New York City is one of the major hubs for information, travel, and business. Along with its prominence as a massive urban center comes with the burden of various problems regarding infrastructure management.

One problem New York City is facing today is street congestion. The increased level of street traffic has resulted in longer travel times, decreased reliability, inefficient overcrowding, and damage to the local economy. Many individuals are forced to get to work late simply because they are sitting in traffic for twenty minutes without traveling more than three blocks.

The problem of congestion, however, is nothing new. It is a problem any metropolitan center faces and must manage.

Have you ever wondered why toll booths are constructed at main entry points to a city? Other than raising revenue for the local transportation authority, they also are intended to deter drivers from entering the city due to a fee. This in turn, should result in less congested streets and help ease the flow of traffic in major cities.

The emergence and increasing popularity of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, congestion is now being centralized within Manhattan. This creates a whole new array of problems for lawmakers to face since toll booths are obsolete in fighting the issue of local based ride-hailing drivers in Manhattan.

Currently there are over 100,000 for hire vehicles operating in the New York City. This figure is more than double the amount of vehicle hire than in 2013, where only 47,000 were operational. On the other hand, yellow taxis are capped at 13,600 by law. This surge of vehicles has exacerbated the already congested streets of Manhattan.  Most of the time the yellow cabs and other ride-hailing vehicles are traveling through the city without any passengers.

It might seem more beneficial to encourage commuters to utilize subway services, but due to increased delays resulting from repairs to subway infrastructure, it seems like the only way to tackle the problem of congestion is head on.

Previously, there have been various attempts at controlling congestion from the installment of toll system in the 1970s and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan which would charge eight dollars for entering Midtown and Lower Manhattan. As mentioned before, the tolling system is now obsolete at dealing with centralized congestion within Manhattan and Bloomberg’s proposed plan was shot down in the state assembly.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is planning to announce his “congestion pricing plan” to help alleviate the traffic mayhem in Manhattan.

This plan aims to accomplish two things:

  • Reduce city congestion
  • Create revenue to overhaul the New York City subway system.

One proposed way Gov. Cuomo could implement this plan is creating a “per-ride fee” on all ride-hailing services.  This fee would not be paid by the driver, but instead by the passenger, aimed at creating a stream of revenue for the city to improve its transit infrastructure.

Chicago, Seattle, and Portland all regulate their ride-hailing services through a per-ride fee. Gov. Cuomo is expected to announce this plan as early as January of 2018.

On the other hand, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has a different stance on how to alleviate city traffic, arguing a congestion price plan would negatively impact low-income workers.

His “five-point plan” aims to accomplish the following:

  • Clean lanes
  • Clear curbs
  • Clean intersections
  • Clear zones
  • Clear highways

He aims to create:

  • Clean lanes by continuous curb moving lanes during peak travel times in Midtown to help alleviate congestion at the heart of the city.
  • Cleared Curbs ban curbside loading in heavy commercial areas during the morning and evening rush to achieve.
  • Clean intersections increase level of NYPD police presence will be implemented at key congested city intersections to fully enforce the “don’t block-the-box” law, preventing the compounded negative effects on traffic flow from driver negligence to follow this law.
  • Clear Zones the plan is to focus on reducing congestion in certain hubs outside the city prone to heavy levels of traffic flow through updates to existing infrastructure.
  • Clear Highways plan to be achieved by focusing on reducing traffic on major highways outside of the city prone to congestion, like the Cross-Island Parkway, using exit-lights and addressing “choke-points.”

Both plans have very different approaches to the problem of congestion in New York City and who’s to say which one would be better for Manhattan. From the look of it, congestion is a very complex and multifaceted problem that needs a solution. Unfortunately for travelers and commuters, this problem isn’t going to fix itself overnight, but through dynamic observation and collaborative efforts, heavy New York city traffic can be a thing of the past.

Currently, Yellow taxis already face a 50-cent surcharge on every ride, unlike ride-sharing apps that aren’t required to pay a surcharge to the MTA. New York City isn’t the first to try and tackle the problem of congestion through this system.