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Congestion pricing for Boston: As NYC goes, so goes here?

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New York would use the money from charging motorists to drive into Manhattan’s busier areas to bolster a lackluster mass transit system


It appears increasingly likely that officials in New York state will implement some form of congestion pricing for New York City. The likeliest scenario has authorities charging most motorists to drive into Manhattan’s central business district at busier times.

The money raised would in turn be used mostly to ballast the New York region’s aged and often failing mass transit.

If New York does flip into the congestion pricing column, it will be the first American city to do so—and obviously the largest. That begs the question: Will other cities, including Boston and surrounding Boston municipalities such as Cambridge, follow?

We’ve asked this before, but it’s worth asking again. Every month seems to bring fresh evidence of the awfulness of the Boston region’s vehicular traffic in terms of congestion and time lost to it. It’s some of the worst in the world and it’s getting worse.

Then there is the state of mass transit here. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority recently enacted a new set of fare hikes due to take effect in July. They were not greeted warmly. Riders did not seem sold on the agency’s assertion that the increases would spur improvements.

Besides, T fare hikes are unlikely to cure what ails the system longterm. Mass transit in Massachusetts—the T in particular—and the commonwealth’s roadways and bike infrastructure currently face enormous challenges in terms of funding. And not just for improvements or upgrades or future projects, but for basic maintenance.

A recent report from a group of Massachusetts business leaders and the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute projected an $8.4 billion funding gap for state transportation between 2019 and 2028.

So ... charging motorists to drive into the busier parts of Boston or the Boston region at busier times during the day and then using that money to bolster mass transit. Will New York’s march toward congestion pricing drive a similar move here?