Get ready to spend even more money to live in Manhattan.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recently released the Central Business District Tolling Program Environmental Assessment (EA for short) for public comment. If you live in New York City and the surrounding areas, you now have the chance to engage with the MTA at a series of public hearings.
In short, the New York State government wants to begin tolling drivers for entering the busy streets of Manhattan. The congestion pricing program was approved in 2019, but President Trump forced a delay in the deal due to inaction. In August 2021, the MTA and the Biden administration agreed to restart the review process, hoping to start implementing congestion tolls by the end of 2023 or early 2024.
The MTA analysis is a hefty tome, but we cherry-picked the highlights that would affect drivers the most.
The basic plan is to implement a congestion charge for drivers who enter Manhattan south of 60th street. This congestion charge will be in addition to the tolls already in place on Manhattan's bridges. The MTA currently lists various options in the assessment, with a charge of $9 during peak hours being the cheapest option. At the most, drivers could potentially pay $23 upon entering the high congestion zone. For commercial vehicles and trucks, the pricing ranges from $12 to $82.
According to the MTA, implementing a congestion charge would reduce car traffic by as much as 20% and truck traffic anywhere between 21% to 81%, depending on what direction the government eventually settles on.
According to the MTA, the reason for the congestion charge is twofold. First, it will discourage people from driving into Manhattan. Secondly, it will raise roughly $1 billion per year for the MTA, which it will then spend on improving mass transit. The $1 billion will be distributed to the subway and bus system (80%), while the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North will receive a 10% share each.
Naturally, there will be enormous repercussions for New York's famous taxi drivers. These drivers will be expected to keep paying the $2.50 or $2.75 fee to enter Manhattan, plus the proposed congestion charge. The MTA plans to work with an employment agency to find work for taxi drivers as bus drivers or convert their cars to Access-A-Rice vehicles. What would New York even look like without a sea of yellow Prius and RAV4s?
People who earn less than $60,000 per year will receive a tax credit.
The MTA states that more parking spaces will be available in areas with high congestion and that there will be a massive increase in foot traffic. Manhattan already has a high volume of pedestrians, and the MTA expects that the sidewalks will need to be extended in certain areas.
As you'd expect, this is a highly contentious issue, and the political debate has already started. The governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, has already stated that his constituents won't be expected to pay tunnel or bridge tolls and the congestion fee.
The subway system is currently drastically underfunded and is only surviving thanks to government-provided relief funds. Occupancy of the subway system remains 40% below pre-pandemic levels.
After the public hearings, the MTA will provide a final solution to the Federal Highway Administration.