New York City’s Congestion Pricing Toll- How Will It Affect New York’s Air Pollution?

April 8, 2024 by Jack Hatzimemos

New York City traffic jam.

After years of years of roadblocks and anticipation, New York City is scheduled to introduce its controversial Congestion Pricing toll in June. The congestion toll, which will charge drivers of standard vehicles $15 to enter parts of lower Manhattan, aims to reduce traffic build up and air pollution in the city. However, the toll has been met with tremendous scrutiny, particularly on the true environmental impact of the project.

In June of this year, New York City plans to implement its long awaited and controversial “Congestion Toll” with the stated purpose of alleviating traffic buildup and reducing air pollution in lower Manhattan.[1] New York’s Congestion Toll will charge drivers of standard cars a $15 fee for entering Manhattan’s business district below 60th street.[2] The congestion pricing will charge $24 for small trucks, $36 for large trucks, and smaller fees for motorcyclists and ride sharing apps.[3] The congestion pricing plan is expected to lower the number of vehicles that enter lower Manhattan by nearly 17%.[4] As a born and raised New Yorker, I have been privy to the reactions of many of the city’s residents who, besides being incensed by the idea of being charged for traveling to certain parts of Manhattan, are skeptical of the toll’s potential environmental impact. This begs the question: what impact will New York City’s Congestion Toll truly have on the city’s air pollution?

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a major proponent of the City’s congestion pricing plan, promises New Yorkers that “[c]ongestion pricing will reduce traffic in our crowded downtown, improve air quality and provide critical resources to the MTA.”[5] New York first proposed the plan in 2019 and ran into several roadblocks, including a lengthy environmental assessment, before receiving a federal endorsement. Governor Hochul announced federal approval and the completion of a thorough final environmental assessment.[6] While the primary purpose of congestion pricing is to reduce the particularly packed traffic in busy areas of Manhattan, Governor Hochul and supporters of the toll have emphasized that reduced traffic in the designated zones will cut down on carbon emissions and generally improve air quality.[7]Additionally, the US Department of Transportation confirms that the measure can reduce air pollution by decreasing the number of cars in the area and curbing stop-and-go traffic, leading to lowered fuel consumption.[8]

Multiple lawsuits are currently underway against the congestion pricing plan. These lawsuits assert that the plan will actually lead to an overall increase in air pollution and, consequently, fly in the face of New York’s “Green Amendment.”[9] New York’s Green Amendment was passed in November of 2021, guaranteeing that each person has a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.[10] Despite the city’s consistent assertions that the congestion toll will reduce carbon emissions by reducing traffic buildup in lower Manhattan, a number of lawsuits reflect disagreement. These lawsuits assert that the plan will simply divert traffic into other areas of the city and even to parts of New Jersey, creating bottlenecks with increased carbon emissions elsewhere.[11] By shifting carbon emissions and air pollution to neighborhoods outside of lower Manhattan, attorneys representing the plan’s opponents maintain that it will no doubt be a violation of the Green Amendment.

New Jersey Governor, Philip Murphy, as well as other prominent New Jersey officials, have also attacked the plan, fearing an increase in both traffic and pollution in their state due to drivers rerouting to avoid the toll.[12]Moreover, a number of New Yorkers filing a class action lawsuit against the city re-emphasize the desire for a more thorough environmental impact report on how the plan will affect the city’s West-Side Highway and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive.[13] While the direct environmental effects of New York’s congestion toll will be unknown for years to come, we may be able to look to cities outside of the United States to better understand the impact this plan may have.

New York will become the first major city in the United States to implement a congestion pricing plan, but it is far from the first major city in the world to do so. Major metropolises, including London, Stockholm, and Singapore, have had congestion pricing plans in place for decades.[14] The US Department of Transportation cites these cities as prime examples of congestion pricing leading to air pollution reduction. London, which implemented congestion pricing in 2003, has seen an overall reduction of emissions of particulate matter and Nitrogen Oxide by 12%. Stockholm, which implemented its congestion plan in 2006, has seen an overall reduction of Carbon emissions by upwards of 10%.[15]Further, Singapore’s congestion pricing plan, implemented in part as far back as 1975, seems to prevent the emissions of roughly 175,000 pounds of Carbon Dioxide a day.[16] Thus, by looking at other major cities across the globe, people can remain optimistic about the potential positive environmental impacts of New York City’s congestion pricing plan.

New York’s plan may have a major impact on other cities across the United States. Being the first city in the country to implement a congestion pricing plan, New York City may represent an example for both supporters and opponents of such plans. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco have explored congestion pricing plans with similar aims but have yet to implement them.[17] It is yet to be seen whether New York City’s congestion toll will reduce overall carbon emissions in the city or simply push the emissions outside of lower Manhattan. Nevertheless, the environmental consequences of the traffic congestion plan are sure to reverberate beyond New York.


[1]  Winnie Hu, Ana Ley, As Congestion Pricing Nears Reality, it Faces Growing Opposition, N.Y. Times, Mar. 21, 2024,

[2] Emily Crane, Nolan Hicks, Everything you Need to Know about NYC’s $15 Congestion Pricing Toll, N.Y. Post, Feb. 29, 2024,

[3] Id.

[4] Winnie Hu, Ana Ley, As Congestion Pricing Nears Reality, it Faces Growing Opposition, Mar. 21, 2024,

[5] Governor Hochul Announces First-in-Nation Congestion Pricing Will Move Forward, Improving air Quality and Reducing Traffic,

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Congestion Pricing Environmental Benefits,,generated%20by%20accelerations%20and%20decelerations.

[9] Ry Rivard, Congestion Pricing Lawsuits Test Limits of New York’s ‘Green Amendment’, Politico, Mar. 27, 2024,

[10] New York’s Environmental Right Repository,

[11] Ry Rivard, Congestion Pricing Lawsuits Test Limits of New York’s ‘Green Amendment’, Politico, Mar. 27, 2024,

[12] Winnie Hu, Ana Ley, As Congestion Pricing Nears Reality, it Faces Growing Opposition, Mar. 21, 2024,

[13]  Congestion Pricing Foes Call for More Environmental Review, Spectrum News NY1, Jan. 19, 2024,

[14] Congestion Pricing: Examples Around the World,

[15]  Congestion Pricing Environmental Benefits,,generated%20by%20accelerations%20and%20decelerations.

[16] Id.

[17] James Farrell, New York Approves Historic Congestion Pricing Plan- Here’s how it Works and What Cities Could Adopt it Next, Forbes, Mar. 27, 2024,