How New York City can get congestion pricing right

Congestion pricing will soon be a reality in New York City—it’s due to be implemented before the end of 2020—but the specifics of a plan to charge drivers coming in and out of Manhattan have yet to be revealed.

But as a preview of what a congestion pricing plan could look like, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) has released a new report that includes specific policy recommendations, including four pricing schemes and ways to eliminate “toll shopping” (i.e. drivers clogging the cheapest bridges or tunnels to avoid a charge).

“Not every trip into the congestion zone is equal,” says Rachel Weinberger, a senior fellow at the RPA who worked on the report. “Nobody wants to pay for something they’ve been getting for free all along,” Weinberger acknowledges, but the benefits of the highest charge outweigh the possible unpopularity of imposing a higher fee on drivers who’ve previously paid nothing to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

Other recommendations in the report include implementing two-way tolling—so charging drivers as they enter and exit the central business district—in order to avoid the dreaded toll shopping. “It adds to pollution, it adds to congestion, especially in areas near the cheaper crossings,” says Kate Slevin, the RPA’s senior vice president of state programs and advocacy. Two-way tolling, however, will “permit prices to be tailored to most effectively reduce congestion since the traffic patterns of morning and evening peaks differ,” according to the report.

Read more in Curbed NY