Drivers entering lower Manhattan will be charged a congestion fee starting next year. The tax will be between $9 and $23 per vehicle and will ostensibly help alleviate traffic between 60th Street and the southern tip of the island.
Even if you don’t own a car, you will still pay the tax indirectly. Most groceries and Amazon orders are trucked in from New Jersey. Lyfts, Ubers, and cabs will be pricier.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the tax will alleviate congestion. Most traffic in Manhattan is not caused by the number of cars but by the carelessness of their drivers. Drivers routinely block lanes or even entire streets by stopping inappropriately.
The Manhattan grid has 60-foot-wide streets running roughly East-West, and 100-foot wide avenues running roughly North-South. Between the streets and the avenues, the streets are the bigger culprit of traffic. They are poorly utilized. Despite having the potential to support 3 lanes of traffic, only 1 is actively used. The other 2 lanes are used for parking, garbage containers, and restaurant sheds.
The 1 actively used lane easily gets blocked. The most common reasons are cabs picking up and letting out passengers and trucks delivering to local businesses. Everyone has seen a garbage truck crawl across a block with a parade of cars stuck behind it. This is particularly problematic when the trucks are scheduled to collect trash during rush hour; I see a sanitation truck cause 8 AM buildups on 53rd Street every week.
The avenues fare slightly better since most of them have 5 lanes. 2 are used for parking or restaurants, just like the streets. However, spillover from the easily-blocked streets can halt avenues and quickly create gridlock.
The most heinous stop I’ve seen caused a 2-hour slowdown through all of SoHo, across the Holland tunnel, and into New Jersey. A woman parked her car on I-78 and stood in an adjacent lane, talking on her phone. I have to assume the car was stuck, but the fact that she was on her cell phone outside, blocking another lane, was entirely out of pocket.
Drivers usually make these traffic-causing stops out of necessity rather than convenience: there is no good place to make necessary stops without blocking traffic. But it doesn’t have to be this way: you can imagine reserving the last 2 parking spots on every street as a stopping zone. That would be the only zone where you can do deliveries, wait to pick up passengers, or pull over after a fender-bender. That would significantly speed up traffic, in my view.