Analysis | Gov. Kathy Hochul’s odd argument against New York congestion pricing (2024)

There were several reasons offered in support of the congestion pricing plan that was supposed to go into effect in New York at the end of the month. One was to address congestion — hence the name — by making it more expensive to bring a vehicle into parts of Manhattan. Another was to use the money raised from the program to improve public transit. Both outcomes contribute to another outcome: reduced greenhouse gas emissions as people switch from cars to trains and buses.

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Despite having repeatedly and recently backed the proposal, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) suddenly announced Wednesday that the plan would be put on indefinite hold. Her arguments for doing so were odd, suggesting either a fundamental misunderstanding of the proposal or an indifference to appearing that she misunderstood.

She offered a few arguments. Fewer people are coming into the city, hurting businesses such as restaurants that depend on workers, so they shouldn’t be further discouraged from doing so. What’s more, the pressure people face from inflation would make the fee for entering parts of Manhattan particularly painful.

“Let’s be real: 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,” she said. “It puts the squeeze on the very people who make this city go: the teachers, first responders, small business workers, bodega owners.”

There are a few important points here. One is that the plan would not apply to all of Manhattan, just the area south of 60th Street. That means that Central Park, Lincoln Center, many of the most famous museums — all of these would be exempt from congestion pricing. The fees charged would vary with size of vehicle and time of day, with certain periods incurring lower costs.

Perhaps the most important point is that there are many ways to get into Lower Manhattan without driving — and most commuters into Manhattan are already likely to avail themselves of those options.

The Census Bureau collects data on commuter movements around the country. The most recent data covers the five-year period from 2016 through 2020, but it gives us a good indication from where people who work in Manhattan originated.

Most originate from … within New York City. Thirty percent of Manhattan employees in that period lived in Manhattan. An additional 40 percent lived in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens. Very few of these workers presumably get to their jobs by driving; it is much more likely that they avail themselves of the city’s far-cheaper and near-ubiquitous bus and subway system. (Many of these workers aren’t headed below 60th Street, of course, but that’s a different issue.)

About a quarter of those who come to work in Manhattan come from counties outside New York City. Many come from Long Island or Westchester County, to the city’s north. A lot come from across the Hudson River in New Jersey or from Connecticut. Many of those commuters probably take public transit as well; the Metro-North Railroad has spurs in Westchester, the Long Island Rail Road extends along its eponymous island and New Jersey Transit moves many people over and under the river. But many of those who drive into the city probably come from this 25 percent.


It seems safe to assume that many are probably also not teachers or bodega owners. (A number of them may be first responders, however.)

On average, the 20 non-New York counties that sent the most commuters into Manhattan during that five-year period had median incomes that were in the 91st percentile of counties nationally. Several of the counties that sent the most non-New York/most-likely-to-drive commuters were in the 99th percentile, and had the highest median incomes of any counties in the country. A lot of the residents of those counties work in those counties, of course. But we can assume that many are non-middle-class people who work below 60th Street in Manhattan.

It’s possible that some would indeed have balked at paying $15 a day to drive to work, choosing instead to meet with their colleagues by video chat. Parking garages south of 60th Street might have had fewer monthly customers — though garages on 61st and north, particularly those near train lines, would have seen a bonanza. But it is also possible that many of these commuters would have just paid the $15.


“This decision is about doing what’s right for the people who make our City thrive,” Hochul said in her announcement. “It’s about standing up for the hard-working men and women who get up every single day, do their jobs and just want a fair shake. The little guy who feels no one listens to them. I’m here to say, we are listening. This decision is about you.”

This is classic populist rhetoric, obviously, possibly cribbed from a book of Huey Long quotes. But it doesn’t match the reality, as detailed in a 2008 Department of Transportation (DOT) analysis of proposals limiting traffic to Manhattan’s central business district (CBD).

“Those who commute by car to the CBD earn comparatively higher incomes: New York City DOT staff analyzed the income levels of city and suburban residents who use the automobile as their primary mode to reach Manhattan jobs,” it read. It concluded that, “in aggregate, the fee would most impact commuters who earn 31 percent more than the median income of all Manhattan workers.”

The little guy, as it were.

Analysis | Gov. Kathy Hochul’s odd argument against New York congestion pricing (2024)


Why did Kathy Hochul stop congestion pricing? ›

Governor Kathy Hochul today addressed New Yorkers on affordability and the cost of living and directed the MTA to indefinitely pause congestion pricing to avoid added burdens to working- and middle-class families.

How did the governor decide congestion in New York? ›

An 11th-Hour Shift: Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that she was shelving the long-awaited congestion pricing plan just weeks before it was to go into effect, citing economic concerns and putting her in league with unlikely allies, including former President Donald Trump. What Happens Now?: First, the M.T.A. must vote.

How is congestion pricing in New York? ›

The basics of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plan were easy to understand: a $15 fee for daytime automobile commuters entering New York City at or below Manhattan's 60th Street — which would have been the first of its kind in the United States — designed to fund transit system improvements with an estimated ...

Who will be exempt from congestion pricing in NYC? ›

  • Qualifying authorized emergency vehicles (ambulances and fire vehicles)
  • Qualifying vehicles transporting people with disabilities.
  • Specialized government vehicles.
  • School buses contracted by the NYC Department of Education.
  • Commute vans licensed by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.

What that congestion pricing halted in NYC? ›

New York governor abruptly cancels nation's first 'congestion pricing' system that would have charged drivers entering Manhattan to fund subways. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul halted a plan to charge most motorists $15 to enter the core of Manhattan.

Who started congestion pricing NYC? ›

A congestion pricing scheme was proposed in 2007 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a component of PlaNYC, his strategic plan for the city.

How are cities trying to control traffic congestion? ›

Investing in efficient mass transit systems such as subways, light rails, and buses can alleviate traffic congestion. These systems offer a convenient alternative to private vehicles.

Why does New York City have a law against leaving an engine running? ›

Enter New York City's idling rule, meant to improve the city's air quality by prohibiting drivers from running their engines when they're not moving.

How is the government controlled who is in charge in New York? ›

Elected Officers and Appointed Officials

Only four statewide government officers are directly elected: The Governor, who heads the Executive Department, and Lieutenant Governor (who are elected on a joint ballot). The State Comptroller, who heads the Department of Audit and Control.

How will congestion pricing affect NYC? ›

As we expressed in our submission to the Court in lawsuits challenging the plan, Congestion Pricing would disproportionately impact the health and well-being of our workers, particularly those living in communities surrounding Manhattan, as it redistributes traffic, pollution and a significant financial burden to those ...

What are the positives of congestion charges? ›

Money collected from tolls can be used for road and public transport improvement, which gives commuters other options for transit to and from the city. 11 Companies involved in ridesharing and travel can see a boost in their bottom line. Congestion pricing helps to reduce pollution and the consumption of energy.

How much does congestion cost the US economy? ›

Answer: More than $81 billion.

According to transportation data company Inrix, the average driver in the U.S. spent 15 more hours in traffic than in 2021, for a total of 51 hours that equates to $869 in lost time.

Are electric vehicles exempt from congestion pricing? ›

Public-sector employees (teachers, police, firefighters, transit workers, etc.), those who live in the so-called CBD, utility companies, those with medical appointments in the area and those who drive electric vehicles had all been hoping to get be granted an exemption. They didn't get one.

Who doesn't pay Congestion Charge? ›

All alternatively-fuelled vehicles used to be exempt from the Congestion Charge but, since 25 October 2021, only zero-emission vehicles - such as EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles - have been exempt from the Congestion Charge. From 25 December 2025, however, even drivers of zero-emission cars will be required to pay.

How would congestion pricing affect Manhattan residents? ›

What part of Manhattan will be tolled? Starting on June 30, 2024 at 12:00 a.m., vehicles entering Manhattan south of and including 60 Street will be charged a toll. Vehicles traveling exclusively on the FDR Drive, West Street/West Side Highway, or the Hugh L. Carey connections to West Street will not be charged a toll.

Who brought in the congestion zone? ›

The Congestion Charge was introduced in 2003 by then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Initially, it cost £5 a day, but the fee has trebled to £15 a day for most drivers. A 'Western Extension' to the C-Charge zone, covering much of Kensington, Chelsea and Earl's Court, was introduced in 2007.

How did New York solve its water problem? ›

By the turn of the century, City leaders were again forced to expand the water supply. New York State passed legislation that created the New York City Board of Water Supply. It allowed the City to purchase watershed land in the Catskill Mountains and to create new reservoirs by damming streams and rivers.

How did the English get control over New York? ›

In 1664, the English sent a fleet to seize New Netherlands, which surrendered without a fight. The English renamed the colony New York, after James, the Duke of York, who had received a charter to the territory from his brother King Charles II.

Who was the found reason for New York? ›

European discovery of New York was led by the Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 followed by the first land claim in 1609 by the Dutch. As part of New Netherland, the colony was important in the fur trade and eventually became an agricultural resource thanks to the patroon system.

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