Would you think twice? If you had to pay $11.52 to drive south of 60th Street in Manhattan during peak weekday hours, would you take the Long Island Rail Road and leave your car home?
A panel of experts called Fix NYC is counting on that behavior change in its bold, promising attempt to tackle two of the region’s biggest problems: broken transit and gridlocked streets. And a report released this week from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign gives even more reason to support congestion pricing: far fewer Long Island commuters drive into midtown or downtown Manhattan than those who take public transit. In a Senate district analysis, the campaign found that between 1.5 percent and 5 percent of Nassau and Suffolk commuters would incur the congestion charge, while up to 18.6 percent take public transit and could benefit from the extra revenue a congestion plan could bring.
The plan starts with improving subways and buses and enforcing traffic laws. Then, it recommends a $2 to $5 surcharge on all taxi and for-hire vehicle trips, and a zone from 60th Street to the southern tip of Manhattan where drivers would pay a once-a-day fee of $11.52 (though if you take the Midtown Tunnel, RFK Bridge, or High L. Carey Tunnel, you wouldn’t double-pay). The revenue would go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — mostly to city trains and buses, but some to the suburbs as well.
It’s a thorough proposal, and a very good start. But transforming ideas into reality will require advocacy, political will and compromise. Long Island elected officials will play a key role in deciding the outcome. So any plan has to be palatable to suburbanites. Changes — such as reduced tolls for outerborough bridges like the Throgs Neck, Verrazano and Whitestone — should be considered.
Don’t let this plan get stuck in traffic.