Will Congestion Pricing Further Depress Broadway Attendance From NYC Suburbs?

Just before Christmas Broadway producer Ken Davenport called attention to an issue which may or may not impact Broadway attendance starting later this year. Starting this Spring, congestion pricing will be implemented for Lower Manhattan before 9 pm. The cost will be $15, more if heavier traffic is expected and even more if you don’t have EZ Pass electronic toll payment set up. (Though most people who regularly drive within a 50 mile radius of NYC already have EZ Pass since there are so many other toll roads that use it.)

Davenport had noted in a separate post that Broadway attendance by people living in the suburbs across the bridges and tunnels from NYC has been down significantly since the return from COVID so there is a concern that these fees may reduce attendance even more.

Davenport suggests that while $15 more factored into all the other costs associated with attending a Broadway show may not provide a significant disincentive, nobody should be operating on that assumption. Instead there should be an effort to increase the perceived value of the experience:

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.

It occurs to me though that London implemented congestion pricing in 2003 and the West End theaters appear to be right in the center of the zone. I wonder if anyone did any research into the impact on attendance to those shows. They may not have been as worried given differences in time (not after a pandemic dip), production funding models, and other factors.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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