As New York City’s subways continue to crumble and traffic congestion increases, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been at odds over the best way to fund mass transit improvements. That may all be about to change, as Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel has released their final report and called for the creation of congestion pricing zone in Manhattan.
Mayor de Blasio has historically supported a “millionaire’s tax” on the city’s richest residents, while Governor Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing scheme for vehicles crossing Manhattan’s 60th Street in either direction. In light of Fix NYC’s findings, Mayor de Blasio has seemingly shifted his position and voiced a willingness to implement some form of congestion pricing, if the funds were locked into improving the city’s transit network.
Originally formed in October of last year, the Fix NYC panel invited policymakers, real estate developers, planners, MTA employees and other stakeholders to come up with policy fixes to improve mobility across the New York City region. The panel has ultimately recommended splitting any improvements across three phases.
Phase one would see a focus on realistic, short-term reforms at the ground level. These range from studying transportation improvement opportunities across the outer boroughs and suburbs, to improving traffic law enforcement, and most importantly, beginning the installation of “zone pricing” infrastructure. This infrastructure would encircle a certain area and allow drivers to be charged for entering or leaving a certain area at specific times or days of the week.
Phase two leans heavily on implementing congestion pricing. A central business district would be established as everything south of 60th Street in Manhattan, and for-hire vehicles and taxis would be charged every time they crossed the district’s border.
Phase three would ramp up the second phase’s congestion pricing plan, first for trucks, and then to all vehicles entering the district by 2020. While trucks would pay $25.34, for-hire cars would likely only pay $2 to $5, with the overall affect of reducing traffic congestion during the busiest times of the day. Personal vehicles would have to pay up to $11.52 to travel through Manhattan during the busiest times of the day.
Drivers would be offered some relief, however. “The Panel believes the MTA must first invest in public transportation alternatives and make improvements in the subway system before implementing a zone pricing plan to reduce congestion. Before asking commuters to abandon their cars, we must first improve mass transit capacity and reliability,” reads the report. It’s estimated that the pricing scheme could raise an additional $1.5 billion a year for the city’s ailing MTA.
Governor Cuomo’s response to the report’s findings was muted, and in a statement, he promised to study the proposal more in-depth. Congestion pricing plans have never taken off in New York City despite being proposed regularly since the 1970s, and it remains to be seen whether the mayor’s office or state legislature will seriously take up the issue.