Sunday, April 13, 2008

Congestion Pricing

There was commotion at City Hall in New York City this week. Mayor Bloomberg presented a proposal to integrate congestion pricing for vehicles entering Manhattan. The bill would charge drivers from 60th street throughout lower Manhattan in hopes of reducing traffic congestion, which would also translate into a decreased reliance on driving, reducing oil use. Those living in Manhattan were not as opposed to the bill as those living in the neighboring borroughs or New Jersey who commute into the city. The bill passed in the New York City Council with 30-20 votes in favor. However, after that the bill would need to pass in the State Senate as well as State Assembly. There was an anti-tax rally on the steps of City Hall on Sunday, and the bill died Monday. It was not even scheduled for a vote due to lack of support. The bill would have come with $354 million in federal grants to improve the cities public transportation system, which sounds like a lot of money, but is less than 1% of the city"s economy.

London has been using congestion pricing since February of 2003. It charges private automobiles in the central area of London on weekdays. In 2004 over 110,000 paid the congestion tax daily, which includes 98,000 indiviual drivers and 12,000 fleet vehicles. At that time, the cost was 5 pounds, it increased to 8 in 2005, and fines are paid largely via text message. Since then, Mayor Ken Livingstone has decided to change the way in which people are charged. Unlike the situation in New York, Mayor Livingstone does not need the approval of City Council or other authorities to change city policy. On Day to Day on NPR Monday, it was stated that SUVs and other gas guzzling vehicles would be charged 25 pound, the equivalent of $50 US dollars daily to drive into the city, and more fuel efficient and hybrid vehicles would be charged less. Obviously this is quite controversial, with Londoners complaining that Livingstone is simply taxing the wealthy rather than making a difference regarding vehicle emissions. Only time will tell if Livingstone's controversial tax will make a difference in the traffic habits of his city.

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