Will New MTA Funding Affect Congestion Pricing?

January 17, 2022

A plan for NYC congestion pricing was actioned in 2019 with the aim to raise 15 billion dollars. This revenue will be used to fund the maintenance and upgrade of NYC’s public transport network.

 

However, the MTA recently received just over 10 billion dollars of federal cash from a new infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden. On top of that,they also received an extra boost of 14.5 billion dollars as part of a COVID-19 relief package.

 

The question for Manhattan commuters now is: Why is NY congestion pricing still going ahead? Surely the MTA has enough funds now to cover transportation upgrade costs?

 

New York officials, however, are pushing ahead with their plans for congestion pricing, which is on track to begin in 2023. Officials are still planning for congestion charging zones. The idea is that anyone entering Manhattan south of 60th street will need to pay a congestion charge of up to $25 in any one day period.

 

Many New Yorkers are understandably up in arms about this. The MTA is receiving a lot of pushback and protests in response to congestion pricing in NYC - which would be the first city in the US to administer a congestion fee.  

 

So, why is the MTA still going ahead with a congestion pricing scheme for New York despite recent funding investment?

 

Why the NYC Congestion Pricing Plan Should Still Go Ahead

 

MTA officials have recently admitted that the money raised from a congestion pricing scheme isn’t needed just yet. This comes as a surprise to watchdog group Reinvent Albany who firmly support congestion pricing.  

 

Reinvent Albany claim that congestion pricing will provide the MTA with a robust and environmentally beneficial source of revenue that the MTA does, in fact, desperately need.

 

They recently released a report stating that a dedicated revenue (like congestion pricing) will be essential to the survival of the MTA given its highdebt loads. They concluded that “The MTA literally cannot afford to lose congestion pricing revenues.”

 

Their reasoning? The MTA needs $55 billion to complete its 2020-2024 capital plan. As of August 2021, it only had 2 billion dollars on hand.

 

The recent funding from the infrastructure bill was actually already budgeted for by the MTA, so congestion pricing is still a critical component that will be heavily relied upon if the 2020-24 capital plan is to be completed successfully.

 

And sure – the 14.5 billion dollars in pandemic aid is undoubtedly a significant boost to the MTA’s stash of cash, but it is important to remember that many of the MTA’s projects have already been delayed due to COVID-19. The MTA was originally planning to fund transport system repairs in 2021, but 2023 now seems more likely. This delay has also meant material and labor costs have been pushed up.

The Environmental Benefits of Congestion Pricing for New York

Aside from transportation benefits, a congestion toll for NYC will also bring about significant environmental benefits – many of which have already been realized in cities like Stockholm and London.

 

A congestion fee aims to deter commuters from entering Manhattan by private vehicle and instead encourage them to use public transport.

 

With less congestion on New York City roadways, there will be less air pollution from fuel consumption and a reduction in pollutant emissions.

 

In Stockholm alone, statistical modeling showed that the implementation of a congestion pricing program helped reduce around 20-25 premature deaths each year in the city's main area.

 

So, unfortunately, the new MTA funding won’t impact congestion pricing charges in New York City, and of course, many New Yorkers are upset about this. But when we look at the bigger picture, congestion pricing does seem to make sense.