New York congestion pricing explained

April 12, 2021

New York became the first city in the US to pass the Traffic Mobility Act to establish the tolling areas in the most congested parts of the city.

Our team gathered everything we know about the new congestion zones and how this might change your driving habits.

This article will also answer the most popular question: when will it actually happen?

Why this is important for the city

While among the most hyped reasons you may find the idea of being more eco-friendly, it’s fair to admit that the law itself will bring:

- More money for the local budget that will be used to improve the public transportation system
- Fewer cars that usually create traffic jams

Congestion pricing has already been successfully implemented in several cities around the world, including in Stockholm and London.

According to the latest reports, 80% of the congestion surcharge will be used to improve the subway system, which is excellent news for an average New Yorker.

10% will go to suburban trains improvements. This also includes buying new locomotives, building new stations.

So yeah, the congestion pricing plan is definitely good for the city.

Who will be affected?

In 2019, the state legislature approved a NYC congestion pricing plan. Although congestion pricing has been implemented elsewhere, this was a first for the United States.

The MTA has coined it the ‘Central Business District Tolling Program’, or the CBDTP.

Anyone entering Manhattan by vehicle, south of 60th street, will be required to pay a fee or toll. For passenger vehicles, this could range anywhere from $9 to $23 (depending on the day and time).

Trucks, on the other hand, will be expected to pay more - around $25.

Vehicles will be charged just once per day, and thankfully, there are some exceptions.

FDR Drive, Westside Highway, and the sections of Battery Park Underpass and Hugh Carey Tunnel that connect the FDR Drive to the West Side Highway will not be included.

Emergency vehicles and those carrying passengers with disabilities are also currently exempt.

What’s under the hood of the new law?

So the NYC congestion plan itself is pretty simple and looks pretty similar to the one passed in London.

Are you driving to the central part of the city? You’re entering the congestion charge zone and will have to pay a fee.

You will only be charged once a day, no matter how many times you enter and leave the congestion area, so it’s a fair deal overall.

The plan also features discounts for people living in the zone and earning less than $60,000. However, if you live in the congestion charging area and leave it, you will still have to pay when you return.

What areas are included?

The New York congestion pricing will only affect Manhattan: from 60th Street south to the Battery.

Why congestion pricing?

Before Covid hit, around 700,000 vehicles were entering the CBD of New York City every single day. This contributed to a lot of congestion and pollution.

In the summerof 2021, traffic peaked again, similar to pre-covid levels, with residents and workers losing around 133 hours annually sitting in darn traffic.  

Congestion pricing intends to reduce this congestion by discouraging drivers from entering these gridlocked streets. By charging a fee – fewer people will be inclined to enter the CBD district by private vehicle.

The MTA aims to raise a whopping 15 billion dollars to maintain and upgrade NYC’s public transit system.

According to the MTA, 80% of the funds raised would be used to improve and modernize New York City Transit – which runs the subway systems and buses. 10% would go to Long Island Railroad, and the remaining 10% would go towards the Metro-North Railroad.

Millions of people in NYC currently rely on public transportation.

Improvements to the current system will allow greater accessibility for everyone, especially for lower-income communities.

How much for a single ride in the heart of NYC?

The pricing in the congestion charge area will vary depending on the day and time. During weekdays from 6 AM to 6 PM, drivers will pay the biggest toll fee. That’s because these are the busiest hours.

The congestion fee in NYC will be around $8 for car / commercial vehicles and $21 for trucks that will enter the congestion charges zone.

Weekends and night hours will have a discount since the streets won’t be that busy.

It’s also worth mentioning that buses and emergency vehicles won’t be charged at all. Taxis will pay around $1 fee.

How will it work from the technical perspective?

Same as all the toll roads. You will be able to pay the bill after the cameras catch your license plate number and notify you about the payment.

Or you can use an easier option – use a mobile tolling app that will automatically charge your account when needed. So if you previously had experience with toll roads, this won’t surprise you from the technical perspective.

When is it going to happen?

Originally, the congestion pricing proposal offered January 2021 as a deadline for the first toll point establishment. However, the pandemic and other unexpected circumstances affected this timeline dramatically.

While the previous government stalled the plan of New York congestion tax implementation, the Biden administration gave it a new life. It’s all systems go, and the federal approval will speed things up.

So our prediction is that the map of congestion zones will be finally defined in 2022.