Jun 6, 2024 - Energy & Environment

NY's congestion pricing fail isn't just about the Big Apple

Illustration of the "I Heart NY" logo with a flat tire replacing the heart.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's (D) 11th-hour decision to slam the brakes on congestion pricing in Manhattan is a national climate story.

Why it matters: Policies that explicitly impose costs on consumers face huge political hurdles, especially as frustration mounts over inflation.

Driving the news: Hochul halted plans to charge vehicles $15 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street during peak hours, citing burdens on working- and middle-class households.

  • The looming tolls were meant to reduce traffic, improve air quality and raise $1 billion annually for public transit improvements, Axios' April Rubin reports.

Thought bubble: Hochul cited specific circumstances, noting the plan was hatched pre-COVID, when office work still ruled and tourism was at record highs.

  • But it's nonetheless of a piece with a longstanding lack of political traction national carbon tax advocates have suffered with similar initiatives that pass added costs along to consumers.
  • Consider a new AP-University of Chicago poll, which finds 34% support a $20 monthly carbon fee, with 39% in opposition. Boost the price to $75 and support falls to 25%, with 49% opposed.

The bottom line: It's no coincidence that the largest-ever U.S. climate policy, President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, rests largely on tax incentives instead of fees.

Go deeper