Blog Transportation

Principles for Congestion Pricing

February 13, 2019

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Fiscal Year 2020 Executive Budget proposes a program that would charge motor vehicles for entering Manhattan’s central business district, a program commonly known as congestion pricing. The Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) has long advocated that motorists pay a greater share of the costs of mass transit to offset the negative impacts of auto use, including traffic congestion and air pollution. Congestion pricing would accomplish this goal and improve travel speeds in the central business district. 

While the Executive Budget provides the contours of a congestion pricing system its more specific elements still must be determined. To aid State leaders in the design of an effective system, CBC draws upon its own research as well as that of other planning organizations in this region and around the world to recommend five principles to guide the crafting of a congestion pricing program: 

  1. Toll rates should serve the dual goals of raising revenue and reducing peak hour vehicle entries to the central business district. Tolls should vary by time of day and day of week to encourage off-peak travel, and impact of the program should be monitored for revenue generation and changes in peak hour vehicle volume.

  1. Exemptions or discounts to toll rates should be granted to emergency vehicles, vehicles already subject to a congestion charge—notably taxicabs and for-hire vehicles—and mass transit providers including non-MTA buses, but broader exemptions should be avoided. 

  1. Toll revenues should be used primarily to support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) capital program, and a share of toll revenues should support City-owned bridges relied upon by toll payers to enter the congestion pricing zone. 

  1. Installing and operating equipment required for the system should be the responsibility of the MTA and be implemented in collaboration with the City of New York.

  1. Authorizing legislation should include provisions to facilitate speedy creation of the system.