NY congestion fees should be expensive, planning organization says

New York City’s approaching congestion fees should be set high enough to discourage driving in the central business district, suggests a new report from the Regional Plan Association. This document, as others published so far, does not specifically address the fees that should be charged private transit modes such as buses and motorcoaches.

The six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board that will create the pricing plan has not been appointed.

The fees, approved by state legislators and set to be enforced in 2021, will be expected to raise $1 billion annually to improve public transit systems in the region.

However, the report argues, “Relieving congestion, the original rationale for congestion pricing, is as important as raising revenue for transit and should be a primary goal of program design. Prices should be highest when congestion is greatest. Larger vehicles have a larger impact and should be charged more.”

Furthermore, RPA stated, congestion pricing “is designed explicitly to reduce traffic by discouraging driving in and during the most congested part and time of the region.”

In summary, the document suggests, “Set prices high enough to cover system costs and to ensure that congestion reduction and revenue goals are met. To prevent abuse of the program, strong enforcement measures should be implemented.”

The RPA presented four pricing scenarios. One would impose a flat day rate of $6.12 and night rate of $3.06 to enter and depart the zone. The others would impose peak hour charges of $7.14 to $9.18 with off-peak or night charges of $3.06 to $5.10.

While not mentioning for-profit bus and motorcoach operators, the plan does suggest that “taxis and other for-hire vehicles” should be exempted from congestion charges but should continue to pay current surcharges—$2.50 or $2.75—on passenger fares.

BUS4NYC, a trade association of private bus operators and other businesses that serve New York, is working to prevent congestion fees from negatively impacting their services.

“The Regional Plan Association’s recent congestion pricing report provides some good metrics on how such a congestion zone should be implemented in New York City,” said Glenn Every, president of BUS4NYC and president of Tonche Transit of Mount Tremper, New York.

“However, it’s critical we recognize the economic engines of our private buses who provide public transportation to millions of riders into and out of New York City, especially if we really want to reduce traffic congestion,” Every said. “One formula for congestion pricing is quite simple… 50 cars equal one bus.

“Rather than focusing congestion pricing investments solely on rail, we need to invest in our bus infrastructure, similar to what London did before they implemented their congestion charge. Rail cannot do it alone, and the number of buses on the road compared to the number of cars pales in comparison. Buses are the game changer that can truly help take thousands of cars off the road,” Every said.

Pricing plans

All scenarios are predicted to reduce vehicle miles traveled in the zone by 3.7 to 3.8 percent. By reducing congestion, average vehicle speeds during weekday peak travel periods would increase 10.3 percent to 15.6 percent, depending on the fee. Carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced 7.0 to 7.1 percent.

“These emission reductions would result in over $100 million in estimated health cost savings annually. The model also projects that each scenario would result in 750 fewer traffic-related injuries and four fewer deaths each year,” according to RPA.

New York City will become the country’s first area to impose congestion pricing, which has been imposed in London, Stockholm, Milan and Singapore.

“By pricing traffic congestion, these cities have succeeded in speeding travel, funding and improving public transit, reducing air pollution and achieving better public health outcomes,” stated the report, which was released in September.

The Regional Plan Association is a not-for-profit organization that recommends measures to improve the quality of life and economic competitiveness of 31 counties in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Technology vendor selected

MTA awarded a $507-million contract in October to TransCore of Tennessee to design, build, operate and maintain the tolling infrastructure that will track and charge vehicles entering the congestion zone.


Share this post