By on November 12, 2008

The Manchester Evening News reports that President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has contacted Jack Opiola, a transportation principal for the firm Booz, Allen and Hamilton. Opiola the brains behind a program to tax drivers £5 (US $8) when entering the city of Manchester during peak hours. “I was ‘noticed’ by key people in the Obama campaign and I have been providing input to his strategy team in Chicago, including information about Greater Manchester’s bid,” Opiola said. Previously, Senator Obama’s most specific transportation proposal was a proposal to create a $60b toll road bank. In March, Obama endorsed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s scheme to charge a $9 toll on cars and a $22 toll for trucks that enter downtown Manhattan during working hours. Hoping to fill the gap with specifics, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) last month submitted a detailed $544 billion transportation re-authorization proposal designed to encourage the new administration to shore-up the domestic economy with heavy spending on infrastructure projects.

The new programs would be paid for with massive new tax hikes, including a per-mile driving tax that would begin with “proof of concept” trials as early as 2010. The tax would initially be one cent per mile to generate an estimated $32.4b a year. An extra one cent per gallon in the federal gasoline tax would generate another $1.8b, and a national sales tax on cars of one percent would generate $7.6b.

“With this historic election, AASHTO is optimistic that the new administration can help to foster the political will necessary to bridge the gap between today’s transportation needs and the transportation system we must build for tomorrow,” the group said in a statement.

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30 Comments on “Obama Transition Team Contemplates Congestion Charging...”

  • avatar

    Don’t worry about this. It won’t happen.

  • avatar

    The tax or no tax argument aside, wouldn’t it just be much easier to just put a much larger federal tax on gasoline? This wouldn’t require a new infrastructure for measuring and collecting the tax like a per-mile scheme would. It would also encourage conservation in different ways, not only in fewer miles driven but by choice of vehicle as well.

    A large tax (by U.S. standards) of $0.50 or $1 per gallon would also give our leaders a tool with which they can absorb all or part of a sudden oil price spike to even out the price at the pump.

    Granted, my only source of news about the London congestion tax comes from Top Gear, but it seems that it hasn’t reduced congestion in London by very much.

  • avatar

    This scheme would be the best thing to happen to the Republican party in long time.

  • avatar

  • avatar

    Can someone explain why congestion charging is a Federal issue? I can see Bloomberg or Dailey mulling such options, but congestion ain’t a problem out in these here woods…

    As for per mile charges, I guess I have no problem with them if they A) replace fuel taxes, and B) are scaled by GVW per axle. A 40 ton big rig does proportionally lots more damage to highway infrastructure than a 1.5 ton car. Like either one woudl actually happen… And of course, the enforcement mechanism will require a fair amount of Big Brother intrusiveness, but what else would we expect from the incoming crowd?

  • avatar

    Cities like New York and Chicago _need_ a congestion charge. Especially in NY, the public transport is so good that there isn’t a good reason to drive to work. If you’re a CEO and don’t feel like being stuck on a train with the common man, suck it up and pay the tax.

    In other cities, it would help get people to use public transportation, but I don’t see it working well for cities that aren’t on islands. It’s easy to toll at every entrance to Manhattan because there’s not a ton of them.

  • avatar

    Sure, I’ll be your editor-without-pay. Here’s the broken toll road bank URL:

  • avatar

    wow. keep the great stories coming.

    While a federal all-in-one mileage charge makes sense, it is much easier just to raise the gas tax. the adminstration costs would be high. Gas tax is a bit unfair to truckers, but they are the ones doing the damage to highways.

    I’ve always said raise the gas tax by a dollar but give back the money in you tax return for a few years to ease the pain.

  • avatar

    I thought Manhattan already had a congestion charge. Ever took a bridge or a tunnel?

  • avatar

    @ kansei:

    How grocer in NYC will delivery vegetables to his clients? Or anyone for that matter who has a small/medium business? I know charging this tax to customers. Then the tax has double affect: it will raise the cost of doing business and will hurt those who can afford it the least. Yes, CEO will be driven by his limo regardless of cost.
    Another point: with UN and all consulates all foreign reps in NYC already do not pay their fines. Those will not pay taxes either. It is citizenry of this country who gets screwed. And realistically, who in the right mind ventures into Manhattan during rush hours, without desperate need to do so?

  • avatar

    raising the tax on gasoline would be fine by me. i dont think it was the $4/gallon that scared people, it was the instability. do it.

  • avatar

    The money for all the nice roads we take for granted has to come from somewhere, and taxing gasoline consumption isn’t going to cover the bill when everyone is driving a hybrid or electric car.

  • avatar

    Just tax imported oil or gasoline, and give a cost advantage to domestic production.

    As far a congestion charges, I’m sure a lot of people would rather work from home in the suburbs. Of course, then Bloomberg loses out on tax revenue from lunches, etc.

  • avatar

    The greatest thing the devil ever did was convince us to vote for Obama when we really wanted Ron Paul.

    Oh and there’s one way to get into Manhattan without paying a toll… 3rd Avenue Bridge. Shhhh you didn’t hear it from me.

  • avatar

    I’m so happy today!
    Back in the USS…
    Back in the USS…
    Back in the USSA!



  • avatar

    Uh, how about we talk about lowering taxes? I liked that subject a lot more. Paying more for the same bamboozlement seems kinda like a waste of my money, of which I have less and less every year.

    I’m not getting any richer over here, Mr. President! I’ve already paid more than my fair share – get your hand out of my pocket!

  • avatar


    You got this one right. They have been looking at doing the same thing for aircraft. They say it’s because corporate jets are causing congestion yet don’t pay their fair share of the costs of running and updating ATC. Just because congress has been refusing to make a decision it has had an efffect. The result is that corporate jet sales continued to boom, while piston planes got slaughtered. Of course, the pistons were not any part of the problem at all, but most of us have no stockholders to pass our costs onto. Passing them onto our customers wasn’t likely going to happen either.

  • avatar

    I’d also favor a hefty gasoline tax just because it is simple and rewards/punishes so that consumers will be biased toward smaller more efficient vehicles. Such a tax, if big enough, would almost make the CAFE standards irrelevant because people would create the demand for efficient cars on their own. I’d begin by making the gasoline tax a percentage, rather than a specific amount per gallon, and would phase it in gradually over several years.

    Congestion pricing makes sense on a local basis, not as a federal policy.

  • avatar

    If you read the article, it doesn’t imply that the incoming administration is considering making congestion charges a federal issue, rather has expressed support for the idea by local governments. I agree, this ONLY works in a small number of cities and one of the key criteria should be the availability of alternative forms of transportation. Without effective trains, subways, buses, or other public methods I can’t see how this would reduce congestion, though it would raise a lot of money.

    I think it MAY be (and I say this only out of conjecture) that since many of these roads are partially funded by federal funds, the DOT may have to allow them to change the way the cities or states monetize them. If my local city suddenly started charging tolls on an interstate freeway, for example, I assume that this would mean a reduction in Federal funds for that same stretch of road.

  • avatar

    So instead of our Gov’t fostering and encouraging our citizens to push helping employees relocate closer to work, setting up small remote offices, telecommuting (part or full time), carpooling, etc. – i.e. changing demand of those who need to drive into the city to work. We will again try change demand with supply side constraints. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid – just look at what a mess CAFE is b/c of this stupidity. Hasn’t anyone ever taken an Economics course or read a book about it. The most effective way to change demand is to change demand (not supply).

    Don’t want too many people buying gas guzzlers? Set a national tax on gasoline and diesel that is pro rated so when gas prices fall it still artificially holds them high. People will buy more fuel efficient cars and those that use guzzlers are penalized more.

    Want to reduce congestion and traffic into larger cities saving us billions in wasted energy and significantly cut smog and emissions – encourage employers to reduce office travel, reinvest and upgrade existing mass transit systems in our top 50 large cities – make it easy for people to commute through alternate means or eliminate it altogether. Change the demand there and everything else simply falls in line (less congestion – reduce oil dependency, etc.).

  • avatar

    The numbers in the blogpost’s 2nd paragraph can all be made with a 25 cent gas tax raise ($45B pa). I can handle a $3.25 hike on a tank of gas. And I gather that most other people can too.

  • avatar

    Incredible, I can’t believe I’m seeing so many people who think this is a good idea. Yay, let’s pay to swell up the government even more!!

  • avatar

    1% tax on all cars, or just new cars?

  • avatar


    I don’t know if they could get the prorata thing to work in DC. Otherwise, you are all good.

    Prorating it would mean that as gas prices increased, the feds would get less per gallon, AND, there would be less gallons sold. That would drive them into a revenue hell, and they would simply have to raise some taxes. Now, if we could get them to actually build up a rainy day fund…

    Well, you get my point.

  • avatar

    I am against all taxes for this in Chicago.

    I have a reverse commute (7 miles) to get out of chicago that on public transport, on a GOOD day is 45 minutes. on a bad day it is 70.

    The car takes me NEVER longer than 30, and sometimes as low as 20-25.

    Basically, public transport here is unusable unless you have a single bus or train to take & live right next to it.

    On TOP of this, we pay 10.25% sales tax!!!!!!!!!!

    I’d be for a gasoline tax if it would be used to fund DECENT public transportation or discourage people from driving.

  • avatar

    ca36gtp – the idea of this tax is not for big gov’t but to discourage gasoline waste and promote more efficient transportation. The gas tax could come back to us as any spending would be earmarked for road repairs, mass transit improvements and stepped to a limit where any excess would become flat rate refund at tax time. This tax would discourage wasteful driving and wasteful vehicles (single occupant Hummers!) b/c of the repeated strain at the pump.

    Funny thing is an Odyssey or Caravan can transport as easily and comfortably up to 4-5 kids as well as any Tahoe could ever do – all the while getting 22mpg not 13 mpg. The minivan also has much better packaging and much more room overall. The higher average gas price will keep the Image conscious owners who have already abandoned their rugged styles in droves already from buying their big trucks again when gas prices go down as what is now happening. Those who need a truck will still buy them but drive them more wisely – maybe own a smaller fuel efficient car for the other 90% driving when they don’t need 10,000 towing capacity just to go to the mall to buy shoes or pick up the kids from school.

  • avatar

    Its about time we got all those poor people off the roads!

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