Congestion Pricing:
An Analysis of New Jersey Legislative Districts

The New York State Legislature passed congestion pricing in April 2019. The goal of the program is to reduce traffic congestion in Manhattan and raise $1.5 billion annually for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The program would help fund the authority’s five-year, $51.5 billion capital plan to do things like modernize subway signals and bring Metro-North service to Penn Station.

Following delays caused by the Trump Administration and the COVID-19 pandemic, the MTA is now starting the federal environmental assessment process, which includes gathering input from New Jersey residents. Recently, a handful of state legislators in NJ have objected to the MTA’s congestion pricing proposal, claiming that it will have a disproportionate negative impact on cross-Hudson commuters.

To shed some light on this important policy issue, TSTC conducted a congestion pricing district-level analysis of 21 legislative districts in central and northern New Jersey. Using data from the 2011-2015 Census American Community Survey and Census Transportation Planning Products, TSTC has produced fact sheets for each of the 21 legislative districts in the greater New York City area. Congestion Pricing fact sheets for New York legislative districts can be found here.

TSTC’s analysis points to three major findings:

  • In all districts surveyed, only single-digit percentages of residents work in the central business district (CBD)–Manhattan, below 60th Street–and commute by private vehicle. On average, 1.6% of workers in each district will be subject to a congestion charge. 
  • Public transit is the primary mode of choice for the majority of Manhattan CBD workers in every district that was analyzed. On average, 77.5% of Manhattan CBD workers in each district use public transportation to reach the CBD from New Jersey. 
  • In the majority of districts, public transit commuters have a lower median income than commuters who drive to the Manhattan CBD. Across all districts, the average median income for Manhattan CBD commuters who drive alone is $107,996, compared to $88,407 for public transit users.

Each fact sheet includes:

  • An analysis of the percentages of residents in each district who commute to work in the Manhattan CBD by private vehicle, and would therefore be subject to a congestion charge;
  • A breakdown of district commuting patterns for both CBD and non-CBD commuters;
  • Data on median income of district commuters by mode.

Index of Congestion Pricing Fact Sheets

Methodology

For this analysis, we examined how many NJ commuters travel into the congestion pricing zone for work, and by which mode of transportation. We also conducted an equity analysis as represented by the income characteristics of commuters, categorized by mode of transportation.

The population of interest in this analysis is commuters in parts of northern and central New Jersey within the New York metropolitan region. Specifically, this analysis aggregated journey-to-work data from the census tract level into legislative districts 17-22, 25-29, and 31-40. This area covers census tracts within Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, and Union Counties. For the purposes of this analysis, the congestion pricing zone is defined as the central business district (CBD) in Manhattan (south of 60th Street). Only those census tracts falling within the proposed CBD were included in the assessment of impact.

The data source for demographic information is the US Census 2011-2015 5-Year American Community Survey (ACS). Demographic variables collected include total population, total population of workers 16 years and older, and median incomes of workers 16 years and older by transportation mode.

The data source for journey-to-work information is the Census Transportation Planning Products (CTPP), based on 2012–2016 5-year ACS Data (sponsored by AASHTO). Journey-to-work data was collected at the census tract level from the CTPP for New Jersey and filtered for only those commuting into and out of the CBD as defined above. The percentage of CBD commuters for each legislative district was calculated by aggregating all the commuters from a given tract that commute to the CBD area and dividing that by the total commuters for a given census tract. These data at the census tracts were then aggregated into summary statistics at the legislative district level and visualized on the fact sheets. Data from US Census and CTPP represent estimates.