Congestion pricing is being touted as one of several possible ways of funding much-needed subway repairs, but don’t expect it to be a quick fix. According to the Wall Street Journal, MTA president Patrick Foye told state lawmakers yesterday that a congestion pricing plan—which would impose a surcharge on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street at peak times—could take two years to implement.
“It took three years-plus in London,” Foye said during an MTA oversight hearing held by the state Senate. “We believe we can do it in two.”
The push for congestion pricing has been gaining steam, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerging as an enthusiastic champion in recent months. (Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, is still on the fence.) Though the exact details of such a plan have yet to be ironed out, it’s estimated that a traffic surcharge could generate as much as $15 billion through 2024—money that could then be used to fix the subway, among other things. Cuomo recently stated that any congestion pricing revenue should be held in a “lockbox” that would dedicate those resources to MTA capital projects.
According to the WSJ, MTA managing director Ronnie Hakim said that the agency would prioritize signal and accessibility upgrades, should funding from congestion pricing come through.
One small piece of a more comprehensive congestion pricing plan is already in effect: Earlier this month, a State Supreme Court judge ruled that a proposed surcharge on taxis and for-hire vehicles could proceed; that levies a per-trip fee of $2.50 for taxis and $2.75 for green cabs and other for-hire vehicles like Lyfts and Ubers making trips in Manhattan below 96th Street. The Taxi Workers Alliance is still challenging the surcharge in court.
But the fate of a larger program is in the hands of state lawmakers; the state budget is due on April 1, and legislators are reportedly discussing congestion pricing among themselves and with constituents.