NYC Congestion Pricing has Cleared Its Final Hurdle To Be Implemented in 2024 But Is Expected To Reduce Out-Of-Town Broadway Ticket Sales As Ticket Buyers May Revolt
The newly approved NYC congestion pricing plan looks set to affect Broadway ticket sales. For anyone coming from out-of-town for a Broadway show, the proposition of using public transportation late at night to get home is wholly unsatisfactory due to safety issues on buses, subways and trains. This leaves scant few options of getting into and back from New York City and Broadway ticket sales may go down for this group.
With the onset of New York City’s congestion charge, Broadway ticket buyers who drive into the city now face this new tax that may effectively reduce the amount of times that they see Broadway shows during the year. This demographic buys over 25% of all Broadway tickets sold and the congestion charge threatens to reduce this ticket buying group.
NYC Congestion Pricing Has Cleared Final Federal Hurdle
Some thought it would never happen but the final federal hurdle standing between congestion pricing and New York City has been cleared. This ultimate clearance all but guarantees that the program designed to abate pollution and traffic in the borough of Manhattan— the first initiative of its kind in the whole country— will take effect in April 2024.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) announced that the eagerly awaited final green light had indeed been granted. Now all that’s left is deciding on final toll rates as well as any allowable exemptions and discounts. These particulars will be determined by a municipal panel already appointed by the MTA.
Program Must Raise At Least $1 Billion Annually
Congestion pricing, which will likely happen in April of 2024, is expected to raise upwards of $1 billion every year. Here’s the rub: that revenue can only legally be used to fund capital projects. For example, this veritable windfall may go toward new subway station elevators and updating signaling functionality but it cannot pay for operating costs.
Congestion Pricing Plan: The Basics
At its core, this massive undertaking is an earnest attempt to combat climate change from the ground up by easing the mostly densely trafficked areas of Manhattan. It also may be seen as a cash grab for the MTA. Basically, the city will charge drivers additional fees depending on where they go and when they go there.
While not covering the entire city, the impacted zone spans a sizable chunk of Manhattan’s vertical stretch, reaching from 60th Street uptown, all the way to the downtown Battery. However, there are notable exceptions: both FDR Drive and the West Side Highway remain unaffected, but drivers cannot leave those roads.
How Green Is The MTA, Really? Or Is It All About Raking In The Green?
On its face, this plan does seem to be eco-friendly and conscious of looming climate issues. Plus the MTA has noble intentions of designating $10 million for air filtration systems in schools close to highways and a whopping $20 million to fight asthma. But these plans are speculative at the best.
In a move that could easily be seen as abject hypocrisy, the MTA quietly abolished carpooling in NYC at the end of 2022, which increased traffic in NYC by 15 %., so they aren't really concerned about the environment, but are happy to jump on the green bandwagon.
Inevitable Discounts And Exemptions: Those Concessions Will Cost The Average Commuter
Naturally, the program has been met with all kinds of resistance. The MTA has proposed some mitigating factors to avoid any potentially negative impacts. For instance, there may be a limit to how many times taxicabs and the like (Uber, Lyft, etc) can incur the tolls. Some low-income drivers may receive a concession, as well as folks who may drive overnight into the congestion zone.
In order to defray the fees for some groups, others will bear the brunt and take a massive financial hit.
New Jersey Says MTA Is Waging A Border War, Outer Boroughs Also Unhappy
As if residents of the state across the Hudson River don’t suffer enough for not being considered real New Yorkers, this congestion pricing plan adds insult to injury. For those in the Garden State of New Jersey, the new fees will add to the already existing bridge and tunnel tolls they pay to drive into the city. Some New Jersey leaders are even calling it a border war.
For non-Manhattanites in the outer boroughs like Queens and Brooklyn, this initiative will compel then to pay to drive into Manhattan for the first time in history! They may decide it’s not worth the cost and find ways to work, dine and play in their own borough.
Congestion Pricing Plan’s Impact On Mass Transit
NYC claims congestion pricing will reduce traffic exponentially, as commuters and visitors will opt for public transportation. But there are many flaws in that logic.
Tourists descending upon New York City may try out the subway for novelty’s sake but with the uptick in crime and general safety concerns, they will still likely avoid public transportation altogether. The bus system, as well, is not an attractive alternative due to inconvenience and potential danger. Gunfire, pickpocketing, assault— these are all very real threats nowadays in NYC.
Will Broadway Buckle Under Congestion Pricing?
Broadway ticket sales may very well suffer from the expensive proposition of driving into NYC for customers. First, consider that more than a fair amount of Broadway patrons come in from outlying areas (suburbs, exurbs, outer boroughs). Many make it a whole event, adding on a pre-or post-theatre meal. Exorbitant fees could deter them from dinner and the show.
On the flip side, those theatre patrons who opt to drive into the city tend to pay full-price for their tickets. They often hail from affluent communities and already account for lofty parking garage charges. So while they may bristle at the surcharge at first, those one-percenters will simply absorb it into the cost of doing business. It’s beans to deep pockets and won’t likely deter that demographic’s attendance. But will Broadway ultimately pay the price?
Broadway Ticket Buyers May Revolt
Although some suburbanites won’t scoff at the new normal of congestion pricing, they certainly may choose to come in less frequently. And patrons coming from lower-income households may write off Broadway all together.
Broadway is still seen by most people as a dispensable form of entertainment. And for those folks, they may decide to direct their hard earned money elsewhere. NYC congestion pricing may just be the straw that breaks the Camelot’s back.