Monday, April 7, 2014

Will New York City Finally get Congestion Charging?

The Plan That Could Finally Free New York City From Traffic Congestion (Eric Jaffe, The Atlantic Cities, Mar. 20, 2014)

Also discussed here: East River tolls, Midtown traffic charges proposed for $1.5 billion boost to roads, transit system - Transportation advocates are ramping up efforts to sell the public on a revised version of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's defeated traffic plan. The 'fair tolling' proposal would charge drivers more in transit-rich areas like Midtown, while tolls at some bridges would be reduced. (NY Daily News, Pete Donohue, New York Daily News, Mar. 21, 2014)

Today we read about a second attempt to put congestion pricing into effect in downtown New York City, after the first one proposed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2008 was rejected. Although supported by the city, the plan was rejected by the state government and this set back plans in several other cities in the US and Canada to follow suit. What makes Manhattan well-suited for a tolling is that it is surrounded by bridges and tunnels, a characteristic common to the downtowns of other major cities that use congestion charging such as Stockholm, Sweden and London, England. While many want to reduce congestion and speed up commuting times, a key argument against putting a price on congestion is the lack of trust concerning the revenue it generates. The new plan for NYC takes this into account with firm plans to use most of the projected $1.5B to go to public transit.

  congestio charging london  

Key Quotes:

“There's a reason for New York City's ongoing flirtation with road pricing: .. It has a clear core business area (Manhattan) accessible by limited entryways (bridges and tunnels) that would be easy to price for traffic reductions (via tolls or cordons). Its overwhelming traffic oozes into and out of town each morning from all sides at the speed of … ooze. Its expansive transit system is in perpetual need of revenue and further expansion.”

“If New York buys into this new plan, some experts believe the path to road pricing could open for congested American cities to follow.”

“The Move NY plan .. first goal will be to distribute bridge and tunnel traffic more evenly and dissuade bridge shopping on the East River. … all the eastern crossings, including the currently free bridges, will cost the same price: $10.66 round-trip for E-Z Pass users, $15 cash. Those increases will be counter-balanced with toll reductions on the outer bridges of as much as 50 percent.”

 “All told the plan could generate up $1.5 billion in net revenue every year….most of it (roughly a billion) is earmarked for transit: maintaining current service and expanding into transit deserts, with anything extra stowed away for long-term capital projects.”

“Move NY want traffic flows in the cordon area to improve by 20 percent. Right now the tolls are fixed, but Schwartz says they'll be adjusted on a quarterly basis to make sure that mark is being met. If traffic is flowing above expectations, it could be lowered. If it's still oozing like ooze, the tolls might go up.”

"One of the things we really try to emphasize over and over is this is about fairness..This isn't about sticking people with new tolls. Everybody's paying their fair share, and everybody's getting something in return."
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