The FIX NYC Panel that Governor Cuomo tasked last fall to look into alleviating the gridlock in Manhattan and raising money to fix the subways has released their proposal and it recommends congestion pricing for entry into Manhattan below 60th street, exempting FDR drive north of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The reasons for gridlock are many, and the report notes, in particular, the increase in for-hire vehicles, increase in trucks delivering e-commerce, more of streets dedicated to pedestrian plazas, bicyclists and dedicated bus lanes, booming tourist industry with associated buses and slack enforcement of moving violations as the main culprits. The result has been a massive slowdown in the city:
This congestion costs the city about $20 billion a year, or $100 billion over the next 5, they estimate. Fixing the neglected subway system requires money, but not much by comparison. The state has promised to come up with 50% or funding necessary to cover emergency capital and operating costs over the next 5 years, as requested in the Subway Action Plan, the City has been asked to contribute the other 50% – just over $800 million.
After considering alternatives, the Panel recommends congestion pricing as the preferred outcome, and its success hinges on a phased rollout.
Phase 1 requires improved public transit alternatives – so that those who will choose to abandon their vehicles in response to congestion pricing have options for getting around. Of the cities mentioned in the report as examples to look at – London, Singapore, Stockholm – all added extra buses to help folks get around. Phase 1 also implores police to enforce traffic rules, and in particular moving violations – like blocking intersections or driving in bus lanes, as well asks the city and state governments to deal with the placard abuse.
Phase 2 would see an extra flat fee charged for the cab and other for-hire vehicle trips through the designated district, and Phase 3 would see congestion pricing rolled out first for trucks and then for passenger vehicles entering the designated district.
Even if approved tomorrow – and given that congestion pricing has been considered a number of times over the last decade, this proposal is not a done deal – no charges would affect regular drivers for another two years. Preliminary estimates call for 24 months to set up infrastructure and systems to implement any congestion pricing plan and to complete an environmental impact study.
The panel recommends “a one-way pricing zone E-ZPass charge of $11.52 for passenger vehicles, once per day, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 6am to 8pm. This charge is identical to the two-way charge of $5.76 suggested by MOVE NY, and aligned with average E-ZPass toll rates for automobiles at the MTA and PANYNJ tolled tunnels.” For hire vehicles and buses would be exempt, subject to the flat fee from Phase 2, and already tolled access points would not be charged double.
“Governor Cuomo deserves credit for the Fix NYC panel’s proposal, which is a strong, progressive plan to raise the money we need to fix our ailing subways. As the transit system has deteriorated, beleaguered riders have been demanding relief from the governor. Any serious plan to fix the subway will require billions of dollars to implement, and this congestion pricing plan would make that possible,” said John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance in a statement.
Jim Conigliaro, Jr. of the Independent Drivers Guild that speaks on behalf for for-hire vehicle drivers, was more cautious: “After years of pay cuts and exploitation, many New York City for-hire vehicle drivers are earning less than minimum wage after expenses. While important details are not yet defined, any plan that shifts further financial burden on to these 100,000 workers and their families would be devastating.”
“I could support the surcharge for limos, rideshare and tour buses, but not on all New York City drivers, particularly Staten Islanders who are already subject to unfair tolls,” said Assemblywoman Malliotakis in response to the proposal.