New York City’s worst traffic jam is reaching pre-pandemic levels, just as businesses seek to lure people into the office – triggering new calls for much delayed congestion pricing.
A recent report by the Texas Transportation Institute revealed that New York surpassed Los Angeles as the most congested large metropolitan area in the United States last year. Hourly data from StreetLight, meanwhile, shows that traffic is currently barely below pre-COVID levels – even though many New Yorkers continue to work remotely and subway ridership remains low.
âRight now people who have to report to work are driving more than ever,â Matt Carmody of transport company AKRF told The Post. In the early afternoon, cities like New York actually see After traffic than before COVID, he said.
âIt has become a ‘rush afternoon’. It starts earlier and it’s worse than ever, âCarmody said. “People are really going to have to take trains and buses back, or it’s going to get a lot worse than it is today.”
The state-approved congestion charge in 2019 could solve the problem by discouraging car travel and pushing New Yorkers on the subway, experts and advocates say. But the program was stalled for 20 months under the Trump administration, and the MTA has yet to reveal a new implementation schedule.
In the meantime, traffic has gotten bad enough to prompt urgent appeals from city officials to have tolls on Manhattan car trips below 60th Street in place as soon as possible.
The next alleged mayor Eric Adams and current mayor Bill de Blasio called attention to the issue this month, with Adams Tweeter a call for âASAPâ and de Blasio tolls urging them to launch by July 2022.
The specter of increased traffic congestion worries businesses and real estate companies eager to bring workers back to the office. Snail-speed traffic could force more professionals to work from home and hamper the city’s economic recovery – which is already losing about $ 20 billion a year to traffic jams, according to the Partnership for NYC.
“It’s on the way home, it’s here – and we’re not even at the point where the offices are reopened yet, which is going to happen in the next few months,” said Jim Whelan, chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York.
“They should try to get [congestion pricing] done as quickly as possible.
âEven without tourism, congestion is back – and it will be a lot worse in September,â said Partnership for NYC president Kathryn Wylde. âThe pandemic has made it clear that commute time matters more than ever to people. People have a lot less patience with wasted travel time than ever before now that they have become accustomed to working remotely.
Wylde said congestion pricing would create a âdouble benefitâ by pushing people onto trains and buses while raising $ 15 billion for improved public transportation.
Economist and transit advocate Charles Komanoff estimates that the tolls would put millions of dollars in the pockets of businesses, small businesses and individuals.
âThe classic congestion pricing winner will be ‘the man with the van’,â Komanoff said. âBecause the traffic is going to be noticeably faster, they will be able to service six jobs per day instead of five. It probably means raising a few hundred extra dollars.
The MTA says congestion charges arrive on time, but a federally-mandated environmental assessment must be completed first.
âThe Federal Highway Administration is asking us to conduct an EA with strong public awareness, something that we agree is necessary,â said MTA spokesperson Ken Lovett.
âWe will be coordinating with many transportation and environmental agencies federally and throughout the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Assessment Area. We will also conduct outreach activities with environmental justice communities, tribal nations, other stakeholders and the general public. “