptions, including the West Side Highway and FDR Drive, that would be exempt from the toll, as well as emergency vehicles and some cars transporting those with disabilities. Also exempt from the new law are those residing in the congestion zone who make less than $6o,000 a year.

The toll amount has yet to be determined, but earlier proposals have suggested a fee of around $12 per day for most drivers and up to $25 for trucks, with possible variations based on time of day and day of the week.

But the program has also sparked concern from suburban commuters, since it is hard for them to access trains or buses, and businesses that make deliveries. Those who live in the city’s outer boroughs but run errands or pick up friends downtown would also be affected by the high tolls.

Starting in February, rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft, and other for-hire vehicles below 96th Street were subjected to a surcharge. The fee is $2.50 for taxicabs and $2.75 for others. The surcharges were approved by lawmakers in 2018 in what was described as a first step toward congestion tolls.

“After decades of underinvestment, the MTA desperately needs a new source of revenue in order to give New Yorkers the mass transit they deserve,” a link for people to show their support to the program stated.

“Congestion Pricing … would raise critical funding for public transit while also reducing the traffic and air pollution that plagues midtown and lower Manhattan.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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