NYT on NYC Congestion Charge: Keep It Simple, Stupidos

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

You know the old joke that ends "We've already established what you are. We're just haggling over price"? Same deal here. Despite public outcry that forced Mayor Bloomberg to make congestion charging someone else's fault– a 17 member commission– The New York Times wants to keep the "dream" alive. Apparently, congestion charging is THE answer to gridlock. "London proved as much when it adopted congestion pricing, charging drivers to use certain streets. Traffic moved faster, tailpipe emissions went down and the fees collected went to improve public transportation." Uh, no. No. And no. While The Old Gray Lady is ready for NYC motorists to lay down (bend over?) for a regressive tax/PC money grab, the newspaper of record doesn't like "the unworkable suggestion of rationing entry to the city each day based on the last digit of license plates. There are other duds, including the idea — sure to die in Albany — of putting tolls on toll-free bridges over the East and Harlem Rivers. An $8 surcharge on taxi rides, part of another proposal, is another nonstarter." Those crazy commissioners, eh? And the winner is… forcing "most cars $8 and trucks $21 to drive on the city’s busiest streets during weekdays." Fare enough?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Donal Donal on Jan 25, 2008

    There's a giant leap from reducing congestion to eliminating vehicular traffic.

  • Robert Farago Robert Farago on Jan 25, 2008
    Donal : There’s a giant leap from reducing congestion to eliminating vehicular traffic. Not as great as you might imagine. But again, to the main point: what's wrong with congestion? I reckon it's a self-policing feedback loop kinda deal. If people don't like it, they don't drive in it. If they don't like the alternatives, they move away from the congestion. What's wrong with that? OTHER than revenue raising, why should the government interfere? And before you get started, I'm not buying that "congestion costs our economy $xb a minute." So does alcohol abuse. It's just part of the cost of doing biz. Period.
  • Radimus Radimus on Jan 25, 2008

    The government is interfering because people are asking it too. People who sit in congestion gripe about it and want the government to do something because they don't want to take personal responsibility for their own choice. They are sitting in traffic jams because they chose to live somewhere that requires them to sit in traffic jams. It's easier to pass the problem off than actually do something about it. And if the people of NYC are asking the city government to do something about congestion, then Bloomberg and company will be happy to obilge them.

  • Brownie Brownie on Jan 25, 2008

    RF: Obviously there are negative externalities associated with traffic congestion, particularly in New York City where rail access is actually or effectively nonexistent at 2 of the 3 airports. Besides inconveniencing travelers (a bigger deal than in many places, given NYC's status as an international business hub) it reduces fire, ambulance and police response times. This in turn requires the city to, for example, maintain more firehouses than would otherwise be necessary on some of the most valuable real estate in the world - clearly not an effective use of taxpayer money/assets. In a city where very few people drive, it's not just drivers who are inconvenienced by congestion, and people (especially non-residents) need to understand that. The comparison to Providence isn't really fair. Providence has never had a public transit infrastructure remotely comparable to New York City. It is a city where you almost must drive; New York is a city where few drive and where you're generally better off not driving. The potential set of consequences from limiting auto access are completely different for the two cities.