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NYC congestion pricing: What you need to know

Enacting congestion pricing for some of Manhattan’s high-traffic neighborhoods has been a point of debate for at least the past decade.

Congestion pricing is a fee charged to drivers

Congestion pricing is a fee charged to drivers traveling in highly congested areas during the times of day when traffic is at its heaviest to help reduce gridlock. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

What is congestion pricing?

It is a fee charged to drivers traveling in highly congested areas during the times of day when traffic is at its heaviest to help reduce gridlock.

Enacting congestion pricing for some of Manhattan’s high-traffic neighborhoods has been a point of debate for at least the past decade. Now, the concept is seeing a revival.

What’s being proposed?

Details of a congestion pricing plan were released by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Fix NYC panel in January.

The Fix NYC proposal does not toll East River bridges into and out of Manhattan that are currently free like the Queensboro Bridge, but it would charge drivers for entering the most congested part of Manhattan during certain times.

The panel recommends charging private vehicles a one-way fee of $11.52, or a two-way fee of $5.76. Those fees would be implemented at 60th Street for private vehicles, Fix NYC panel members said. Different fees would be in place for trucks, taxis and for-hire vehicles, starting at 96th Street.

What’s been proposed in the past?

In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed for a congestion plan that would have charged motorists $8 a day for cars and $21 for trucks if they drove south of 60th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.

The proposal would have raised an estimated $500 million annually for mass transit improvements. It died in Albany when state lawmakers, arguing drivers already faced steep parking fees and tolls, refused to bring it to a vote.

Another push was made to implement congestion pricing in 2015. The Move NY plan tweaked Bloomberg’s model, adding a “toll swap.” Tolls would be charged to use the city’s East River bridges while reducing existing tolls on outer-borough bridges.

The campaign won some favor in Albany, with state legislators introducing bills in 2016 based on the congestion plan, but didn’t get much further.

Who would need to approve a congestion pricing plan?

Cuomo’s proposal would need approval from the State Legislature, where it may face stiff opposition.

After Cuomo delivered his annual State of the State address in Albany, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said he couldn’t currently support imposing congestion pricing on commuters. Asked if he thought it could win support from Senate Republicans, Flanagan added: “Not from what I’ve listened to.”

Does this exist anywhere else?

London implemented a congestion fee beginning in 2003. Drivers are currently charged 11.50 pounds — about $16 — to drive within the zone on weekdays from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. Ten years after its implementation, there was a 10 percent reduction in traffic volume, according to London’s transit authority.

Singapore has had a congestion pricing scheme since 1975. In its current form, all drivers moving through the restricted zone on weekdays from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. must pay a fee.

Stockholm adopted a congestion tax in 2007. Motorists driving in the city’s center are charged from 6:30 a.m. through 6:30 p.m.

Do NYC politicians support congestion pricing?

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a recent news conference he likes the idea of getting more cars off the streets but that there are “serious fairness issues when it comes to congestion pricing.”

After Fix NYC released its recommendations on Friday, the mayor said he thought the plan had "some good elements" and called it a "step in the right direction." But he also reiterated his belief that his proposal for a millionaire's tax was a better way to secure funding for the MTA.

The new City Council Speaker, Corey Johnson, whose district represents Chelsea, Greenwich Village and other parts of midtown, has come out in favor of the proposal.

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