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COVID-19 Delays MTA’s Congestion Pricing

By Dylan Turkewitz

New York City, New York

Congestion pricing will charge vehicles a fee of $11 to $14 for driving south of 60th street (Photo Credit: NYC Curbed)

New York City is the first city in the United States to implement a congestion pricing system. Congestion pricing funds will be allocated towards restoring New York City’s subways with repairs and renovations. According to The New York Times, state leaders anticipate that congestion pricing will raise $1 billion dollars each year, which would be used as a stream of income to benefit the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and its $15 billion bonds. Although this system could make a large profit, it will be difficult to implement due to COVID-19.

Congestion pricing will charge vehicles a fee of $11 to $14 for driving south of 60th street in Manhattan and $25 for truck drivers. According to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), 880,000 people drive into this region each day. Charging a fee to vehicles driving below 60th street will discourage these drivers from this congested area of Manhattan which will reduce the traffic because many drivers do not want to pay this fee. Further, the fewer patrons there are in the system, the higher the charge will be to those people left to meet your profit goal.

The congestion pricing system planned to begin in January of 2021, but this goal is no longer practical. Due to COVID-19, MTA will fall short of billions of dollars to its revenue goals. The MTA said that tolling Manhattan vehicles downtown will undergo a two-year delay and will begin closer to 2023. Transit expert Sam Schwartz told CBS New York, “Congestion pricing should move ahead as quickly as possible. I can understand some delays, maybe getting the system up. But sometime in 2021, it would be great to see it up and use that revenue originally meant for capital work at least operating for the short term.” Although Schwartz has been encouraging congestion prices for decades, he believes that a delay to improvements on New York City bus and subway systems is inevitable. The MTA has endured a 95% downturn in ridership because of COVID-19.

In addition to this loss, the MTA has weathered a large increase in the number of homeless people living in the subways. Transit officers inculpate the city for not directing these people to homeless shelters. “We continue to work with the city and urge the city to take more aggressive steps to address this problem...Everyone here is losing patience,” Acting Transit Authority head Sarah Feinberg told CBS New York.

The MTA plans to exempt this fee from drivers under specific circumstances. The particular conditions include emergency vehicles, drivers who live in this zone, drivers on the West Side Highway and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, and vehicles transporting disabled people. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio support congestion pricing and define disabled people in vehicles as “operated by or transporting people with disabilities and individuals who have an identifiable hardship or limited ability to access medical facilities.”

Although Cuomo approves of congestion pricing, he suggested that President Donald Trump has thwarted the proposal. “While we’re more hopeful [congestion pricing] will move forward under a Biden administration, we continue to await clarity from the feds on what type of environmental review will be required that will help determine when the program will be enacted,” spokesman Ken Lovett told the New York Post.


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