New York City expressway at dusk.

A controversial plan what would have required trucks to pay a $24 or $36 toll to enter New York City has been put on hold. 

Photo: Alexa Zabach

A controversial plan to mitigate the number of vehicles in New York City with tolls is on hold – for now.

New York Governor Kathy Houchul announced on June 6 that she was postponing the implementation of the Central Business District Tolling Program. The program, the country’s first congestion pricing program, was set to begin in the Congestion Relief Zone early on Sunday, June 30, at 12:01 a.m.

Under the program, most passenger cars would be charged $15 a day to enter the “congestion zone” in Manhattan. Trucks and buses would pay a toll of $24 or $36 during the peak period, depending on their size and function, and $6 or $9 during overnight periods.

“Circumstances Have Changed"

The plan has drawn fire since its inception.

Manhattan is one of the most congested city centers in the world. And the Manhattan Transit Authority touted the plan as a means of allowing as many as 100,000 fewer vehicles entering the congestion zone every day. This would result in reduced congestion in Manhattan, along with cleaner air, MTA said.

However, the plan was attacked by various New York business groups, including the Trucking Association of New York. These groups noted that New York City is also one of the most powerful and important economic centers in the world. And that the tolls would unfairly penalize trucking companies and other businesses that move nearly 90% of all goods throughout New York’s five boroughs.

Unsurprisingly, a slate of lawsuits against the plan have been filed. The New York Times reported that at least six major lawsuits have4 bene filed in federal courts in both New York and New Jersey seeking to delay or block the Central Business District Tolling Program from going into effect.

Reacting to the opposition on June 6, Gov. Houchul said, “Circumstances have changed and we must respond to the facts on the ground — not from the rhetoric from five years ago. So, after careful consideration, I have come to the difficult decision that implementing the planned congestion pricing system risks too many unintended consequences for New Yorkers at this time. For that reason, I have directed the MTA to indefinitely pause the program.”

Houchul added that her administration remains committed to advancing improvements New Yorkers were promised by the congestion mitigation program.

She said that includes immediate investments in reliability and accessibility, including track repairs, new signals, adding more elevators at subway and commuter stations. It means security cameras and other technologies to improve safety for riders throughout the system. And it means moving forward with transformative projects, like the extension of the Second Avenue Subway and the Interborough Express.

Houchul noted that the decision to implement congestion tolling in New York City was a pre-COVID pandemic plan. Now that many employees work from home, she said there is less of a need to reduce both vehicle and foot traffic in the city.

But, her main focus in delaying congestion tolling is economic in nature.

“Let’s be real, she said, “a $15 charge may not mean a lot to someone who has the means, but it can break the budget of a working- or middle-class household. It puts the squeeze on the very people who make this City go: the teachers, first responders, small business workers, bodega owners. And given these financial pressures, I cannot add another burden to working- and middle-class New Yorkers – or create another obstacle to continued recovery.”

Toll Opponents Speak Out

The Trucking Association of New York (TANY) and the Metropolitan Trucking Association both previously voiced concerns about the Central Business District Tolling Program.

The two associations filed a lawsuit to block or delay the implementation of the plan on May 30.

Kendra Hems, president of TANY, said in a statement that the association welcomed news of the delay. She also said that any future iteration of the plan must take the needs of the New York trucking industry into account.

“The trucking industry appreciates that Gov. Kathy Hochul has recognized the flaws in the current congestion pricing framework, and welcomes her decision to indefinitely postpone its implementation,” Hems said. “TANY strongly believes that the current tolling structure is unconstitutional and unfairly targets trucking and logistics companies, which are charged far higher rates than passenger vehicles. Any future iteration or implementation of congestion pricing must include reform to protect the trucking industry and prevent increased costs for businesses and consumers on both sides of the Hudson.”

“We appreciate Governor Hochul making the decision to reevaluate Congestion Pricing at this time,” said Patrick Hyland, executive director, Metropolitan Trucking Association. “While well intentioned, we had serious concerns how it would affect the heavy construction industry which relies on trucks making multiple deliveries/hauls per day. We look forward to engaging with the Governor’s Administration and Legislature on funding the MTA Capital Program going forward.”

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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