New York indefinitely halts London-like congestion pricing on ICE cars

  • The congestion pricing program in New York City would have been the first of its kind in the US and was scheduled to begin on June 30.
The congestion pricing system, which was set to start in a few weeks, was going to be used to help pay for major repairs to the city’s subway system. The governor said that the price, which would have been over $16 for cars, would place a financial burden on New Yorkers and local businesses at a time when the city hasn’t fully recovered from the pandemic. (Getty Images via AFP)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday she has ordered an indefinite halt to the planned toll on drivers entering Manhattan’s central business district that had been set to start in just weeks. New York City’s congestion pricing program, the first of its kind in the US, had been set to begin on June 30. Under the plan, motorists would pay a toll of $15 during daytime hours for vehicles driving in Manhattan south of 60th Street.

New York lawmakers approved the plan in 2019 to provide funding to improve mass transit by using tolls to manage traffic in central Manhattan.

Hochul, a Democrat, said she had come to the “difficult decision” that congestion pricing could not begin, “I have directed the (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) to indefinitely pause the program.”

The issue had threatened to become a factor for voters in suburban New York City in the U.S. elections in November.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a fellow Democrat, said he had discussed the plan with Hochul in recent days and welcomed the postponement.

“If she’s looking at analyzing what other ways we can do it and how we do it correctly, I’m all for it,” he told reporters earlier on Wednesday.

Hochul said, in remarks broadcast by her office, “My focus must be on putting more money back in people’s pockets.” She cited high inflation and the high cost of living for many New Yorkers. “And that’s why I must stand up and say no to implementing the congestion pricing toll at this time.”

Hochul said she was concerned the pricing could discourage people from coming to the office or taking in a Broadway show, and could even be a disincentive to live or work in New York City. “It puts the squeeze on the very people who make this city go,” she said.

New York City, whose traffic is the most congested of any U.S. city, had stood to become the first major city in the U.S. to follow London, which implemented a similar charge in 2003.

The plan faces legal challenges including one from New Jersey. It received the green light last year from the Federal Highway Administration.

Advocacy groups for public transit condemned Hochul’s announcement. Betsy Plum, executive director of the group Riders Alliance, said: “Congestion pricing is the only public policy that can make our subway more reliable and accessible, speed up slow bus service, and help clear the air as wildfire smoke thickens.”

The congestion pricing plan was originally projected to start in 2021 but the federal government under President Donald Trump took no action. The city had planned to charge up to $36 for larger trucks and buses.

New York says more than 900,000 vehicles enter the Manhattan Central Business District daily, which reduces travel speeds to around 7 mph (11 kph) on average.

New York had said the charge would cut traffic by 17% and improve air quality and increase transit use by 1% to 2%, as well as generate $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year and support $15 billion in debt financing for mass-transit improvement.

Hochul said she had set aside funding to backstop the MTA capital plan.

First Published Date: 08 Jun 2024, 16:03 PM IST

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