E-ZPass Could Limit the Effectiveness of NYC's Congestion Charge

The known quantity of the EZ Pass system could prevent innovations in congestion pricing that would prevent the challenges since London enacted a similar policy.

December 9, 2019, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

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CC0 Public Domain / pxhere

Flavie Halais digs into some of the specifics of New York City congestion pricing plan, which is still more than a year away from implementation but taking shape. One key point, the system's use of essentially the same E-ZPass toll system that’s already used on New York’s roads, bridges, and tunnels, has raised concern with critics. To understand why, Halais cites the example of London.

 In 2003 the British capital introduced a £11.50 flat fee for vehicles entering a 13-square-mile zone in the city center between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays. The number of cars driving through Central London fell sharply, but began rising again when ride-hailing apps like Uber appeared in 2012. Private-hire vehicles were exempt from the charge, and as their number increased, so did traffic. This slowed the bus system, in turn leading more people to abandon public transit.

London attempted some changes to the policy, as documented by Halais, but challenges persist. The lesson for New York City, according to Halais, "They should think about vehicle size, or number of passengers, distance travelled, and what other options are available to those who do drive." The E-ZPass system won't allow the kinds of dynamic pricing schemes recommended here, and some experts are calling it a missed opportunity.

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