NYC Car Owners Respond to Proposed Congestion Pricing

Optimism about subway improvements, but concerns about steep fees

| 17 Aug 2022 | 10:40

The MTA’s congestion-pricing plan proposed last week for Manhattan has sparked controversy among New Yorkers. Under one version of the plan, commuters would pay a once-per-day $9 fee during “peak time” when entering the Central Business District, defined as Manhattan south of 60th Street. However, in another scenario, the fee could end up being as high as $23.

Car owners living in or commuting through Lower Manhattan would likely be among the most affected by the new tolls. Proponents of the congestion fees say they would ameliorate the steadily plummeting traffic speeds in lower Manhattan. The money from the tolls will also finance a much-needed overhaul of the decaying subway system.

Noble Thomas, 25, a lifelong New Yorker who drives through Manhattan regularly, is optimistic about the potential improvements to the MTA system. “It would be great to have major subway work being done,” he says.

When it comes to the costly fees, Thomas acknowledges that “the price is steep.” However, he adds that “since it’s just south of 60th Street it’s something that can be planned around. Personally, I’d probably avoid it because the cost is a bit much, but generally I understand the reason behind the changes.”

“If it limits the amount of drivers in Manhattan and helps curb congestion on Canal Street, I’m for it,” agrees Jason Ross, a 24-year-old musician who recently moved to NYC from New Jersey.

“If you’re in Manhattan, the access you have with the subway is [as good as] any major city like London or Paris,” Ross continues. “You don’t need a car!”

Working from Home

Some, however, have argued that the congestion pricing would negatively impact New Yorkers returning to the office after COVID, further incentivizing them to continue working from home. Additionally, the prices would add to the already-formidable price of owning a car in NYC, including high insurance costs and expensive commercial garages.

There’s also the consideration that those paying the most in tolls —daily car commuters — would potentially be benefiting the least from the future MTA improvements.

“I think it’s unfair to charge people who aren’t even using the subway—to raise funds for the subway,” says Tyler Atwater, 26, an engineer who drives mostly in Brooklyn but sometimes to Lower Manhattan. “It’s people who’re driving into Manhattan so they can’t use the subway in the first place. And you’re going to charge them to fix the subway? It doesn’t make any sense.”

The AP reported that the MTA is scheduled to hold six public hearings on the plan during the last week of August.