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New York City is first American city to introduce congestion tolls similar to ERP

Singapore is the first in the world to implement congestion pricing.

Kayla Wong | May 24, 02:52 pm

Starting 2021, New York City will be the first city in the United States to charge drivers a fee to drive into the busiest parts of the city.

Where?

According to Politico, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators agreed to make the entire Manhattan area south of Central Park, or 60th Street, a “congestion-pricing zone”.

The plan, which was proposed since 2007, was approved on Monday, May 20.

The city’s subway system was experiencing a financial crisis that might see the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) cut service or increase fares.

New York City is the most densely populated city in the United States, with more than 10,000 people living per square kilometre.

In contrast, Singapore, which is about two-thirds the size of New York City, has a population density of about 7,900 per square kilometre.

How bad is the congestion in NYC?

The city of New York is one of the top 10 most congested cities in the U.S., according to the INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard.

The annual mobility report assessed that about 133 hours are lost due to congestion in the city — Boston ranks the highest with 164 hours lost due to congestion.

In addition, New York City is also the slowest city in the U.S., with “last mile” speeds of nine miles per hour, or 14km per hour.

This means it is faster to ride a bicycle than drive or take the bus.

The city has also long struggled with an outdated subway infrastructure that is plagued by rampant delays.

How much?

The new tolls are estimated to be around US$12 to US$14 (S$16 to S$19) per car and US$25 (S$34.50) per truck on weekdays.

The charge will be lower during nights and weekends.

Residents living in the central business district who earn less than US$60,000 (S$83,000) a year are exempted from the plan.

How is the plan going to help?

MTA will use the money raised, which is about US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) a year, to help improve the city’s transit system.

Danny Pearlstein, policy director for a pressure group called Riders Alliance, told Politico that the congestion pricing will correct “a failure in the market for a very scarce resource, which is New York City streets”.

The congestion pricing plan is estimated by economist Charles Komanoff to save drivers and bus passengers an average of 140,000 hours a day, or 50 million hours a year.

In addition, once revenue from the congestion pricing is invested in the transit system, faster and more reliable transit trips will eventually help save another 367,000 hours a day, or 134 million hours a year.

Some people not won over yet

But not everyone is on board with the plan.

According to The Guardian, Queens city councilman Barry Grodenchik opposed the new charge, saying “it is going to hurt the people who can least afford it”.

Rocky Karla, a 60-year-old delivery service owner, said he would have to raise prices for his customers because of the new charge.

He also doubted the plan would help with traffic congestion, as people still have to travel to the central business district for work.

Singapore first city to introduce congestion pricing

Politico also mentioned that congestion pricing has been effective in helping to reduce traffic and ease congestion in other cities.

For instance, the scheme has reduced central-city traffic in Singapore by 44 percent, in Stockholm by 10 to 15 percent, and by 25 percent in London.

While Nobel laureate and economist William Vickrey, a New Yorker, was the first to propose a congestion pricing plan, Singapore is the first city in the world to implement the scheme, known as the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system locally.

Top image by Jorge Fernández Salas via Unsplash

About Kayla Wong

Kayla's dog runs her life.

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