Beyond traffic jam alleviation: evaluating the health and health equity impacts of New York City’s congestion pricing plan

Akhgar Ghassabian, Andrea R. Titus, Sarah Conderino, Alexander Azan, Rachel Weinberger, Lorna E. Thorpe

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Abstract

New York City (NYC) is slated to be the first jurisdiction in the USA to implement a cordon-based congestion tax, which will be levied on vehicles entering its Central Business District. Several cities around the world, for example, London and Stockholm, have had similar cordon-based pricing programmes, defined as road pricing that charges drivers a fee for entering a specified area (typically a congested urban centre). In addition to reducing congestion and creating revenue, projections suggest the NYC congestion pricing plan may yield meaningful traffic-related air quality improvements that could result in health benefits. NYC is a large city with high air pollution and substantial racial/ethnic and socioeconomic health inequities. The distinct geography and meteorological conditions of the city also suggest that the policy’s impact on air quality may extend beyond the NYC metropolitan area. As such, the potential breadth, directionality and magnitude of health impacts on communities who might be heavily affected by the nation’s first congestion pricing plan should be empirically investigated. We briefly review evaluation studies of other cordon-based congestion pricing policies and argue that implementation of this policy provides an excellent opportunity to employ a quasi-experimental study design to evaluate the policy’s impacts on air quality and health outcomes across population subgroups using a health equity lens. We discuss why real-time evaluations of the NYC congestion pricing plan can potentially help optimise benefits for communities historically negatively affected by traffic-related air pollution. Assessing intended and unintended impacts on health equity is key to achieving these goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjech-2023-221639
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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