Congestion pricing, pro and incoherent
Enjoying a new spate of publicity, the idea of congestion pricing rated a pair of columns, pro and con, in the Daily News. The pro article, by Paul White of Transportation Alternatives, laid out some clear arguments backed up by facts: London's pilot program reduced traffic 18% and sped up travel by 30%, in addition to generating revenue for mass transit projects.
Reading Wonkster's summary of the articles, it looked like the con article might give some real compelling counterpoint. Unfortunately, it was more incoherent than anything. Mitchell Moss repeatedly says that congestion pricing won't solve this problem or that problem, with no justification. And he suggests alternate solutions, many of which are fairly unrealistic - for example, federal air pollution laws rather than congestion pricing to cut down on the environmental impact (the Republican majority in the federal government is rolling back, rather than strengthening, federal environmental protections), or more mass transit rather than congestion pricing to cut down on traffic (if we could afford it, we would, and congestion pricing might pay for some of it).
Moss's last point is the most ridiculous of all. "Many low-income New Yorkers living in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx find it cheaper to split the cost of parking for $13 a day on the periphery of Manhattan than to take mass transit to work." Isn't this exactly the point? If the only reason people are driving is that it's cheaper, then it's either too expensive to take mass transit or too cheap to park. When transit is more expensive than driving, that's when the vicious cycles of declining ridership begin, cycles that doomed transit systems in other countries.
Plus, it's hard to believe parking for $13 is economical for outer borough workers. Even 4 people taking transit pay, at most, $13.36 ($1.67, the price of a ride when you buy more than 5 at a time, times 8). These people must either be suburbanites, in which case it's hard to argue the city ought to be subsidizing their use of the roads for free, or else the real issue is that transit takes too long. And it's true that many parts of Queens in particular, as well as the northern Bronx and eastern Brooklyn, are poorly served by transit. But the solution to that is clear - build more trains to those neighborhoods, give buses signal priority so they can get to Manhattan faster, or other transit improvements. The only obstacles are money and political will. Congestion pricing just might generate the money. Do we have the will?
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