New York governor quashes Manhattan congestion pricing project

For decades, the city of New York has planned congestion pricing. More than $500 million has already been spent on a program to charge $15 for cars entering lower/midtown Manhattan.

Less than a month before it was to take effect, Governor Kathy Hochul has now “indefinitely paused” the program on the grounds that it would hurt middle-class drivers. Observers believe that Hochul, a Democrat, was concerned about losing suburban voters statewide. A solid majority of the public opposes the plan, but proponents believed that that would change once the benefits materialized.

There’s a similar, reportedly successful program in London, but this would have been the first in the United States.

Will New York ever tackle its traffic crisis, or is it doomed to perpetual gridlock?

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Sure. Makes perfect sense to ignore the will of the people so proponents can buy lottery tickets. The people will come around once we hit that jackpot.

In Stockholm, two-thirds of the residents opposed a congestion pricing program. The city implemented it anyway for a trial period. The program reduced congestion considerably. Then two-thirds of the residents voted to continue the program!

Something quite similar happened in Toronto in 2017, per the article below. It wasn’t “congestion pricing” per se to enter the city, but it was the same philosophy: it was a proposal for tolls on two city-owned expressways which were major routes into the downtown area and which were famously always congested.

It got the approval of City Council but it was nixed by the province shortly after. The reason for the decision was exactly the same as the New York governor’s decision, even though the actual words were different: the proposal brought howls of protests from motorists who would have to pay the fees, and suddenly it became an election issue!

As a Canadian I find myself in between the American propensity to reject any form of government intervention and the European propensity to more readily accept it. I must admit, though, that in cases like this I tend to lean a bit more toward lighter regulation, partly because of the problem of unintended consequences such as degradation of the downtown core if businesses and cultural institutions should choose to relocate elsewhere.

The idea that the funds from the tolls would be used to improve rapid transit sounds great, but in the case of Toronto’s proposed tolls it wasn’t one that should have been accepted uncritically. There’s no guarantee that the transit system would actually have been substantially improved, or if it had, that it would have effectively served the millions of suburbanites coming into the city.

This is, after all, the same municipal government that historically had such an opposition to cars that they once mandated that all gas stations in the city must close at 6:00 PM. And the same provincial government that abruptly cancelled a half-built second expressway into the downtown core, leaving the city with an expressway to nowhere, creating backed-up traffic where it ends and which finally spills out onto city streets.

I’ve never been a fan of the conservative maxim about never trusting government, and I try not to be ideological about it, but governments can be incompetent, and I’m cautious about grandiose plans with potentially damaging repercussions before I at least see proof of concept.

Why did the residents oppose it there? They’re the ones benefitting from this. Residents of Manhattan won’t be paying the ‘congestion tax’. That will be paid by others who receive no benefit from it.

I think Manhattanites who live north of 60th St would have to pay if they crossed the line ? And maybe people who live in midtown but drive up north and come back ?

I doubt the sky is falling here.

This is a largely political move by the governor. With congressional and state legislature seats up for grabs, it’d be foolish to go ahead with the plan now and risk voter resentment sweeping Republicans into office.

By 2025, expect Hochul to rediscover her support for congestion pricing, with the expectation that voters will realize how wonderful it is by the next election in '26.

In the United States, whether local, state or Federal, the government cannot be trusted to spend new taxes wisely. I’m sure this $15 per car would be spent on some $90 billion boondoggle that ties up traffic for years and never gets completed.

This is exactly what I was going to suggest. Try is for six months and then decide if the majority of drivers want to keep it going.

While it may sound like a good idea to some people, for those who are economically challenged it will just make matters worse. There is no middle ground, other than providing the people who honestly can’t afford it a heavy discount or free pass, which will likely open up a can of worms.

If you’re driving into midtown, you’re going to pay like $30-$45 to park and $15 for tolls (depending on where you’re coming from). I could see giving trucks a pass, but I bet that a huge percentage of people driving cars into midtown could have taken public transit. They should charge T&LC (Uber drivers) double – most of those rides really could have been on the subway anyway.

Trust me, if you can afford to drive a car to and park a car in Manhattan, an additional $15 is chump change. People who live in Manhattan and own a car pay as much to house their car as I pay to house myself.

American governments aren’t uniquely incompetent. Every country has its boondoggles, and yet eventually, things get done. Roads get paved, bridges get built.

I presume you have never been to Colorado.

There are no paved roads in Colorado!?

Yes, they get paved once then forgotten about. Oh and you are right, things do get done. They spent 6 years screwing up traffic and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make a new interchange between US6 and I25 in Denver. It was so poorly designed that it backs up the 6-E to 25-S ramp 24/7, the 25S gets backed up at the interchange, the 25S to 6W is a clusterfuck and if you don’t know ahead of time what lane you need to be in I guaranty you will end up on the wrong road. I don’t even take the 6E to 25N ramp anymore (I use Colfax instead) because you are putting your life at risk (literally) by going 60+ mph and some car at a dead stop on the southbound ramp will pull out in front of you to get around everyone else.
Tax dollars at work.

This is pretty off-topic for this thread. Please stay on-topic.


One way to make it more equitable to lower income people is to make the toll proportional to the value of the car. This would be similar to property taxes. For instance, use the KBB value of the car as the reference. Cheap cars pay a cheap toll and expensive cars pay an expensive toll.

Plus, as I understand it, New York is very easy to get around in without a car, and hence many residents don’t even own one. I’d expect that poorer folks would be disproportionately in that category.

How much does public transportation cost? I assume that there’s an all-you-can-ride option available monthly, for instance.

The 30 day unlimited MetroCard is up to $132 now, but does covers Trains & Buses.

Bonus: Up to three kids under 44 inches tall ride free when they’re with an adult who paid the fare.

There are also Student MetroCards from many of the schools that provide free rides to and from school.

Apparently those over 65 and those with qualifying disabilities can apply for a 50% cost reduction.

All this gleaned from here: NYC Transit Fares and Tolls: What to know

Hey, that sounds just like Albany, NY, the city where good civil engineering goes to die. There’s Empire State Plaza, the railroad and I-787 cutting off any good pleasure access to the Hudson, the bridge that crosses the Hudson into Rensselaer and comes to an abrupt end because it was supposed to go into Troy before it was cancelled, the interchange to nowhere (eventually developed as a big office park) of I-90 that was built because the plan was to demolish a bunch of homes so that there would be another connection to the Northway and the airport without having to go through the existing interchange closer to the Thruway for no real good reason, and more.

I don’t really have an opinion on the Manhattan congestion charge as it will likely never apply to me. But this sort of result is exactly what I would expect from NY state government.