Data Proves NYC Congestion Pricing is Progressive Policy

Congestion pricing is progressive policy, the Tri-State Campaign told the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission as public hearings on a potential congestion pricing plan began last week.

Some anti-pricing politicians seem to have dressed up for Halloween as populists defending “working stiffs” from a “regressive tax” on driving. But an analysis of Census data by TSTC and the Pratt Center for Community Development shows that, in all but one State Assembly district in NYC, vehicle-owning households are 50% wealthier than households without a vehicle; in nearly half of districts, average income is twice as high.

Furthermore, only a small minority of commuters drive alone to the proposed congestion pricing zone (CPZ); this is true not only in Manhattan but in the outer boroughs and the surrounding suburban counties. For example, only 5.1% of workers from Rockland County drive alone to the proposed CPZ. In Westchester, 3.4% of workers drive alone to the CPZ. In Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the percentages are even lower.

Fact sheets containing a breakdown of commuting patterns by mode and destination, vehicle ownership statistics, and the average incomes of vehicle-owning households and non-vehicle-owning households are available here. The fact sheets cover counties and City Council, state Assembly, state Senate, and U.S. Congressional districts in the New York metropolitan area.

Commission Hears Agency Presentations

The Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission held its second meeting last week and heard presentations from the MTA, NYSDOT, and NYCDOT.

The MTA’s William Wheeler detailed the transit improvements the MTA would enact in response to a congestion pricing plan, including new express bus routes in the “outer outer boroughs,” more frequent service on the 1 in Manhattan and the E and F in Queens, and longer trains on the C in Brooklyn. Wheeler said that diversions to transit in the suburbs would be minor and could be handled by existing commuter rail service. He concluded by calling congestion pricing a “unique opportunity” to grow transit ridership in the city and region.

NYCDOT’s Bruce Schaller explained the workings of the NYMTC Best Practice Model, which has generated much of the data underpinning the city’s congestion pricing plan. Commission member Assm. Richard Brodsky was skeptical. “It’s a good model, but it’s a model,” he said. On that point, we agree. More compelling than the model data are the real-world successes of congestion pricing in London and Stockholm. The best way to determine whether congestion pricing will work in NYC is to try it.

NYSDOT’s presentation focused on transportation improvements outside of NYC, including traffic information signs on major highways, expansion of MetroCard to buses in Rockland County, and additional park-and-ride lots in suburban areas. These suggestions would complement congestion pricing, but do not seem critical to the plan’s success.

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