Who is driving all these cars downtown?

There were a lot of comments on this post on congestion pricing about where the cars are coming from, and whether they are private cars or for-hire cars. So I thought I would dig out the answers from the MTA’s study that I digested here. You can read the original in the reports referenced here (click on that first link for the bigger report; the summaries are further down the page).

And yes, the majority of cars are for-hire vehicles (Uber, Lyft) and taxis. And almost everything else is private cars.

“I’m a native New Yorker and in the last 10+ years I have never seen so many TLC cars,” wrote one commenter. “I could be waiting to cross the street and at least 10 cars will go by.”

Folks are also convinced there are more New Jersey drivers than any place else — and they are right. When it comes to commuters in cars — 143,000 of them — 8 percent are from NJ, 3 percent are from NY and 0.2 percent are from CT.



  1. Perhaps I missed it, but have not seen any data reflecting commercial purpose but using personal vehicle.

    For example, tons of e-commerce delivery by gig workers using personal vehicles – Instacart, Amazon, food kits, fresh dog food etc.

    Or small food places that do some catering – for example, a small food place in Tribeca also does some business catering. The owner drives his own vehicle to deliver this.

  2. Uber and other TLC cars are not the ones clogging Canal and Broome Streets, esp. Westbound in rush hour, in search of toll-free river crossings. That is private cars and trucks, mostly from NJ.

  3. Coildn’t they have just taken the existing infrastructure namely
    1) Tunnels
    2) Bridges
    And increased their tolls by $15 to tax the non residents (LI, NJ, Westchester, SI) vs Manhattan residents who are the real cause of this congestion? That would keep a lot of people out.

    The other loophole has been East river crossing where they could have put up these ezpass like tolls to tag people coming in over the bridges that are the significant cause.
    But no….they end up littering the city with new ezpass scanners all over the city at what is probably a huge expanse now and ongoing to maintain.

    There also needs to be zero exemption for all the government workers (DOb etc) who are driving into the city, double parking and a huge cause of the congestion. They have skillfully been left out of the analysis I bet.

    This is all an example back door taxation of epic proportions and the only losers are residents yet again.

    • The plan effectively tolls the East River bridges and tunnel that were previously untolled, because they fall within the CBD, and you’re tolled unless you directly enter the FDR, which you can’t even do other than NB from the Brooklyn Bridge, as far as I know.

      The tunnels under the Hudson are already tolled (but the money goes to the PANYNJ), and users still have an additional congestion charge in Manhattan, though I believe they get some rebate.

      The point is the keep people from driving from Long Island, the outer boroughs, and New Jersey. But the point is also to keep Manhattan residents from needlessly driving themselves through the CBD when there are an excess of mass transit options. These drives heavily contribute to congestion, too.

      If you’ve kept up, there are actually very few exemptions for city workers. The only ones slated to get any are those who enter the CBD for work purposes specifically (e.g., a housing site inspection). The analysis that was done is incredibly robust. It needed to be to survive the inevitable lawsuits. If you are really curious, you could just go check out all the information about why and how this is being done, and the benefits it will create.

      We should absolutely also start enforcement of double parking, placard abuse, and bike and bus lane blocking at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. Let’s please start taking our city back from car culture. It’s so 1950.

      • Malcolm,
        As the CP zone includes wealthy Tribeca and Battery Park, it is ironic that those residents can drive in the CP zone with no fee.
        So Tribeca parent can drive kids to school at Friends Seminary for example – no CP fee.
        And Taylor Swift won’t be discouraged either from using a vehicle to get to her place.

        But yes, all the non-rich who come from far or work at night or have no alternative – they will pay the CP fee.

        And City will keep enabling luxury high rises, Uber, ecommerce etc that generate vehicles of all types….

        • I would agree, but I imagine that the TMRB chose this route for simplicity, the same reason they settled on the $15 toll with few exemptions. Again, they’ve done extensive modeling and weighed many factors such as you mention. It’s likely they didn’t feel there were enough intra-CBD trips to outweigh other considerations.

          The modeling also includes the income levels of who would be effected, and the percentage of non-rich who are coming into the CBD during daytime is actually miniscule. There has been no shortage of reporting on this. The nighttime fees are also lower.

          FHV will pay a per-use CBD fee (paid by the passenger), and e-commerce and other delivery vehicles will pay tolls too.

          What’s your alternative? Are you actually comfortable and happy with the way the streets look? Do you not feel apprehension walking around? Is this the kind of environment you ultimately want to live in, or would you actually prefer fewer cars and better mass transit? As I always mention, even if you don’t personally use mass transit, you benefit from a better system that attracts more riders. Ultimately, if you’re a driver, your time on the road will be easier.

      • The city workers don’t need exemptions; they exempt themselves. Stroll around Tribeca/Fidi and you’ll see tons of cars with sketchy placards and unreadable license plates. These are mostly city workers (plus friends and family) exempting themselves from parking rules, tolls and speeding/red light enforcement cameras. Do you think any of them will be paying the congestion fees?

        • Yes, I agree that we need enforcement of our laws, and that is true with or without the existence of CP.

          It is infuriating to know that the cops who are supposed to enforce our laws don’t abide by them themselves. We need to fix that, but we also need for the rest of us to start paying our fair share, too. We are a great, dynamic city. We can and should be able to do more than one thing at once. We can’t just throw up our hands and give up because of the existence of some bad actors.

          • malcolm, thank you for your thoughtful thoughts and all of this smart information.Looking forward to meeting you one day.

  4. Malcolm thank you for the balanced view. I’m looking forward to seeing how this will work in reality. And I’m hopeful. Something had to be done. Progress costs something. The status quo costs more.

    • Thank you (and to DSSA above) for the kind words. I am looking forward to seeing how it works too. I’m sure there will be hiccups, and hopefully they can be ironed out. I genuinely believe that once it’s a reality, opposition will generally fall away once people see that the sky isn’t falling, and maybe one day we can cross Broome Street without having to walk between bumpers.

      Love your last two sentences, I completely agree.

      • Also very much support Malcolm and his thoughtful commentary on this topic.

        Manhattan is an incredibly transit-rich island, and should be primarily designed for pedestrians and transit users. If anything, the CP plan doesn’t go far enough (the charge should be higher, and certain streets should be entirely off limits to cars), but it’s a solid first step towards taking back our city from (mostly oversized and underutilized) cars.

        Looking forward to op-eds in a few years asking why we didn’t do this sooner!