With Congestion Pricing coming this summer, the MTA needs to drop Metro-North fares for Bronx residents

With congestion pricing set to start in two months on June 30th this summer, it’s time that the MTA seriously considers reducing fares for Bronx residents who will seek alternatives such as Metro-North commuter rail to enter the congestion zone in Manhattan.

When congestion pricing begins, drivers operating passenger vehicles will be charged $15 if they enter anywhere in the congestion zone below 60th Street in Manhattan, also known as Central Business District or the CBD, during the peak hours of 5AM – 9PM on weekdays, and 9AM to 9PM on weekends.

Meanwhile, trucks and buses will be charged anywhere from $24 to $36 for entering the CBD during those hours.

All off-peak tolls will be discounted by 70%.

Congestion pricing is being enacted to help reduce congestion within Manhattan’s main business core—which is essentially the entire island south of 60th Street—that will spur better travel times within the zone, improve air quality, and hopefully make streets safer in the process.

The Melrose Metro-North station is one of 12 active stations in the borough.

The MTA believes that the tolls will raise $1 billion a year that agency will be used to upgrade our public transportation infrastructure (whether it’s new subway cars, signals, buses, etc) which will in turn, make the system more reliable and desirable to those who rarely use it, thus, reduce cars on our streets even more.

But if the goal is to encourage residents to use public transit instead of their cars when traveling to Midtown, Downtown, or anywhere else within the Central Business District of Manhattan, then the MTA needs to also encourage use of Metro-North by making the fare the same as a $2.90 subway ride for trips originating within any Bronx Metro-North station going to Midtown.

While the MTA just approved a 10% commuter rail discount for The Bronx and Queens, where riders using Metro-North in The Bronx will see the monthly pass drop from $199.75 to $180, it is still significantly higher than a $132 monthly unlimited Metro Card to ride the buses and subways.

Given that the borough has the lowest median and household income of the five boroughs, it’s only right that access to Metro-North is made more equitable so that all can benefit from the service and not just a select few.

The Bronx currently has twelve Metro-North stations scattered throughout the West Bronx and hopefully by 2027, that number will increase to sixteen with four brand new stations in the East Bronx as part of the Penn Station Access which will, for the first time, bring Metro-North service into Penn Station via a new branch of the New Haven line that will operate along Amtrak’s Hell’s Gate Line.

Current Bronx Metro-North Stations of which there are twelve that serve the borough/Via MTA

Located at Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester/Van Nest, and Hunts Point, the future stations will provide increased public transportation options in the East Bronx that traditionally has been labeled a transit desert as well as, for the first time, offer one-seat service straight into the West Side of Manhattan into the heart of Midtown.

Bringing Metro-North fares in The Bronx to parity with the bus and subway system will maximize the use of these commuter rail lines and incentivize residents to actually use them to get into Midtown and points south of 60th Street instead of using their cars and paying the congestion pricing tolls.

Four new Metro-North stations will be constructed by 2027 as part of Penn Station Access which will bring the commuter railroad into Penn Station for the first time.

With the projected $1 billion yearly windfall from congestion pricing that the MTA predicts it will rake in, they can clearly use some of that money to reduce the fares even further for current and future Bronx Metro-North users thus fulfilling one of the primary goals of congestion pricing which is reducing traffic.

And in a borough that has the highest rates of asthma and pollution, it’s really a no-brainer.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.