The report was commissioned by the Council and proposes charging FHV companies for each minute their vehicles spend in Manhattan below 96th street without a passenger, to amplify the gridlock-reduction benefits of congestion pricing

New York, NY – Today, transportation and traffic analyst Charles Komanoff released Curbing For-Hire Vehicle Stockpiling in the Manhattan Core, a report to the New York City Council that proposes charging ride-hail for-hire vehicle companies (such as Lyft, Uber and Via) a per-minute charge on empty vehicle time to reduce congestion in the Manhattan taxi zone, extending from 96th Street to the Battery. 

The policy proposed by the report would replace the City’s pending cap on the percent of time that ride-hail vehicles can spend without a passenger in the same zone, a policy that was approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) in 2019.  

The Council commissioned Komanoff in 2019 to recommend how to best reduce the stockpiling of unoccupied FHVs in the Manhattan taxi zone — an unproductive practice that exacerbates vehicular exhaust, traffic congestion and conflicts in curbside bus lanes, bike lanes and commercial loading zones. 

The report finds that an 11-cent per minute charge on FHV empty vehicle time during peak travel hours (5.5 cents off-peak) would reduce the presence of unused FHVs by nearly 10 percent. If implemented along with congestion pricing on private cars and trucks, the charge would help bring about a nearly 20 percent boost in travel speeds in the Manhattan Central Business District. 

This proposed empty-time charge would be paid by the ride-hail companies (such as Lyft, Uber and Via) and not the drivers. The policy, like the pending TLC cap, would not apply to yellow taxis.  

Komanoff did his calculations with his open-source New York City traffic model, the Balanced Transportation Analyzer (BTA), which New York State officials used extensively in 2017-2018 to examine congestion pricing.  

Komanoff found that the expected 16.7 percent gain in CBD traffic speeds from congestion pricing alone would increase to 19.4 percent — a gain of 2.7 percentage points — by adding the FHV empty-vehicle charge. He also found that the report’s proposed per-minute charge would far outperform the proposed cap in raising travel speeds, reducing traffic gridlock and ensuring ride-hail industry compliance.  

The report includes a detailed methodology, an implementation and enforcement plan to achieve compliance, and an exploration of potential future applications of empty-time charges for package deliveries and for yellow taxis in place of the State’s lump-sum congestion surcharge that went into effect in 2019. 

“I want to thank Charles Komanoff for this excellent report which is an important contribution to the policy conversation about reducing gridlock and improving transportation efficiency in NYC,” said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “As we gear up for the implementation of congestion pricing and continue to fight for safer streets, we need experts like Komanoff to be on the forefront of policy design to ensure the City’s efforts are both effective and enforceable, without burdening drivers struggling to make ends meet. I am confident that Komanoff’s findings will pave the way for more effective transportation policy-making in New York City and I look forward to having a public conversation about the per-minute charge proposed in this report.” 

“Stockpiling empty for-hire vehicles in Manhattan is a classic ‘externality’ that gives a slight convenience to Uber and Lyft customers by taking time and efficiency from the public,” Komanoff adds. “The modest empty-vehicle charge proposed in the report is an equitable way to fix this imbalance.”