The first phase of a new congestion fee has gone into effect in New York. It’s meant to generate cash for the city’s mass transit system. Taxis and ride-hailing companies are coughing up.
CGTN’s William Denselow reports on whether this plan can get the city that never sleeps, moving again.
Augustine Tang is used to gridlock. He’s been driving a cab for the last three and a half years. He said the introduction of ride-hailing companies like Uber has made congestion worse.
Eight drivers- including one Augustine knew personally- have committed suicide over the past year, prompting some to call the new fee a “suicide tax.” Increased competition, working conditions and falling wages have been blamed.
Augustine believes the new congestion fee could lead to a drop in fares and make things even worse for drivers.
“It’s going to hurt our yearly income by $15,000 pay-cut at least,” Tang said.
It’s not just taxis impacted by this congestion charge.
Those using ride-hailing companies in certain parts of Manhattan are now hit with a tax of $2.75. But if they’re ride sharing- that fee is only 75 cents. Uber and Lyft said they support the surcharge but want all other vehicles included too.
They may get their wish. There are growing calls from New York’s governor for a congestion zone like those seen in London, Stockholm and Singapore.
“All these systems that set a toll around a central area,” Ben Fried, communications director for New York’s Transit Center said. “They do work well.”
City officials said the current congestion fee will generate $1 million a day to fund subway improvements. Experts believe a cash injection is desperately needed.
“It’s a system in crisis. It did not happen overnight,” Lisa Daglian of the Permanent Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the MTA said. “Years of disinvestment and disrepair have led to the despair that so many riders feel.”
Some officials are pushing ultimately for a congestion surcharge for all motorists driving in the city.
New York has introduced the “fast-forward” plan to modernize the city’s subway and buses.
Analysts believe it’ll cost upwards of $40 billion. But the hope is that if the funds start flowing, the city will too.