Tag Archives: congestion pricing

Drive less, but park more

It looks like New York got its federal grant ($354.5 million–oh, if only!), with a few strings. Here’s how the money is supposed to be used:

• $10.4 million to implement congestion pricing
• $213.6 million for bus facilities and other improvements
• $112.7 million to begin Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
• $15.8 million for regional ferry service
• $2 million for research

The funding from the USDOT is conditioned on actions by the New York State Legislature and the New York City Council. Congestion pricing must be approved within 90 days of the opening of the next session of the New York State Legislature, allowing congestion pricing to begin no later than March 31, 2009.

(For details, check out Streetsblog’s full post.)

Unfortunately, not all branches of the federal government are working to get folks out of their cars. From today’s New York Times:

This week, the [U.S. Department of Transportation] announced $848 million in grants to help cities discourage people from driving, in many cases by imposing new tolls or fees.

But at the same time, another arm of the federal government seems to be sending a very different message. Congress provides a tax break to many of those same drivers to help them shoulder the costs of taking their cars to work.

Close to 400,000 commuters nationwide — about half of them in the New York City area — take advantage of a provision in the federal tax code that allows them to use up to $215 a month in pre-tax wages to pay for their parking at work, according to executives at corporate benefits firms that specialize in administering the tax break.

Talk about your mixed messages. I’m still waiting for the tax break for bus chicks.

NYC congestion charges: an update

Robert I. (aka Neat Engine), New York native and former Seattle grad student, sent me this update (from the Times City Blog) on the city/state discussion about congestion pricing in Manhattan:

Journalists, advocacy groups and residents on both sides of the issues have been struggling to make sense of the congestion pricing agreement reached in Albany on Thursday.

On one hand, the deal at the very least seems to keep Mr. Bloomberg’s idea of charging drivers in Manhattan alive. It may even allow the city to begin taking steps to begin putting such charges in place.

On the other the plan hardly means congestion pricing is a done deal. A 17-member commission of city and state representatives will study different ways to mitigate traffic — not limited to congestion pricing — and act by March.

Streetsblog‘s take:

Congestion Pricing: What’s the Deal?

Nobody knows whether the convoluted and difficult congestion pricing “deal” reached by political leaders yesterday will actually result in anything. The deal is complex even by Albany standards. A few things, however, are clear:

1. Mayor Bloomberg does not have a “green light” to move forward with congestion pricing, nor has he been granted any new powers. The deal denies him the authority to impose a pricing charge until approved by the City Council and state legislature.

2. The feds may still yet give New York City congestion pricing start-up funds despite the missed Monday deadline.

3. The deal mandates a very specific timeline by which the process will move forward and a 17-member commission that may become an important forum for the congestion pricing and and broader transportation debate, good things could emerge.

4. Transportation policy and livable streets issues have moved to the top of New York City’s civic agenda and will remain in the political spotlight for some time to come.

5. There are a ton of things that could still derail congestion pricing.

Meanwhile, London, a congestion-pricing pioneer, is raising some of its charges. According to Carbusters magazine, SUVs (called “4x4s” and, occasionally, “Chelsea tractors,” in England) might soon have to pay as much as 25 pounds per day to drive into the city.

NYC: the congestion-pricing debate continues

Mayor Bloomberg is still pushing hard for congestion-pricing in New York. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the state legislature will approve his plan in time for the city to receive a $500 million federal traffic-reduction grant. From the Associated Press:

The U.S. Department of Transportation plans to choose up to three cities for pilot programs to combat traffic and pollution, providing up to $500 million for each winner to implement the plan… New York state Senate leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, says Monday is the federal government’s “drop-dead date” for New York to commit itself to Bloomberg’s proposal.


Supporters of Bloomberg’s plan argue that hard choices are required for New York City’s future. They also cite the immediate benefits: Clearing the air in “hot spots” that threaten children’s health; reducing traffic congestion in a choked Manhattan striving to remain the world’s financial epicenter; and the lure of up to $500 million in federal funds. The Bloomberg administration predicts that street traffic would decrease by 6 percent in lower Manhattan during the three-year pilot project as more people use public transit.

But approval of Bloomberg’s plan in Albany will likely require deft diplomacy, bipartisan cooperation and a thick skin in a Legislature long criticized as slow, dysfunctional and ruled absolutely by each chamber’s majority party: Republicans in the Senate and Democrats in the Assembly.

It would be a shame for the city to lose out on that money, especially since, according to Bloomberg, $300 million of it would be used to fund immediate transit improvements.

New York Legislature: Take it from a resident of a city that’s lost it’s share of federal transportation funds: You want this money.

One more reason to love New York

Ever since my little brother moved to New York, I’ve started paying closer attention to what goes on there. What’s going on right now is worth sharing.

Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a series of measures that would accommodate growth (a million more people expected by 2030) and reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The most promising of the measures? A congestion charge.

Under the plan, the city would charge $8 for cars and $21 for commercial trucks that enter Manhattan below 86th Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. The charge would be $4 for drivers within Manhattan, and several exemptions would apply. No one would be charged on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive or the West Side Highway. There would be no charge for moving cars to comply with alternate side parking, and there would be no charge for taxis.


Later, Mary E. Peters, the United States secretary of transportation, issued a statement praising the plan as “the kind of bold thinking leaders across the country need to embrace if we hope to win the battle against traffic congestion.” The Nassau County executive, Thomas R. Suozzi, who has many constituents who commute by car to Manhattan, also was enthusiastic. “People’s first reaction is they don’t want to pay,” he said. “But getting them to switch to mass transit benefits us all.”

(Source: New York Times)

The congestion charge is also, for obvious reasons, the most controversial of the measures. NYC’s Streetsblog (easily my favorite transit blog) details some of the objections:

Representative Anthony Weiner:

While I applaud the mayor for focusing on a long-term sustainability plan for the city, in this case the cure seems to be worse than the disease. We must look at innovative ways to face the challenges created by the city’s own success, but a regressive tax on working middle-class families and small-business owners shouldn’t be one of them.

My take: The fact that this conversation is taking place at all is huge. If New York manages to move the issue beyond conversation, my Christmas wish might come true sooner than I expected.

What Bus Chick wants for Christmas

Dear Santa,

I’ve done my best to be a good bus chick this year. I always have my fare ready when it’s time to pay; I keep my headphones turned down; and I never, ever take up more than one seat when the bus is full. I’ve held up my end of the bargain, Santa, so I’m hoping you’ll get started on yours. Remember that congestion-pricing plan I’ve been asking for? …

Thanks to my incessant nagging, Santa knows what congestion pricing is. In case you don’t: It’s a system that charges drivers for entering busy city centers during certain hours. A number of cities, including Singapore, Stockholm, and Oslo, have congestion-pricing plans, but London’s is the largest and easily the most well known. London’s effort is, of course, imperfect and controversial, but there is no disputing that it has reduced congestion and raised considerable revenue for transit projects.

As far as I know, congestion pricing hasn’t been introduced in any U.S. cities (New York is arguing about it, at least), so this is Seattle’s chance to be a pioneer on the driving-reduction front. And why not?

Boiled down, the benefits of such a system:

1) It would get people out of their cars (nothing like the sting of a $10 fee to make the short walk to the bus stop seem more palatable), thereby reducing pollution, aggravation, and–oh yeah–congestion.

2) It would raise money, which could be used to get even more people out of their cars. The fees would quickly recover the cost of implementing the system and then could be used to pay for stuff like: more and better transit service, bike paths, and even road repairs.

3) It would require people who choose not to get out of their cars to pay more of the real cost of their destructive habit. (Yeah, I said it.)

We could start by charging folks for driving downtown (given that it’s really the only place in the city that almost everyone can reach easily without a car) and expand the “charging zone” (perhaps even create one on the Eastside) as we raise enough revenue to expand transit options.

What say you? I’m pretty sure Santa’s down.