Congestion and its ill effects are not a new issue in New York City. In the past, when people recognized a problem, they moved to fix it. The subway system is an example of this sort of action. It is doubtful that anyone subjected to the city’s traffic on a daily basis–either as a driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian–would deny the existence of intolerable congestion. So we recognize that we have a problem, how does it get fixed?
The “fix” will certainly need to happen on several fronts to be effective. The Partnership for New York City released the the results of their study earlier this month in Growth or Gridlock. This report drives home the economic reasons that transportation improvement must be addressed now. It also highlights some of the ways that New York and other world cities are dealing this this issue. One method of traffic relief that has been used quite successfully elsewhere, and proposed here, is congestion pricing.
In the unabridged version of his aptly titled New York Magazine article “Congestion Charging in New York City: The Political Bloodbath“, Aaron Naparstek revisits some of the history around the issue of congestion pricing. It would seem that, as a city leader, mentioning congestion pricing is the equivalent of political (or actual) suicide. If that is the case, how will congestion pricing ever be implemented or even tested in New York if the city’s leaders are unwilling to get behind it?
Well, it looks as if someone might be stepping up. City councilwoman Gale Brewer is planning to introduce congestion pricing legislation. Perhaps with this sort of legislation in council, the mayor will stop denying that this is a piece of the traffic relief puzzle. A transportation plan that does not address the overabundance of private automobiles in our most congested areas is not dealing with a major part of the problem. Let’s hope that Mayor Bloomberg takes advantage of his high approval ratings to start making these changes.