Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New York City Congestion Pricing Battle

Mayor Bloomberg's plan to bring congestion pricing to New York City is encountering stiff and perhaps fatal opposition in the New York legislature. The legislature adjourned without taking action on the plan, but may reconvene in special session next Monday, July 16, when it could take action.

The federal government has set a Monday deadline for New York to approve the plan. If New York fails to do so, it could lose as much as $500 billion of the $1.1 billion in this year's Urban Partnership Program.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has emerged as a leading opponent of the proposal. His "Interim Report: An Inquiry into Congestion Pricing as Proposed in PlaNYC 2030 and S.6068" concludes that the benefits of congestion pricing are speculative and that mass transit improvements need to be in place before people are forced to ride public transit.

It appears that a large coalition of transit and environmental groups have joined in support of the congestion pricing proposal. One group, Transportation Alternatives, issued a report reputing Brodsky's report. It is entitled "The Forgotten Majority: 3 Overlooked Truths about the Impact of Congestion Pricing on New York City's Transit-Reliant Mainstream."

Brodsky's position is that the Mayor's proposal is unfair to the "working people" in the outlying boroughs, who on average earn less than those who live in Manhattan. TA responds that most New Yorkers take transit and would benefit from the transit improvements that could be funded from the congestion fees. Drivers, even in the outer boroughs, tend to be relatively affluent and hence able to pay the toll necessary to access Manhattan by car. In TA's view, the burden of congestion pricing would fall on a relatively small and relatively wealthy group while the benefits, both in terms of more money for improved transit and improved quality of life from a healthier environment, would be distributed widely.

This dispute probably illustrates the central dynamic at work wherever congestion pricing is proposed. Transit users will benefit from congestion pricing if the proceeds are used to fund transit improvements. They plus their environmental/quality of life allies will line up in favor of congestion pricing. On the other side will be those who drive to the urban core. This group on average will be relatively affluent and likely quite vocal against congestion pricing. The class divide will not be clear, however. Wealthy transit riders may support congestion pricing while there are plenty of poor people traveling by car who will wish to avoid paying a toll.

It will come down to the numbers. The greater the percentage of people traveling to the urban core by public transit the more receptive the region likely will be to congestion pricing. Cities like London and Stockholm that have successfully implemented congestion pricing had a high percentage of transit use and thus a natural base of support for congestion pricing. Even in those cities, however, the congestion pricing approach had to overcome stiff opposition.

New York has a significantly higher percentage of trips by transit to its urban core than does Chicago to its urban core. The difficulty that Mayor Bloomberg is having in getting the New York plan in place--even with the federal government waving a $500 million carrot--suggests that it will be difficult for this region to implement a congestion pricing plan.

Note, however, that New York's trouble stems from having to get state legislative approval for its congestion pricing plan. Does anyone know if Chicago would have to get legislative approval to implement a congestion pricing system in a downtown zone? Or can it do so by exercising its home rule powers. If Chicago would not have to go to Springfield for approval, then the odds of a local congestion pricing system goes up significantly.


Anonymous said...

I think Mayor Nanny Bloomie is a very arrogant man. I also highly doubt he rides the subway that much. He's the mayor, I want someone driving him around so he can work and make calls and stuff. New Yorkers shouldn't want him wasting all that time on the subway.

We all have to wonder what Bloomberg is really thinking of with this congestion pricing tax scheme. Maybe he mostly just wants a new tax. Just wrap it up in ‘concern for the environment’, and then people can just demonize those who oppose it.

If he cares so much about traffic jams, congestion and air pollution, why does he let Park Avenue be blocked off? Why doesn’t he do anything about that?

It's true, Pershing Square Restaurant blocks Park Avenue going South at 42nd St. for about 12 hours a day/5 months of the year! This Causes Massive Congestion and Air Pollution!

But apparently it does not bother NYC’s Nanny-in-Chief Mike “Congestion Pricing Tax” Bloomberg?

It certainly supports his claim that the city is hugely congested.

Check out the map! Tell your friends!


Check it out!

Thank you!


Anonymous said...

Are you kidding, little blue? The mayor rides the subway most days, and reports from even the infamously surly NYC press substantiate this. (Besides, time driving is time wasted. Time in the subway is the only time I ever have to catch up on the news, which is also what Bloomberg does.) Let's face it: transit in NYC, as elsewhere, needs a lot of money, and it's got to come from somewhere. Even better if it comes from the pockets of drivers, who both have alternatives and receive huge indirect subsidies from government.

Take your little NIMBY whining about Park Avenue elsewhere.