Congestion pricing schemes gain steam

New York state legislators voted in March to impose the country’s first congestion pricing program in New York City beginning in 2021. Now Chicago’s new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, said she is considering a congestion pricing system, too.

Chicago news media reported in August that congestion pricing was being explored as a possible means of closing the city’s annual budget shortfall of $1 billion. The plan would likely impose fees for entering a zone including the city’s downtown “Loop” and “Magnificent Mile” areas.

A city official told reporters that the city already had imposed “hefty property and state income tax increases” so other revenues must be found. “There is a lot that could be done that would not be onerous for people coming into the Loop as long as you provide alternatives for people who have to be coming in,” he said.

Details of the New York City pricing plan are yet to be decided but a new coalition of private bus and motorcoach operators is taking on congestion fees and other issues facing operators in the city.

The congestion plan will be imposed in Manhattan’s central business district. The industry is concerned that the plan will focus on revenue generation rather than efficient transportation utilization.

A coalition, BUS4NYC, has been formed to represent the industry. It has expressed its support for congestion pricing and argued that buses should be considered part of the solution to reducing traffic and air pollution. An estimated 731,000 cars enter central Manhattan daily.

The New York State Senate and Assembly passed a fiscal year 2020 budget on March 31 and included the congestion plan endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A Traffic Mobility Board will be appointed to settle the details, but newspapers reported that 80 percent of funds generated will be designated for capital projects for the regional transit bus, subway and commuter rail systems.

Fees will be set by the new board. Sources told reporters they could be around $6.12 per entrance or exit from the designated zone or $12.24 if collected only on entry. Trucks could be charged double the base fee.

Exemptions are expected for some users, including emergency vehicles, disabled drivers and people who earn $60,000 or less annually. Exemptions for private buses and motorcoaches have not been not mentioned.


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