in ,

Opponents Share Concerns as M.T.A. Receives Approval for Congestion Pricing

Congestion Pricing Expected to Generate $1 Billion for Transportation Upgrades

The plan to charge drivers to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street, which is expected to receive federal approval soon, is expected to provide two significant benefits to New York and the surrounding area when it begins, perhaps as soon as next April. The first is that congestion pricing will reduce traffic, not only within the charging zone but also on the hundreds of streets and highways that cars use to travel to and from that zone. This reduction of almost two million miles traveled per day in the region will free up many drivers from the traffic snarls that pollute the air and dampen the spirit of the city.

Using a detailed benefit-cost analysis that assumes a pricing structure of $15 at peak times, $10 as traffic begins to thicken and $5 at off-peak times, we have calculated that the value of those projected time savings to drivers and truckers amounts to nearly $3 billion per year. Time saved in the boroughs and counties surrounding Manhattan exceeds that on the island. These estimates are based on a comprehensive spreadsheet model of the region’s traffic, which was developed by Mr. Komanoff, one of us. State officials used that model to write the statute authorizing congestion pricing, which was passed by the New York State Legislature in 2019.

The other advantage will be the $1 billion in congestion pricing revenue that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will use to generate $15 billion in bonds to improve mass transit in the city. Those upgrades will reduce waiting times and onboard delays and the precious time subway passengers lose as a result.

Despite this, some people are skeptical that congestion pricing will reduce traffic congestion. In the United States, urban gridlock has become increasingly entrenched, nowhere more so than in the Manhattan core where travel speeds averaged a maddening 7 miles per hour prior to the pandemic. Why should congestion pricing succeed where a century of other treatments have failed?


Stay Updated on the REAL NEWS
Subscribe Here

We believe that the M.T.A. underestimated the propensity of drivers to switch from utilizing cars to other transit alternatives as a result of a few fateful and flawed assumptions. We do not make this statement lightly – our analysis is based on decades of traffic research around Manhattan and basic economic principles.

The extent to which traffic will decline will be determined by the toll design chosen by the city-state Traffic Mobility Review Board, which is comprised of civic leaders. Their goal is to attain the same sweet spot that London, Stockholm, and Singapore achieved through their successful congestion pricing programs, resulting in a 15 to 20 percent reduction in car trips to the zone, a sufficient cut to decrease the many downsides of traffic and sufficient to generate the $1 billion in revenue targeted for improving subways, buses, and commuter rail systems. New Jersey Transit rail and bus and PATH will not be entitled to any of these revenues.

The congestion charges have yet to be determined. However, our model and the M.T.A.’s model concur that if exemptions are kept to a minimum, the cost could be as low as $15 for a rush-hour trip to Midtown and $5 to $10 during off-peak hours for E-ZPass holders. (In London, drivers pay 15 pounds during the day, or roughly $19.)

The benefits of congestion pricing, such as faster, less stressful travel above and below ground, safer and healthier streets and neighborhoods, and fewer delays for transit riders due to enhancements made possible by the congestion pricing revenue, outweigh the discomfort of drivers who understandably do not want to pay to drive in an area previously free. In addition to the nearly $3 billion in saved time for drivers, we estimate that a broad range of other benefits amount to an additional $2.5 billion. These advantages include fewer crashes, a cleaner atmosphere resulting in better health and more walking and biking, and time saved for commuters as a result of enhancements made possible by congestion pricing revenue. After deducting the $1 billion drivers will pay to enter the congestion zone, the net result will be over $4 billion in annual net benefits, or almost $12 million per day.

Furthermore, only a small percentage of local residents are frequent drivers in the Manhattan core. As a result, very few people are among the working poor, as the Community Service Society of New York determined when it endorsed congestion pricing in 2019 and again last year. Many drivers may become less concerned about paying the toll once they experience the improved roads firsthand.

Last month, the Federal Highway Administration preliminarily approved an M.T.A. report that outlined how to minimize harm to disadvantaged communities. Until Monday, the public has the opportunity to provide feedback on that report.

To opponents of the plan, we say that the M.T.A. is responding to public concerns. To expedite federal approval, the agency has committed to toll reductions to accommodate frequent low-income drivers in the area and to promote pollution reductions, such as converting diesel-powered refrigeration trucks at the Hunts Point Market in the South Bronx to electric vehicles and expanding New York City’s clean trucks voucher program to help pay for the electrification of diesel trucks elsewhere. These commitments were made in response to public feedback on earlier versions of the plan.

Individual cars are responsible for causing congestion. Stalled highways and crammed streets are not the fault of Uber, U.P.S., bike lanes, or public plazas. Anyone who drives to or through New York’s central business district (except for the early hours) contributes to congestion. We estimate that right now, a single round trip by car from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn to Radio City Music Hall in Midtown during most of the day causes an additional $100 to $200 worth of delay for everyone else. A prospective $15 or $20 peak congestion toll is a steal in comparison. Congestion pricing is the only lasting answer to persistent traffic congestion. Drivers across the city stand to profit from this plan. Yes, it will be painful to pay for something that was once free. But it is much more painful to spend hours stuck in traffic, knowing that a better alternative exists.


Stay Updated on the REAL NEWS
Subscribe Here