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Congestion Pricing Pays in London (and NYC?)

by Joshua Liberles on May 2, 2008

TA_Congestion Congestion Pricing Pays in London (and NYC?)
Congestion pricing in New York City was given the red light, but dedicated cyclist and pedestrian advocate Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives (T.A.), a pedestrian and bike advocacy group, is hopeful that Gotham will eventually go green.

T.A., a traditionally left-wing group of bike-loving progressives, has partnered with more conservative groups, like the Regional Plan Association, the Partnership for New York City (a group of elite business executives), and the Manhattan Institute (a conservative think tank), to support the common goal of introducing congestion pricing—and other green, pro-ped initiatives—in NYC. Many Wall Street types have also donated money to the effort.

The idea of so-called “congestion pricing” has actually existed since the 1970’s, when Mayor John Lindsay proposed that drivers pay tolls on the East River Bridges. In the 1990’s, the issue arose once again, when the concept was suggested by Robert Kiley, then president of the Partnership for New York City. Even Mayor Bloomberg mentioned the idea early in his mayoral term.

In London, traffic has diminished by a full one fifth since the introduction of congestion pricing just a few months ago, and has increased revenue for mass transit. Introducing congestion pricing in NYC, however, will be a more difficult feat. In London, the Mayor has full control over the city’s transit system. In New York, the MTA is largely separate from the Mayor’s realm.

London has proven that congestion pricing may also be good for business. From the New York Observer:

London has demonstrated to business leaders who traveled there the quality-of-life benefits of traffic reduction, who in turn have tapped into New York’s fear of losing ground in the battle for global commerce. In December, the Partnership for New York City released a report stating that traffic congestion was costing New York City businesses and consumers $13 billion annually.

“The common ground is that traffic creates a whole series of problems for the city from the standpoint of business,” said Kathryn Wylde, Mr. Kiley’s successor at the partnership. “The cost and inefficiency created by the loss of mobility is a huge expense and means the loss of revenue. When people don’t have easy access to business locations, when employees are delayed in getting to appointments, when you have to leave work an hour early to get to the airport, those costs are all absorbed by business and are often passed on to consumers.”

Congestion pricing would not only be good for business, argued Mr. White, but would boost quality of life for all city-dwellers. He told the NY Observer:

“If you look at how much public space there is in cities—you know, the space between buildings—how is that space programmed? What’s it used for? Is it used for the benefit of everyone living in the city, or is it used for a relative minority, their parking or driving?

“If you think about cities,” he continued, “like why did they exist in the first place, they existed because of transportation—concentrating the destinations, services, goods, ideas. That’s what makes New York so great—right?—is it’s density.

“But then you have the lowest-density mode of transportation taking up so much of this public space. So few cities have been minimizing automobile use, but now cities that are doing this are really gaining.

“There are tremendous returns. They are investing the political capital and the capital capital to reprogram the public space for people traveling by bus, bikes or walking.”

Source: The New York Observer.

Photos via flickr by tuis and Christopher Chan.


Related posts:

  1. New York State Assembly Quashes Congestion Pricing Plan
  2. New York City Council Approves Congestion Pricing
  3. London’s Congestion Pricing Cuts Emissions, Study Says
  4. London’s Congestion Pricing Cuts Emissions, Study Says
  5. Chicago Accepts Funds From Feds to Combat Congestion
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