Before COVID-19, 700,000 vehicles entered the Central Business District (CBD) each day. That was more than 255 million vehicles each year. Average traffic speeds were only 7 miles per hour in the CBD, and even slower in Midtown. While traffic dropped to 30% of normal levels in April 2020, by Summer 2021 it was close to where it was before COVID-19 began. This congestion is bad for the economy, the environment, and the quality of life for people who live in the CBD, as well as for commuters, business owners, and visitors.
Congestion makes travel slow and unreliable. Traffic increases the time it takes to get somewhere, reduces bus service quality, and costs businesses, since workers cannot do as much when they spend a lot of time in traffic.
Quick Facts on Congestion
- Congestion has clogged Manhattan streets for decades, with approximately 700,000 vehicles, pre-pandemic, entering the CBD daily, according to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council.
- While traffic dropped to roughly 30% of normal levels in April 2020, it rebounded quickly; by Summer 2021, it was close to pre-pandemic levels.
- The American Lung Association’s 2021 "State of the Air" report lists the NY Metro region as among the 15 worst for ozone pollution in the United States.
- Congestion in the New York City region will cost businesses, commuters, and residents $100 billion over the next five years, according to a 2018 analysis by the Partnership for New York City.
- New York City was ranked as the worst among U.S. cities in terms of congestion by the 2020 INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard.
- New Yorkers lose 133 hours on average each year due to traffic congestion, which costs them $1,859 in lost productivity and other costs.
- Between 2010 and 2018, average travel speeds in the Manhattan CBD decreased 23%, from 9.1 mph to 7 mph.
Our Public Transit Needs Investment
Public transit is important to the New York City metropolitan region. Before COVID-19, more than 75% of trips into the area south of 60th Street in Manhattan were made by bus, subway, commuter railroad, or ferry. The millions of people living in the New York City metropolitan region need easy transit options. Problems in the system cause people to be late to work; miss medical, school, and other important appointments; and to spend more time away from family.
MTA ridership had increased nearly 50% in the 20 years before COVID-19. At the same time, the money invested in the MTA for public transit improvements fell by 8%. The MTA needs a regular source of money for its $54.1 billion 2020-2024 Capital Plan. The revenue from the Central Business District Tolling Program (CBDTP) would help maintain and modernize the existing transportation system, and help provide more capacity, reliability, and accessibility. It would also help low-income and minority communities.
After paying the cost of running the CBDTP, 80% of the money would be used to improve and modernize New York City Transit, which runs the subway system and buses; 10% would go to Long Island Rail Road, and 10% to Metro-North Railroad. A regular source of money from the CBDTP that can be used only for subway, bus, and commuter railroad projects would help make them all faster, more accessible, and more reliable for everyone.
Benefits of Central Business District Tolling Program
The Central Business District Tolling Program could deliver many benefits for New York City, including:
- Reduced traffic in and around the Manhattan CBD
- A regular source of money to improve and modernize MTA subway, bus, and commuter railroads
- Better air quality
- Promoting equity by providing expanded access to the transit system
- Reduced travel times
Congestion Pricing Success Stories
Other major cities have congestion pricing. All have been successful.
- 25% reduction in traffic congestion
- 25% increase in average speeds
- 10-14% drop in carbon dioxide pollution
- 6-9% increase in use of public transportation
- 25% drop in congestion in central London
- 30% increase in average speeds
- 20% drop in carbon dioxide pollution
- 24% drop in weekday traffic entering the Central Business Zone
- Increase in average travel speeds