New York Is Getting Congestion Pricing, Whether It's Ready or Not

New York is about to institute congestion pricing, and it will include an exemption for people who make below $60,000 per year.

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Apr 1 2019, 3:57pm

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New York legislators are about to pass a version of the annual state budget which will definitely include congestion pricing, according to a press release from Governor Cuomo’s office released Sunday night.

Congestion pricing would charge drivers a fee to enter and exist the most traffic-heavy areas of Manhattan during peak travel hours. The goal of this measure would be to divert traffic, bring down carbon emissions, and funnel billions of dollars into subway repair, and other infrastructure projects.

“This is probably the broadest, most sweeping state plan that we have done,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement about the new budget. “There are a number of national firsts and it really grapples with the tough issues that have been facing this state for a long time.”

The congestion pricing plan, billed as Central Business District Tolling, is still devoid of many key details, including the specific costs of tolls and taxes and budget allocation. However, we do know that it will charge drivers as they pass 60th street in Manhattan, and it will include exemptions for those who make less than $60,000 per year. We don’t know how or if the plan will exempt other vulnerable populations, such as professional drivers.

According to the plan, a total of $25 billion will be raised through congestion pricing, as well as two other taxes that were enacted in the budget negotiations: a mansion tax, and a tax on internet sales. The mansion tax would be a 4.15 percent sales tax on properties worth $25 million or more, according to the New York Times, and the internet sales tax would charge online marketplaces based in New York an unspecified amount when they make a sale.

However, congestion pricing should generate the majority of the $25 billion in state fundraising. The Office of the Governor has previously estimated that congestion pricing would generate about $15 billion in revenue in and of itself, and it would cost about $22 billion to conduct basic repairs to the New York City subway.

New York follows a handful of cities across the world in enacting congestion pricing to various degrees of success. While proponents of the toll are hoping it will bring much needed funding to city infrastructure, critics say it will only serve to weigh on working people in the city. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance has claimed that a $2.75 congestion pricing fee targeting professional drivers, which went into effect in February, has severely hurt the bottom line of drivers who already live on the edge of poverty.

The implementation of congestion pricing in New York will undoubtedly influence other American cities like Los Angeles eyeing transportation reform at a time when our roads are at capacity and our public transport is outpaced by most developed countries.