New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Monday that New York City was cleared to implement congestion pricing. This practice allows the city charge drivers who enter Lower Manhattan. Kathy Hochul made the announcement on Monday.
The city can begin the program in the spring of next year.
CNN has reached out the Federal Highway Administration to get their comments.
It's officially called the Central Business District Tolling Program, but is more commonly known as 'congestion pricing'.
It works just like any other toll but, because it charges drivers to drive below 60th Street in Manhattan's traffic-choked zone, this would be the United States' first program of its type.
The proposed charges range from $9 to $23 per vehicle during peak hours.
It had been years since the plan was released, but last month the Federal Highway Administration approved the environmental assessment.
New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority can now start the process of finalizing its toll rates as well as discounts for certain drivers.
New York City has yet to recover from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Congestion pricing is a key part of New York City's recovery.
New York Governor: 'This program will be critical for the long-term growth of New York City. Kathy Hochul stated last month.
This plan would also be the culmination for more than half a century of efforts in New York City to implement congestion pricing. Car and truck owners from the outer boroughs of New York City and suburbs helped to defeat the proposal despite support from many New York City Mayors and State Governors.
Andrew Cuomo, who had for years opposed congestion pricing, said that it was "an idea whose moment has come" and declared an emergency in the subway system after delays increased and a train derailment injured dozens. The state approved a congestion pricing plan for the MTA two years later.
The need to improve New York City’s public transportation was ultimately the driving force behind congestion pricing.
The worst gridlock in America
Lower Manhattan is one of the most congested areas in America, with 700,000 vehicles, including cars, trucks, and taxis, rushing through it every day.
In the congestion-price zone, cars average 7.1 mph and are on a downward trend. The speed of public buses has also decreased by 28% since 2010. According to an estimate, New Yorkers spend 117 hours per year in traffic, which costs them $2,000 in lost productivity.
The toll will reduce the number vehicles entering the congestion area by 10% each day, and the amount of distance cars travel in the zone by 5%.
Congestion has both physical and social costs: honking vehicles take up space which could be used by pedestrians or for outdoor dining.
The public transportation system is an important part of New York's life. Around 75% of downtown trips are made by public transportation.
MTA says that public transit ridership has dropped by 25-30% compared to levels before the pandemic. According to the MTA, congestion fees are a crucial source of revenue that will fund future investments worth $15 billion to modernize New York's 100 year old public transit system.
Plan advocates say that improvements like new subway cars and electrical signals are essential to attract new riders, improve accessibility, and increase speed, especially for low-income residents and minorities, who have the least likelihood of owning cars.
Kate Slevin is the executive vice-president of the Regional Plan Association. This urban planning and policy organization said that New York City was 'dependent' on public transportation. We rely on this revenue to pay needed upgrades and invest in reliable transit services.
It is important to improve public transportation in New York City to help the city recover from its recent pandemic. If commutes are too unpredictable, people will be less likely to shop and visit stores near their offices. Congestion charges advocates hope that the program will allow for more amenities such as wider sidewalks and bike lanes. They also want to create plazas with benches, trees, trees, and public restrooms.
Sam Schwartz, founder of a consulting firm named after him and former New York City traffic official, said: '100 year ago, we decided that the automobile would be the future, so we built highways and narrowed the sidewalks. But the pedestrian is the future of New York City. The pedestrian should be the king and queen of everything.
Hochul praises New Jersey officials' 'outraged" decision
New York Governor Hochul said, "Congestion pricing will reduce the traffic in our congested downtown, improve air-quality and provide vital resources to MTA." Hochul made the announcement. "With the green-light from the federal Government, we look forward moving ahead with this program'
Several Democratic New Jersey officials, such as US Senator Bob Menendez, US Reps. Josh Gottheimer, and Bill Pascrell, Jr., expressed their anger over the decision.
In a joint press release, officials stated that 'all New Jersey drivers who enter Manhattan via the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels or George Washington Bridge should be exempted from New York's Congestion Tax'. We will fight until this plan is defeated and New York cannot balance its budget by taking money from hardworking New Jersey families. This is a Jersey commitment.
Benefits, criticisms and mitigation measures
Stockholm, London, and Singapore, however, have been using congestion pricing for many years.
The cities that have been selected for this study report benefits such as reduced carbon dioxide pollution and higher average speeds.
In just one year, London's traffic congestion decreased by 30%. Average speeds also increased the same amount. One study in Stockholm found that the number of children with acute asthma who visited the doctor dropped by 50% when compared to before the program was launched in 2007.
Nevertheless, some groups are vehemently against congestion charges in New York City. Taxi drivers and ride-share drivers are largely low-income, immigrant workers who fear that congestion charges will harm drivers already struggling to survive. According to the MTA, congestion pricing can reduce taxi demand by as much as 17%.
Commuters, legislators, and residents of New York City’s outer boroughs as well as New Jersey claim that the program is unfair to drivers who are unable to get downtown Manhattan by any other means. They also say it would disproportionately affect low-income motorists. MTA estimates that only 16,100 people in Lower Manhattan who are low-income commute by car.
Some critics claim that it would divert traffic and pollution from diesel truck in Manhattan to lower-income areas such as the Bronx. The Bronx has the highest rate of asthma hospitalizations in the city.
However, the MTA and many other agencies have plans in place to mitigate these negative effects.
Taxis and hire vehicles will only be tolled once per day. Drivers earning less than $50,000 per year or enrolled in government assistance programs will receive 25% off their first 10 trips each month. Trucks and other vehicle will receive 50% off during overnight hours.
The MTA also pledged to invest $10 million in air filtration units for schools located near highways. It will also spend $20 million on a program that fights asthma and make other investments in order to improve the air quality in areas with more traffic.
Leaders in other cities closely monitor the program's results.
If congestion pricing is successful, it could serve as a model for cities in the US that are still recovering from the pandemic, and who face similar challenges due to climate change and an aging infrastructure.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board said last month that it was good to see New York City’s program moving forward. Los Angeles should learn from New York City's program and move on.