Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An Elegant Solution

It just needs some polishing:
For the past three years, London has been charging drivers about $14 to enter the central business district. Subsequent studies found that the number of cars on the streets fell by more than 20 percent, and bus delays fell by half.

Environmental and transportation groups have been advocating for congestion pricing here ever since, and were joined yesterday by the pro-business Partnership for New York City.
If you've ever been on the streets of New York City during a gridlock alert day's afternoon rush hour, you will fully appreciate the need for congestion pricing.

Unless you were a Republican corporatist or one of their henchmen, of course:
But now, a new group called The Committee to Keep New York City Congestion Tax Free is fighting back with its own statistics. "Everyone touts the London system as a model," said former City Councilman Walter McCaffrey, who now works for the group.

"But if you are in a situation where you have to bring your vehicle into Manhattan for work, you could end up paying $5,000 more a year for this new tax."
"New tax": the mantra of greedy little short-fingered vulgarians everywhere.

Yes, technically, it's a tax, since it's an additional cost for an activity or event.

So what? Why shouldn't the people who use the most congested streets in America, who create that congestion, be forced to pay their share of the burden for causing it?

If I go to a movie in Times Square, I don't expect Mr. McCaffery, the councilman-turned-lobbyist, to pick up my movie ticket. Why should he pick up the cost of driving my car to the theatre?

With the advent of technologies such as EZ-Pass and other RFID markers, it would be a no-brainer to collect fees for congestion pricing, and indeed, on Port Authority of New York bridges and in the tunnels, such a scheme exists: you get a deeper discount from the regular toll with your EZ-Pass on off-hours than you do during the crunch.

According to a study published yesterday by the Partnership for New York City, a pro-business group, the congested streets around Manhattan cost the city about $4 billion dollars, and about 52,000 jobs. Congestion pricing would try to ease that as vehicular traffic south of 60th Street in Manhattan would have a fee charged, which would fund additional alternative mass transit facilites, such as increased ferry service and more buses and subways. 3.6 million people travel into this district daily and about a third of those arrive in vehicles. Less than half those vehicles are used in the course of business in this district, meaning that roughly 900,000 vehicles enter midtown and lower Manhattan daily, as commuters or pleasure drivers. Daily. A million cars daily.

That's so unnecessary. The time has come to get the fair share out of these folks for clogging up our streets.