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Congestion pricing in Boston: New York’s move adds to the conversation

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Still, there are no pending plans to charge most motorists for driving in the city’s busier areas


Congestion pricing is coming to Manhattan. New York lawmakers passed such a mechanism as part of the next state budget.

The move will make New York City the first U.S. city to implement a broad surcharge for driving in and out of the busier parts of town—in this case, roughly south of 60th Street in Manhattan. Myriad details remain to be worked out, but New York’s move certainly amplifies the conversation about congestion pricing working in other cities.

But only the conversation. As of early April, no cities have similar plans—including Boston.

“We’ve been really focused on the levers we have at hand,” Chris Osgood, Mayor Marty Walsh’s chief of streets, transportation and sanitation, told the Wall Street Journal, referencing efforts to speed bus service and to increase biker and pedestrian safety.

In other words, congestion pricing for now is not on the table.

Available polling on the subject suggests that congestion pricing would not be too popular with the populace. But, interestingly, in New York, the idea drew support from just about every channel. Business groups, transit activists, policy wonks, elected officials who normally aren’t on speaking terms (Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio)—all lined up behind the idea, though the final implementation might yet spark fissures.

For one thing, like Boston, New York has epically bad traffic congestion. And, like the Boston region, the New York area’s mass transit is crumbling. Congestion pricing is meant to ease the latter and fund repairs for the former.

The T could certainly use some more money. And fare hikes every couple of years aren’t going to do it. What’d you think?