NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – When congestion pricing comes to the city, it’s supposed to generate money for the MTA and cut down on traffic.
That could transform the streets of Manhattan, reports CBS2’s Dave Carlin, who spoke one-on-one with the city’s top transportation official.
Times Square is where Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg talked about a vision of Manhattan as a paradise for pedestrians with more foot traffic plazas and more bike lanes.
Web Extra: Extended Interview With Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg
Such a transformation depends on the adoption of congestion pricing, charging drivers new fees for access to bustling mid- and Lower Manhattan. So far that’s a fee many drivers hate.
“At first drivers are very wary of congestion pricing,” said Trottenberg. “It is very unpopular but once it’s implemented, people grow to like it because as aggravating as it is, it’s also aggravating to be stuck in traffic for half the day.”
She says London serves as an inspiration city because congestion pricing there eased traffic by an estimated 35 percent.
“We have a lot of similarities to London,” she said. “Over time we saw they re-claimed some of their street space.”
Trottenberg says her hopes for more pedestrian plazas and bike lanes are for down the road, and her priority is getting city buses moving through Manhattan more effectively.
Some drivers get grumpy about all of this congestion pricing and what it could lead to.
“I’m an Uber driver,” said one motorist. “It’ll cut into my profits.”
A city council proposal would increase bike lanes five-fold, adding 700 new miles of protected bike lanes by the end of 2026.
Trottenberg told us she knows trying to get it all can be risky, especially if more pedestrian plazas brings congestion back.
“It’s interesting, that’s a debate they are having in London,” she said. “It’s true congestion has gone down and perhaps crept back up. It’s something as you’re managing the whole system, you’re going to have to be always taking a look at.”
“People who are adamant about driving, they’re going to keep driving,” said Denise Labelle.
If too many drivers just pay to stay, that’s pedestrian paradise lost.