New York is the fourth most congested area in the US and there seems a huge amount of pressure to bring the rate done. There is a five year plan focused on pedestrians, such as adding traffic signals, upgrading crosswalk marking and improving the crosswalk timers.
What has this got to do with the motorist though? An increase in both fatalities and gridlock in 2019 suggests an uncomfortable connection between pedestrian and automobile.
One traditional way to reduce congestion is with tolls. It forces people to plan ahead, carpool, or use mass transit. It also allows some folks to pay up for better travel time or chose the cheaper tunnel or bridge into the city. Having a toll for a bigger area of the city or a congestion payment seems like it would work…it is certainly the best way to bring money to the city.
A previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg tried to pass legislation for a toll as early as 2007 but was voted down. There have been four attempts to pass congestion pricing over a period of 10 years. It needed various New York political opponents to get together and agree.
Sources vary, but some suggest that cars be charged between $12 and $14, truck drivers could be charged about $25. The charge is planned to be at peak hours:6-8 am and 2-8pm, affecting office workers, as well as the usual traffic such as taxis and Ubers. The idea is two way tolling, charging for both entering and exiting and is subject to change.
New York will be the first city in the US to impose congestion charge, but only for the busiest parts of Manhattan, more precisely the area South of 60th Street in Midtown up to the Battery, so a substantial amount of New York’s streets and avenues.
The plans are backed by the governor of New York and are due to go into effect beginning 2022. With less vehicles air quality will improve and there will be better pedestrian access to local jobs and schools.
It is predicted to raise 15 billion dollars. The theory is that when faced for paying something that was previously free, drivers will abandon their cars as they have done in cities outside the US. It is believed that other American cities will follow in their wake. Los Angeles seems to be likely contender as there are plans to have major changes in time for the Olympics in 2028.
Could the area be increased? After all NY has 31 Interstate Highways and only four of them go through Manhattan; I-78 and I-95 being main routes and I-478 and I-495 being auxiliary ones. Put like this it does seem like a drop in the ocean, but remember that as hinted above, the highway users are using the toll roads. It’s just that the tolls aren’t helping the subway. No one wants to keep all the highways empty, the concept is to reduce the traffic a bit.
It all depends on whether you think it’s a city for cars or a city for people. Maybe the latter, after all only 27% of New Yorkers drive themselves. In Manhattan it’s even less – 8%. So as unpopular as it seems for car owners it could be the only way forward in crowded cities.