Congestion Pricing: Good or Beepin’ Bad for Broadway?

Starting this spring, driving into the city south of 60th street at peak times will cost you $15.

The goal is to reduce traffic, reduce carbon emissions, and of course, fill the depleted coffers of the MTA.

And people who live outside the city are beepin’ mad.  New Jersey even sued.

As a NYC resident of 32 years, how do I feel?

Well, to be honest, my first reaction was without sympathy for all those commuters.  The MTA is in trouble.  The city is in trouble. And for those who choose to live outside the city . . . and who don’t pay NYC tax . . . you expect the city residents to keep picking up the tab? 

I’d be happy if there were fewer cars, less pollution, and more trains because we’ve got some more cash.  

But as a Broadway Producer who has worked in this business for 30 of those years?  

I’m scared.

The always insightful and data driven Mark Hershberg wrote an article about the potential effects of congestion pricing in this Forbes article, and I gotta agree with him.  

Congestion pricing isn’t good for our recovery.  Mostly because it’s aimed squarely at the audience that has been the hardest to get to come back to Broadway.

The demographic report from the Broadway League released just last week reported an alarming statistic . . . suburban audiences (the ones that use the tunnels and bridges to come into Midtown Manhattan – where the theaters are) are down a whoppin’ 27% from pre-covid times.

That’s pretty terrible.  And one of the reasons that Broadway has not fully recovered from the pandemic.

And when we’re trying to woo a demographic back . . . with things like earlier curtain times and added matinees (!) . . . and then we also have to admit that it’s more expensive . . . well, that makes it a little harder.

You can see why I’m a little Jekyll/Hyde on the subject.

But congestion pricing is here.  And it’s not going anywhere.  Bloomberg wanted it years ago and people thought it was a ridiculous idea.  (I wonder what he’s saying now?)

So we can’t just sit around and talk about how terrible it might be.  

What we need to do is figure out how to increase the experience and value of seeing a Broadway show that an extra $15 feels like a bargain for what they are getting.

Oh and . . . well, I just came up with an idea.  Give me a couple days and look for it here or on my instagram.  I think you’ll like it.  🙂 

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.