New York City Traffic Congestion Pricing Proposals Will Mean More Traffic Fines


New York City Traffic Congestion Pricing Proposals Will Mean More Traffic Fines

New York City Traffic Congestion Pricing Proposals Will Mean More Traffic Fines

Governor Cuomo’s traffic congestion pricing plans for New York City have prompted much contention, but little consensus. On one side, ride-hailing services, taxi associations, and New York City traffic lawyers are pointing out the unfairness of the unilateral plans, while big business contends traffic congestion is costing them over $100 billion over five years. Caught in the middle are everyday working drivers and commuters who will ultimately bear the cost burden of the proposal in fees and traffic violation fines.

New York City Traffic Congestion Needs Fair Solutions

Manhattan’s central business districts (CBDs) slow to a crawl daily with an average speed of 4.7 miles per hour. That’s a drop from from 6.5 miles per hour in 2012. The culprits, depending on who is asked, are the increase in popular car services or the unreliability of a failing subway system. Truck and taxi drivers--critical components of serving businesses in the city--are also being blamed.

Governor Cuomo’s answer the problem is a congestion pricing toll plan for lower Manhattan that will hit the pockets of every driver---including the working class whose jobs require them to be on the road every day. The four-month review by Cuomo’s Fix New York City panel released this past week in January, reveals a multi-pronged plan that assesses fees on any vehicle operating in lower Manhattan south of 60th street.

The panel proposed several fee schemes specifically targeting taxis and for-hire vehicles (FHVs) like Uber and Lyft. Depending on day and time, the proposed fees range from a $2 to $5 surcharge on each ride--with an additional option of hitting every ride south of 96th Street. Delivery trucks will take an even bigger hit--over $25 every time a truck enters the CBD.

Drivers Are Blamed Despite Other Factors

The panel justifies its conclusions in two basic ways. Citing successes of similar programs in London, Milan, and Stockholm and the fact that FHVs on the streets have more than doubled in the last four years. Interestingly, none of the other compared programs specifically target taxis and FHVs with such high fees and in several instances the vehicles are exempt. The comparative fees in US cities with congestion pricing like Seattle and Chicago are paltry in comparison.

Besides FHVs, the panel cites several factors contributing to congestion in Manhattan including reduced road space due to increased bus and bike lanes as well as new pedestrian plazas. Yet, traffic--which the streets exist for--are targeted for shouldering the cost of congestion. Meanwhile, despite the increases in ridership, the failing infrastructure of the MTA subway system will take at least a decade and cost a proposed $8 billion. The panel’s solution is to bill drivers under its traffic congestion pricing plans to help pay for it.

More Traffic Enforcement Means More Fines

New York City Mayor de Blasio does not fully support the governor’s plan, though he has signaled he is willing to dialog with the governor. De Blasio, however, has helped pushed through several pieces of legislation that also raises the cost of doing business for drivers in Manhattan.

De Blasio established new laws and fines through his Vision Zero initiatives that already make truck deliveries more difficult and costly. His Vision Zero initiatives, intended to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities, have increased fees and fines for parking and moving violations across the city. Speeding fines for instance, can go as high as $975 dollars in fines. As a result, New York traffic lawyers have seen a spike in clients objecting to unfair and arbitrary enforcement.

The Fix New York City panel suggests immediately increasing traffic enforcement--which has risen dramatically in the past few years under Vision Zero. Its report specifically cites spillback (also known as “block the box”) laws and bus lane violations.

The spillback law, long on the books, was once a moving violation but now considered a parking violation. While drivers no longer receive license points for violating the spillback law, the $100+ fine remains. Making it a parking violation means that not only can police officers issue the citations, but an additional 3,000 traffic enforcement officers can as well--making it much more likely to get one. This ticketing is discretionary--and often arbitrary.

The bus lane violation remains a moving violation, meaning it must be issued by a police officer, and includes 2 points on a license. Again, timing is everything when it comes to the validity of this violation, and with fines upwards of $150 plus the 2 points, drivers often have long-term license and financial complications. Since these fines and violations are difficult for the average driver to fight, New York traffic lawyers must step in to challenge unfairness and protect drivers unnecessarily fined.

Another area of concern for New York City traffic attorneys defending clients is the failure to yield and improper turn laws. Even without pressure from Fix New York City’s program, improper turn tickets have increased 40% and failure to yield citations have risen a dramatic 234% in recent years.

Every time a new traffic initiative becomes law, the city finds a way to increase staffing to issue more tickets. While the Vision Zero program has been more tightly focused on specific streets and intersections, the Fix New York City proposals seek to cover a huge area of the city. More enforcement on more drivers will clog an already overwhelmed traffic court. With delays and lack of clarity on how to challenge a ticket, drivers often make the mistake of paying--which is an admission of guilt--then being caught with more fees, surcharges, and insurance increases. Before paying any ticket, traffic attorneys recommend consulting with traffic law firms--often with a free consult--to determine the best course of action.


With our 60 years of combined experience working with the New York Legal System and Most NY Traffic Courts,  our team of local traffic lawyers will defend your tickets saving you money and time.  We will aggressively contest your violations and seek to reduce your sentence, lower fines, and avoid getting points in order to prevent suspension or revocation of your license as well as increased insurance premiums.

Michael Beer