The Fight over NYC Congestion Pricing Goes on. And on…

By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director

Could congestion pricing for New York City be over? Probably not, but it will likely not meet its January 2021 start date and not necessarily due to the COVID-19 crisis.  The scheme was already in doubt in February before everything hit the proverbial fan.

Metropolitan Transportation Administration Chair Pat Foye said in April that it was unlikely to launch on-time in part to the coronavirus. The other issue that seems to be the real reason—no answer yet from the US DOT on what type of environmental review would be required to toll all downtown Manhattan car trips.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said in February that the Trump administration is holding the program hostage.

Congestion tolling would raise $15 million of the MTA’s $51.5 billion five-year capital plan. This upgrade would include a rapid modernization of delay-inducing subway signals and accessibility additions to 66 subway stations. The plan is to toll drivers in Manhattan south of 60th Street, which would impose a headache on-street parking before the congestion toll sections of the city. Congestion tolling would also increase the costs of goods and services coming into the city. In early 2021, Bridge tolls into the city are scheduled to rise roughly four percent.

State Assemblyman Mike LiPetri wrote an op-ed that appeared in The Long Island Press outlining why he thinks the last thing New Yorkers need right now is another tax.  He has introduced legislation to repeal congestion pricing.  His reason: congestion pricing would force another tax on the middle class who are already dealing with skyrocketing costs of living and business regulations. This new tax would also force people out of their cars and onto public transportation in a time when many need to social distance due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The side-effect of congestion tolling is to force people out of their cars.

Streetsblog NYC gave its opinion recently stating that pushing the environmental review in any future COVID-19 funding response is imperative. In another op-ed from the Daily News, Sam Schwartz, who also goes by the name “Gridlock Sam,” suggests the city should impose an edict to force drivers to “double-up” driving into the downtown area. His other suggestion: instead of raising bridge tolls by 4 percent early next year, raise the tolls by 20 percent in year one, cut that in half by year two and by year three back to 4 percent. Also, change the formula for ridesharing vehicles based on the amount of time spent in Manhattan’s Central Business District.

New York City congestion pricing (first in the US) will likely not happen on schedule. It could be scrapped all together since the impetus to ride public transportation has cooled due to the need for social distancing and the fact that this taxation scheme hurts all New Yorkers.

Here are five other top Tolling in America and Infrastructure Funding stories from the past weeks:

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