Skip to main content

­Congestion Pricing: Tough but Needed

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 18:12


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says that on a typical weekday in Manhattan’s central business district, cars and trucks crawl along at an average speed of 7 miles per hour. Something like 900,000 people enter the borough by vehicle each day, the impact of which can be “measured in higher air and noise pollution levels, lost productivity, increased emergency response times, and an eroded quality of life,” according to the M.T.A.’s Traffic Mobility Review Board.

“It is time to do better,” the board wrote in a November 2023 report that supported the implementation of congestion pricing in 2024, which would establish a toll for vehicles entering Manhattan from 60th Street and below, excluding certain roadways such as the West Side Highway and F.D.R. Drive.

We agree that it’s time to do better. There is precedent showing that congestion pricing works, for instance in Stockholm, where this type of toll went into effect in 2006. The volume of traffic decreased by 22 percent within a year, and “some critics later came around when they saw that congestion pricing had helped unsnarl the streets,” The New York Times reported in December. Less vehicle traffic means fewer fossil fuel emissions, which adds up to benefit the entire planet.

But it won’t be without repercussions for East Enders, who are not adequately served by the Long Island Rail Road. In Ronkonkoma, you can catch a train to points west a couple of times an hour. In our region, it’s a couple of times a day. In the absence of the same level of train service to which other parts of Long Island have access, the Hampton Jitney has emerged as a viable, if somewhat expensive, commuter option.

What, then, to do about the proposed 30-percent increase in tolls for Jitney buses entering Midtown? Isn’t it already expensive enough to live out here? An M.T.A. spokesman said this week that tolls for coach buses that don’t have municipal contracts will rise from $41.12 to $53.12 per trip through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, inclusive of a discount for those making a round trip. The Hampton Jitney has balked at this prospect, asking riders in an email last week to help the company lobby for an exemption to the tolls to prevent it from having to raise its fares.

Maybe there’s a compromise to be found. Could the M.T.A. establish a discount for coach bus services that cater to commuters in regions that are underserved by public transportation? Could it commit to investing the toll’s proceeds to meaningfully boost train and bus service on the East End?

Or maybe the Jitney and its customers should buck up and pay a little bit more per trip in acknowledgment that it’s time to do their part to ease the city’s extreme traffic congestion and the environmental and public health risks that creates.

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.