Category Archives: Public Policy

If You Bill Them They Won’t Come… Or Will They?

Have you checked out the new congestion pricing ad? It asks: “what if congestion pricing prepared us for [the] future and started reducing overcrowding now? What if every penny went to improve public transportation and create new bus and subway lines for all New Yorkers? What if congestion pricing meant less traffic, cleaner air and a healthier environment?”

What if it didn’t?

Don’t get me wrong, I lean green, so I’m all for curbing emissions and spewing of all kinds. But a laudable goal isn’t a sufficient argument for any process that claims to further that goal. I worry about that second “what if.” Give me details on the transit improvements. Tell me how much money overhead and admin costs will eat up. And explain to me how a paltry new toll on vehicular traffic translates into all this extra spending money if it’s actually reducing traffic as suggested by the third “what if?” (Yes, I’ve read the proposed legislation and yes, I know how to parse these things).

Most importantly, will it reduce traffic? Some people involved in the London program we’re trying to emulate) say the pricing has to be much higher to have a real impact. The mayor himself has said that the costs aren’t that harsh, since people who drive in the city are usually the ones who can “afford it.”

Meanwhile, subway fares are going up on Sunday.