New York City has been debating the merits of charging drivers a fee for entering its central business district for decades. Known as “congestion pricing,” it’s a strategy that major cities in other countries, including London and Singapore, have employed to reduce traffic and raise funding for public transportation.

While not frequently advertised as a form of climate policy, congestion pricing also has the potential to cut planet-warming emissions by reducing car trips and increasing public transit ridership. Now, the Big Apple is one step closer to becoming the first U.S. city to give it a shot.

As prescribed by a New York state law that passed in 2019, the congestion pricing zone will encompass all of lower Manhattan south of 60th street. Drivers who are using roads around the edge of the island, like the West Side Highway or FDR Drive, will not be charged, but once they turn off onto a city street, toll collecting technology will either charge them automatically if they have an E-ZPass transponder or send a bill to the address of the registered vehicle owner if they don’t.

On the lower end of the prices that were studied, passenger cars would be charged between $5 and $9 for entering the zone, depending on the time of day, while on the higher end, they might be charged up to $23 during peak hours. For commercial trucks, the fees would be significantly higher, at $12 to $82 per entry. By law, vehicles used for emergencies and for transporting passengers with disabilities will be exempt, and low-income residents who live inside the zone will be eligible for state tax credits equal to the amount of tolls they pay.

The assessment also mixes and matches a number of potential exemptions that will affect how much the program reduces traffic, how much revenue it generates, and how much it will cost drivers. Some of the scenarios would force taxis and trucks to pay the fee every time they enter the zone, while others would cap those charges at once, twice, or three times per day. Some of the scenarios would also try to reduce the cost burden to drivers who are already paying a toll to enter Manhattan via bridges and tunnels by offering them bill credits.

Read the full article about congestion pricing by Emily Pontecorvo at Grist.