“No more car for me”: will a $23 toll finally free Manhattan from the traffic jam? | New York

VSCould a lunar policy finally rid the most congested city in the country of its incessant, noisy and polluting traffic? Soon, more than a million drivers a day could be forced to pay up to $23 to enter downtown and lower Manhattan – a toll that planners say will raise $15 billion for finance New York transit while reducing the number of vehicles in the region by one-fifth.

Among the cars reportedly leaving the streets of Manhattan is a white Honda Accord that was parked Wednesday on East Broadway on the Lower East Side.

“If they add even more fees, then that’s it,” Felicita Mercado said as she got into the vehicle. “No more car for me.”

Instead, the 77-year-old New Yorker said she would start taking the bus.

The plan is called congestion pricing, and New York City is ready become the first city in the United States to implement it. Similar policies have long been in place in cities like Singapore, which has had congestion pricing since 1975, and London, where congestion charging has been in place since 2003. But in New York, a city synonymous with traffic congestion, the policy struggled to overcome opposition for decades before finally being enacted in 2019.

On Wednesday, transport authorities issued a long-awaited statement Environmental assessment for politics, a milestone that explains how the plan will affect the city. “Bottom line: Congestion pricing is good for the environment, good for public transit, and good for New York City and the region,” said Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) President and CEO Janno. Lieber, in a statement.

Public transport advocates call it a long-awaited victory. “This is a huge deal for all New Yorkers,” said Danny Harris, the head of Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit that has fought for the policy. “There is not a corner of the city that is not negatively impacted by our car priority policies. It’s a big step forward from being so car-centric, which reduces the number of people who drive and increases the number of people who use other sustainable modes to get around.

people walk through the station while the train is at the platform
New York’s Penn Station subway station in April. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Manhattan is an island connected to its neighbors by a network of bridges, tunnels, railroads and ferries. According to the report, about 7.7 million people enter Manhattan’s central business district each weekday, twice the population of Los Angeles. Of these people, just under a quarter – or 1.85 million – enter a motor vehicle. All that traffic has slowed travel speeds to an agonizing rate: from an average of 9.1 mph in 2010 to just 7.1 mph in 2019. That’s costing the average New York driver 102 hours of lost time every year.

Meanwhile, the public trains and buses used by the majority of the city are in dire need of upgrades. Many MTA railroads and subway tracks are over a century old and require billions of dollars in repairs. Studies have shown that most of the city’s bus routes — which are especially important for the city’s low-income residents — are excruciatingly slow and unreliable. And ridership numbers have worsened significantly since the pandemic, amid fears of Covid and crime.

This dynamic has generated enthusiasm for congestion pricing among lower Manhattan residents.

“There are too many people arriving for no good reason,” said the owner of a Chinatown bicycle shop, who requested anonymity. “They don’t come to work, they don’t come to do anything specific – they just drive because they’re lazy or afraid of the subway. It just sucks that people are driving useless juggernauts and destroying our infrastructure as well, which is causing cascades of other problems in the city.

“I wholeheartedly support heavy congestion pricing on passenger cars,” said Ben Eckersley, a 31-year-old Manhattan resident who lives on the Lower East Side. “We have a transit system designed only to get in and out of Manhattan from each borough. The fact that people use lower Manhattan as a transit point to get to New Jersey is wrong. The local pollution problems it causes, the traffic problems it causes are scandalous. We just don’t have the infrastructure for that.

The new study offers policymakers a number of toll scenarios, with peak-hour tolls ranging from $9 to $23 per vehicle. In some scenarios, vehicles such as taxis and transit buses would be completely exempt from the toll, while other vehicles would be charged a maximum of once per day. In another scenario, vehicles, including taxis, ride-sharing vehicles, trucks and buses, could be hit with congestion charges every time they enter or re-enter the zone on a given day.

Residents of the congestion zone earning less than $60,000 a year will be eligible for a tax credit to offset the cost of tolls, and emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying disabled people will be exempt from tolls, according to the law of 2019.

people walk on london street near double decker bus
A congestion charge sign is displayed in London in October, shortly before the city expands its Ultra Low Emissions Zone. Photography: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

The reward for all area residents should be noticeably less traffic and cleaner air. The study predicts that the number of vehicles in the area each day will decrease between 15.4 and 19.9 percent. Harmful airborne particles PM2.5 and PM10, which have been shown to cause cancer, would be reduced by more than 11%.

New York’s policy does not go as far as London’s, where drivers entering a “very low emission zone» have to pay a fee if their car does not meet energy efficiency standards. Since last year, this area has covered most of the British capital.

Harris, the public transportation advocate, hailed New York’s toll as a first step in recognizing the true impact of driving on society.

“The truth is that people never had to pay the real cost of driving because it was incredibly subsidized,” he said, citing policies such as the millions of free street parking.

But the toll’s success also depends on the city’s ability to speed up infrastructure for alternatives to driving, such as bike-sharing docks, protected bike lanes and bus-only lanes, before the toll is enforced. officially implemented, he said. Congestion pricing shouldn’t be about “taking people’s cars away”, he said, but about “giving you options to get around”.

“If you live in a community where you are forced to drive, pay for your car, and waste a large portion of your life in traffic, that means your city and the auto industry have continued to fail you. It’s about freeing people from that.

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