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N.Y. Congestion Pricing Reversal Hits Transit in the Wallet

As ridership continues to lag amid a stubbornly slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, cities experiment with free rides and micromobility to prove public transit’s worth in worsening financial conditions.

In this AI-generated image, a passenger train follows vehicle lanes along a rocky cliffside.
The podcast cover image for this The Future in Context (TFIC) episode features a surprisingly literal AI-generated image of the fiscal cliff facing public transit. (DALL-E 3)
Listen to this episode on the player below or subscribe for free on YouTube or the podcast app of your choice — Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audacy and Audible.

When New York Gov. Kathy Hochul spiked plans to implement congestion pricing in New York City, it took a much-anticipated annual injection of $1 billion out of the mix — just as public transit systems there and elsewhere were looking to the pricing scheme for some good news in an otherwise bleak fiscal landscape.

In TFIC’s occasional series, Your Mileage May Vary, senior writers Skip Descant of Government Technology and Jared Brey of Governing* discuss the ramifications of Hochul’s decision for transit systems across the country as concerns grow over a looming fiscal cliff from which they may not recover. At the same time, some regions are turning to new policy approaches, including fare-free rides and micromobility solutions, to reinforce the value they bring to their communities.


Here are the top 5 takeaways from this episode:

  1. Congestion Pricing Pause in NYC: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul halted New York City’s congestion pricing plan. The plan was set to generate $1 billion annually for public transit, critical for addressing financial shortfalls.
  2. Political and Financial Implications: Hochul’s decision may be influenced by upcoming elections, aiming to avoid voter backlash. The halt leaves New York City’s public transit without a vital funding source, exacerbating its financial crisis.
  3. Post-Pandemic Public Transit Crisis: Ridership plummeted during COVID-19 and is recovering slowly. Transit systems face significant budget deficits as they struggle to regain fare revenue and maintain service levels.
  4. Alternative Funding and Operations Strategies: Several regions are exploring fare-free rides and micromobility solutions to address budget shortfalls. These measures aim to cut costs and attract riders, but their long-term sustainability and effectiveness are uncertain.
  5. State and Local Government Responses: Some state and local governments are stepping in to cover budget gaps. The level of support varies in places from New York to Minneapolis, and the financial viability of transit systems heavily depends on continued government subsidies and innovative funding solutions.

Related Links to stories referenced in the episode:

Our editors used ChatGPT 4.0 to summarize the episode in bullet form to help create the show notes. The main image for this story was created using DALL-E 3. 

*Governing is part of e.Republic, Government Technology’s parent company.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.
Paul W. Taylor is the Senior Editor of e.Republic Editorial and of its flagship titles - Government Technology and Governing.
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology. </i>She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Montevallo and a graduate degree in public relations from Kent State University. Silver is also a published author with a wide range of experience in editing, communications and public relations.