Congestion pricing in New York: What we know so far
Plans to bring in congestion pricing for the busiest parts of Manhattan have been hotly debated. But what will the impact be for TLC drivers? As the congestion pricing plan is the first program of its kind in the US, here’s our rundown of what we know so far and what drivers can expect.
Congestion pricing has been talked about for more than two years, so we’ll look at the latest developments and how it will work. We’ll also cover some of the pros and cons of the pricing plan, plus try and answer the all-important question of when the charges are likely to come in.
The following information is correct at the time of writing on October 18, 2021.
Why congestion pricing?
The idea is congestion pricing will tackle the heavy traffic on New York City’s streets and encourage drivers to use their cars less. The money raised through the program will help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority improve the city’s subway, buses, and commuter rails.
The hope is this will also help the environment, with less air and noise pollution.
How will it work?
Congestion pricing, also known as the Central Business District Tolling Program, will affect all streets and roadways south of 60th Street but will exclude:
- The FDR Drive
- The West Side Highway
- The sections of the Battery Park Underpass and Hugh Carey (Brooklyn-Battery) Tunnel that connects the FDR Drive to the West Side Highway.
Under the plans, vehicles entering the tolling zone will be charged once a day. There is also the potential to charge different toll rates depending on traffic, times of the day, or on certain days of the week.
The price hasn’t been set yet, but it’s thought it might be between $9 and $14 for cars and around $25 for trucks. The fee isn’t expected to apply to bicycles, motorbikes, or mopeds.
There may be special rules brought in for rideshare and for-hire vehicles. At the moment, drivers for Uber and other platforms are charged $2.75 a ride for driving south of 96th Street (yellow cabs pay $2.50 a ride).
It’s expected to be policed in a similar way to the E-Z Pass system, with cameras around the city and sensors put on registered vehicles. Cars that don’t have a sensor will have a photo taken of their license plate and a bill sent in the post.
Emergency vehicles and those transporting people with disabilities are set to be exempt. Residents who live in the tolling zone who earn less than $60,000 a year will also qualify for a tax credit.
For and against
Some people argue Manhattan residents shouldn’t have to pay the charge, saying it’s unfair. Others say congestion pricing amounts to being “double-tolled”, first when you enter the city by bridge or tunnel, then again when you reach the tolling zone.
But others say there could be benefits. For TLC drivers, if the program works, then less traffic means the city will be easier to navigate, and riders will have shorter wait times.
Uber believes that over time more people will move away from owning a car to using public transport more, including rideshare. It’s also found in the past that many people combine an Uber ride with the bus or subway.
When will this happen?
Don’t panic – these changes are a way off yet. Public hearings kicked off in September, and are part of a 16-month review process. Congestion pricing will also have to wait until after the New York governor election next year.
So the changes may be one or two years away at the earliest. But it’s definitely one to watch over the next few months, particularly as the rules for rideshare haven’t been finalized yet.
Interested in how the latest driver changes affect you? Read our previous blog on What next after the electric vehicle license U-turn.
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