Lessons Learned from New York City’s Congestion Pricing Experience

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City
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New York City’s Congestion Pricing Experience and Implications for Road Pricing Acceptance in the United States (18 page pdf, Transport Policy, August 2010)

New York City’s congestion pricing experiment failed to achieve legislative approval at the state level despite local support but the process followed has many lessons for other cities with the same objective but with different political constraints. One important conclusion from this report was the need to ensure that individual drivers are not disadvantaged.

Key Quotes:


assesses the implications of the New York City experience for public acceptance and adoption of road pricing nationally, including both congestion pricing and mileage-based fees, which are widely seen as the long-term future of transportation finance”

“The proposal benefitted profoundly from being part of an ambitious and wide-ranging sustainability plan [ PlaNYC]whose fundamental goals and values were environmental stewardship, urban vitality and enhanced quality of life“

“pricing programs need to be formulated such that drivers see fees or tolls as benefitting individual drivers …New York City residents backed the proposal by a 67% to 27% margin provided that the money was used for expanded transit service.. Without the provision for use of the funds, only 40% of New York City residents supported congestion pricing,“

“Why didn’t this broad consensus for sustainable modes translate into approval of a congestion pricing proposal that had considerable support? The short answer is that a relatively small group of auto users believed that congestion pricing was against their best interest..Those most strongly opposed to congestion pricing felt that mass transit was not and would not become a viable alternative to driving.“

“lessons for others who seek to design and gain approval of pricing proposals:

Building support of pricing proposals.. leadership provided by City Hall coupled with an extensive public outreach and education campaign and strong advocacy from the civic community.

Design of pricing proposals.. be sited, designed and mitigated so as to leave no victims in their wake.. Most successful pricing projects in the United States have offered drivers a non-priced roadway alternative.. HOT lanes, for example, provide a choice of priced lanes and unpriced general purpose lanes.”

“It is widely viewed that mileage-based taxes need to replace the gas tax as the primary source of transportation funding over the next several decades.. mileage-based pricing can include a congestion pricing overlay that focuses on the places and times of greatest congestion, more precisely targeting congestion reduction than cordon or area congestion pricing is able to do.“

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