New York City taking more steps toward congestion pricing plan

New York City has now entered a 30-day public comment period for its plan to charge motorists to drive in the busiest part of the city, Manhattan's midtown and downtown. The Biden administration granted its approval this month, and it now could be implemented as soon as April, 2024, reports Fast Company.

Excess traffic is doing more than harming air quality and creating road rage. It's an old, yet worsening, problem: During the 2010s, travel speeds on lower Manhattan streets plummeted by 22%, from 9 to 7 miles per hour. Subway ridership levels remain low, thanks to commuting patterns changing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but city officials argue that vehicle traffic has rebounded back to 90% of its pre-pandemic level.

Fees aren't set yet, but drivers into the zone during peak hours could pay between $9 and $23, and apparently will be charged by E-ZPass, an electronic toll collection system, or cameras scanning license plates.

The fees would benefit New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority, which operates the city's public transportation. But the plan itself would benefit the MTA as well; incentivizing people to use public transportation instead of driving cars. The additional riders would not only bring extra revenue to the MTA, but would also help to make some subway trains less empty and so safer in this post-pandemic environment. Seems to me the city is healthiest when the subway system is vibrant, well-used, and safe.

New Jersey's Governor Phil Murphy is fighting the plan, as many of his constituents commute into the city, but he's also trying to use the plan to woo businesses across the river to his state.

New York City would be the first city in the U.S. to implement such a plan, although congestion pricing is already in place in London, Stockholm, and Singapoare.

As a New Yorker who lives not much less than a mile from the proposed congestion pricing zone, I find this to be a fascinating experiment, and I'm looking toward it with excitement, but also some dread. A lot is unclear about how it will be implemented, and what the ramifications will be.