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Drivers in NYC may soon have to pay up to $23 to enter Manhattan

Congestion pricing is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

New Yorkers have been hearing rumors about the potential implementation of congestion pricing in Manhattan and, now, the proposal is one step closer to become a reality. 

If the plan were to pass, drivers entering Manhattan's "central business district" (defined as the area between 60th Street and Battery Park) would automatically be charged an electronic toll of up to $23 a day. Folks riding through the West Side Highway and FDR Drive, though, would not be tolled. 

According to an assessment released by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), if the program were to kick off, traffic in the city could potentially decline by 15% to 20%. However, the implementation of congestion pricing could potentially worsen traffic in other boroughs. Another plus: pollution would likely drop by 11% in midtown and lower Manhattan and by about 9% uptown.

The proposal has been a long time coming: local lawmakers approved the plan back in 2019, hoping to kick start it by 2021. That didn't happen because the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) must approve the project as well and it did not do so under then-President Donald Trump's administration.

NYC from above
Photograph: Shutterstock

Just yesterday, though, the FHWA announced that it had looked through and approved the required environmental assessment (which, according to a press release "evaluates the effects of the program compared with taking no action") and is scheduled to review submitted public comments by September 9.

Following the announcement, the MTA explained that the pricing hike could be implemented within 10 months of approval. 

Specifically, the assessment dissected seven different scenarios for the unrolling of the tolling plan, with peak-time rates to enter the selected district ranging from $9 to $23. According to NBC4, "in virtually all configurations of the plan, peak would run from 6am to 8pm on weekdays and 10am to 10pm on weekends."

If the plan were to pass, New York would be the first major city in the U.S. to implement such a measure. The city of London is the only other comparable example in the world at the moment as citizens have been paying a similar charge there since 2003.

Although the idea of a less traffic-heavy New York is certainly an enticing one, especially given the fact that most New Yorkers don't often drive around town but prefer to use public transportation, it's important to note that, if green-lit, the congestion pricing plan would affect virtually all citizens who wish to get on and off the island during peak hours. As they say: you win some, you lose some.

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