Fifteen years ago, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced long-term environmental sustainability goals for the city through 2030, as well as an ambitious slate of proposals to meet those goals. The most controversial proposal was introducing vehicle congestion pricing to a portion of Manhattan. Despite being approved by the municipal legislature, the Democratic members of the New York State Assembly refused to vote on the proposal. It seems like the Manhattan congestion toll zone might be nearing fruition, though.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the city’s public transportation body, has released its environmental assessment of the proposed Central Business District (CBD) Tolling Program. The assessment found that truck trips into the zone would be reduced by over half, and air quality would be improved by 20 percent. The zone would stretch from 60th Street, one block north of Central Park’s southern boundary, all the way to the island’s southern tip while excluding the perimeter highways that circle Manhattan, such as the FDR Drive and West Side Highway. However, it was noted that the zone’s creation could worsen traffic on Staten Island and in the South Bronx.
The potential toll prices were also revealed by the MTA. The assessment included several pricing proposals starting at a weekday $9 toll for non-commercial vehicles in the Base Plan. The most costly proposal would see drivers paying $23 for entering the congestion zone. The revenue raised by the toll program will largely be used to fund $15 billion of improvements to the city’s public transportation infrastructure. The subway system would receive 80 percent of the revenue, with the MTA’s two commuter railroads (MetroNorth and Long Island Rail Road) getting 10 percent each.
The revived congestion price project was announced by then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2019 but faced delays caused by the federal government until President Joe Biden entered office in 2021. The plan seems like a win-win, with the struggling subway system receiving funding from long-needed upgrades and congestion being reduced on America’s busiest city streets.