New York City will be the first in the nation to implement the measure.
With a green light from the Federal Highway Administration, the state of New York will start charging congestion pricing for motorists looking to enter the Manhattan Central Business District. It’s the first plan of this kind in the US but is something that’s been used elsewhere before as a way to discourage people from driving in certain areas. Still, not everyone is convinced this is a great way to manage any metropolitan’s traffic flow.
According to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, this plan will “reduce traffic in our crowded downtown, improve air quality and provide critical resources to the MTA.” In other words, cars are allegedly a large contributor to crowding and air pollution on Manhattan, plus mass transit doesn’t have enough resources as is. People, of course, have opinions on those points.
We’re more concerned about how NPR excitedly published an interview all about other cities considering doing something similar now that the federal government has okayed it. We know even midsize cities in the US have tried to take away traffic lanes, introduced light rail, expanded bike lanes, and eliminated parking options all to discourage people from driving in downtown areas. This might be the next weapon used in their growing arsenal.
The reality is whenever you put a price on activities, it’s going to affect the poor the most and the wealthy the least. That should be intuitively known by all, yet some seem shocked by the revelation. Does that then make congestion pricing immoral? What about just regular toll roads? Or gas tax? Where is the line of fairness?
Usually, the response is that beefing up mass transit will provide equality, especially for the poor, making it unnecessary to own a car. While one could argue that in compact cities like New York or San Francisco, a good portion of the US is in areas where cities are far more spread out. Yet we strongly suspect metropolitan centers in those areas will try to implement a similar plan as they try creating landlocked, miniature New York Cities.
Of course, the justification will be something about saving the planet by stopping people from driving their cars, plus wealth inequality and maybe a few other talking points. The result could be a reversal of many downtown revitalization projects from the past decade-plus as these metropolitan centers once again become a place others in the area avoid visiting.
Image via Roberto Lee Cortes