Charging fees on vehicles driving into or within Manhattan’s central business district is projected to raise $1.5 billion a year for mass transit in New York City, while helping weekday traffic in Manhattan move 20 percent faster.
Expensive upgrades are essential for our subway and bus systems, which are already underfunded and in crisis.
Recent UN reports warn we have less than twelve years to avoid the worst climate crisis scenarios. Because congestion pricing will lower carbon emissions by shifting more trips from vehicles to mass transit, it is an essential part of New York’s response.
Similar fees were last proposed in 2007, but technological advances since then, such as GPS and open road tolling with EZ Pass, now enable customized tolls to be collected automatically without slowing traffic.
Some elected officials have claimed that this would unfairly burden low-income, outer-borough residents, many of who live far from mass transit and have no choice but to drive.
However, according to a Community Service Society study, only 4 percent of outer-borough residents drive to Manhattan for work, and a vast majority of them have moderate and higher incomes.
Only 2 percent of the working poor might potentially pay a congestion pricing fee. Most of that group already relies on public transit and would benefit from improved funding and service.
While congestion pricing won’t pay the full price of subway upgrades – estimated at $45 to $60 billion – it is considered the single biggest contributor of predictable, sustainable revenue for this purpose.
These fees can be required to be used only for mass transit improvements. At the same time, the MTA needs to be reformed and closely monitored.
We invite Queens elected officials, community boards, and civic groups to join us in urging Governor Cuomo to include a robust congestion pricing plan in the state budget this year.
Mark Laster & Dan Miner are co-chairs of the Forest Hills Green Team.