New York traffic is a perennial inconvenience, an environmental disaster and a financial drag to the tune of $20 billion. The Partnership for New York City stands by that figure which it says the metro area will lose each year for the next five years — unless something is done.
“Congestion pricing” is viewed by researchers as an integral intervention into the city’s traffic crisis. An idea which has succeeded elsewhere, congestion pricing was last tried under former-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008. Nine years later there still isn’t a model for actual congestion pricing in America.
If an anticipated report by Fix NYC turns into law, everything could change. Repealed in January 2018, the report suggests a three-phase move towards more transit revenues and smoother traffic flows. The report broaches the idea of an $11.52 charge, for personal vehicles, to drive into Manhattan’s core community.
The report urges beginning phase one right away and involves identifying improvements between the central business district and outlying boroughs. Doing so would mean restoring the subway, improving bus service and debuting a new express bus route to underserved areas.
Uber and Lyft are having an impact on urban mobility and attracting riders from trains and buses. The result is more vehicle-miles are traveled on streets. A point of concern in the report is the quantity of these cars roaming while empty. Bruce Schaller, a transportation consultant, referenced in the report, says unoccupied for-hire vehicle hours rose from zero in 2013 to over 36,000 by 2017.
During peak travel times, the number of cars always rises to meet maximum capacity — the law of congestion. With increased public transit mitigating the need for road space, charging people to drive could be the solution.
The suggestions in the report say persons driving into Manhattan during the busiest times of day should pay something. The report suggests a daily charge roughly double a one-way Port Authority bridge toll — that’s how $11.52 is derived.
The scheme is believed to be able to generate revenues over $700 million from automobiles and more than $100 million from commercial vehicles. Traffic congestion between 6 am, and 8 pm is predicted to drop by over 12% and increase vehicle speeds by almost 10%. The panel behind the report recommends commencement in 2020.
Earlier attempts to charge drivers withered in the state legislature. Legislators representing citizens from the outer most boroughs were not on board, and observers feel the latest plan will face similar concerns.
Where Bloomberg was supportive of congestion-pricing, current-Mayor Bill de Blasio is against the idea. De Blasio points to the concept as being “burdensome to lower-income drivers.” The pro-charge advocates claim congestion costs are borne, disproportionately, by more impoverished New Yorkers.
The FixNYC idea is just the beginning of a long political process. New York’s legislature has to debate and approve any details before becoming law.