Will Traffic Die, Once and For All?

14 Aug

Congestion ChargingThere are a number of reasons why I am extremely impressed by how well managed London is compared to most cities in the United States. One area, in particular, is in transportation. One of the most controversial of these, when first introduced, was the congestion charge. Drivers are charged £8 (approximately $16 USD) to enter downtown London in their personal cars. The effect is that driving to work becomes too expensive to do it every day, encouraging commuters to use public transportation. At the same time, with less traffic, buses move faster, taxis zip from place to place more efficiently, and the city becomes an entirely more pleasant place to be. In the words of economics, congestion charging corrects a market externality.

As the New York Times reports today (“U.S. Offers New York Million for Congestion Pricing“) there has been a major step forward in New York’s efforts to replicate this important piece of legislation. While the plan is somewhat different, I have the utmost hope that it succeeds, and further demonstrates that public transportation can be successful in places outside of Europe and Asia (in one or two US cities at least…).

The secretary of transportation announced this morning that the federal government will provide New York City with $354 million to implement congestion pricing, if the State Legislature acts by March 2008 to put in effect Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal for charging traffic fees in Manhattan.

Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal has attracted the broad support of business, labor, environmental and transportation groups, but he has been less successful at swaying state and city lawmakers representing the boroughs outside of Manhattan…

Nonetheless, the substantial federal support for the project gives enormous leverage to the mayor as he continues to press for his proposal.

The mayor’s plan, unveiled in April, proposes to charge drivers $8 and trucks $21 a day to enter or leave Manhattan below 86th Street on weekdays during the workday. Those who drive only within the congestion zone would pay $4 a day for cars, $5.50 for trucks.

Well done, Mr. Bloomberg. Let’s hope that he succeeds. It would certainly make that eventual move to Manhattan seem all the more tantalizing.

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2 Responses to “Will Traffic Die, Once and For All?”

  1. Tony August 15, 2007 at 4:09 am #

    It makes total sense. I can’t believe people didn’t start doing this earlier!

  2. Tony August 15, 2007 at 4:10 am #

    Of course, other cities do the same thing in different ways. SF just makes parking impossible – so no point to drive!

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