Apr 9, 2024 - News

🚦 Congestion pricing stalled in D.C.

illustration of cars driving on a dollar sign

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New York City is about to embark on a big urban experiment to charge vehicles $15 for driving into Manhattan. Those pushing D.C.'s stalled flirtation with congestion pricing will be watching it closely.

Why it matters: New York's goal is to reduce traffic, improve air quality, and raise money for public transit improvements.

⚡ How it works: Decades in the making, the policy will take effect in mid-June. With few exceptions, passenger cars will be charged $15 a day to enter Manhattan's so-called "central business district."

  • All of Manhattan south of 60th Street will essentially become a toll road.
  • Hailing a ride? That'll be a $1.25-per-ride taxi surcharge. An Uber or Lyft will cost an extra $2.50.

Between the lines: Public comments submitted to New York's transit agency have run 60% in favor of the plan, but there's powerful opposition.

The big picture: It's a first-in-the-nation policy that other American cities — like Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. — might be eager to copy. Or not.

ğŸ”Ž Zoom in: The District Department of Transportation funded a study in 2019 about congestion pricing, but the Bowser administration has refused to release it to the public.

  • That has led to a tug of war between the mayor and the D.C. Council, which mandated Bowser release the study on Jan. 1, 2024.
  • Alas, still no study.

The intrigue: If it's any hint of her position, Bowser last year called a proposed $2 congestion charge for ridesharing a "downtown killer." Bowser has been pushing for more incentives to bring people back downtown after COVID, including asking the federal government to release unused office space and encouraging office-to-residential conversions.

  • DDOT did not return an email seeking comment on the study.

Friction point: Opponents argue that congestion pricing in D.C. would inevitably rile up DMV suburbs and potentially lead to a clash with Congress.

  • Plus: A commuter tax on Maryland or Virginia drivers may run afoul of the Home Rule Act of 1973, City Paper recently noted.

What we're watching: In the Big Apple, there are half a dozen lawsuits in federal courts, any of which could halt or block its implementation.

The bottom line: Don't expect D.C. congestion pricing any time soon.


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