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.

3 thoughts on “Congestion Pricing in NYC: Will it Happen?

  1. I really hope this passes. It seems so obvious that this is the way to go, and I believe it’s worked really well in London.

    So frustrating that it’s about politics and not reality. That’s why I like programming; you can’t lobby the compiler.

  2. I work in Oslo (Norway) were we have to pay to enter/leave the city by car.

    One of the issues with paid congestion fares, is that the cities tend to use it as tax – What you’ll need, is clear earmarking of the funds raised by the city, with the purpose of actually spending that income on improved conditions for driving.

    Even without the earmarking, the city will still benefit from it’s income, so in that respect, for the city, it’s a win situation in all cases. I guess it’ll have to be up to the public to make sure that that income goes to improve the people that gave it away to begin with.

  3. I agree that the revenue generated by such a congestion charge should be put to good use. It should probably go towards improving transportation in general, be it public transport or street/sidewalk improvements. The motivation here should be to reduce congestion, not raise money though.

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