Opinion: Getting New York City’s Congestion Pricing Right

Improved transit service could make a major difference in how the program is received by New Yorkers.

1 minute read

March 24, 2024, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

New York City Subway

Kits Pix / Shutterstock

“Few good ideas have been resisted as loudly as New York’s plan to charge a toll to drivers entering Manhattan ($15 for most) and use the money to improve public transit,” writes Liza Featherstone in The New Republic.

Although New York’s policy does still have flaws that must be fixed—insufficient exemptions for low-income drivers, for instance—the populist argument against congestion pricing is mostly disingenuous. Only 4 percent of outer-borough New Yorkers drive to Manhattan to work; 57 percent take public transit. And only 2 percent of low-income outer-borough New Yorkers, specifically, would be asked to pay a congestion fee as part of their commute; 61 percent take public transit.

For the policy to gain and maintain public support, Featherstone writes that a large number of New Yorkers must experience its benefits quickly — meaning, better transit service and reduced congestion. “Public transit is one of the least abstract political issues for New Yorkers, affecting where we can work, whether we can get there in time, and whether we can pick up our kids on time at the end of the day.” This is why, Featherstone writes, the ‘Get Congestion Pricing Right’ proposal from Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani, which calls for making an additional 15 bus routes free and increasing bus frequency, could make the difference in how the program is received.

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