Will Congestion Pricing Fly in New York?


London has successfully instituted congestion pricing for private vehicles, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been trying very hard to do the same, but ran into stiff opposition from the public as well as political players.

New York magazine reports, however, that Bloomberg has just gained an important ally: New York’s new governor, David Paterson. According to New York:

Paterson’s former district hasn’t been sympathetic to the mayor’s congestion pricing plan — many fear Harlem will become a commuter parking lot — but with his first rough week, Paterson could use friends. “He needs an ally in the mayor,” says one source close to Bloomberg.

Now to convince the public. The compelling poster above appears on a bus stop about 20 yards north of 96th Street, the cutoff point for the congestion charge.

[CORRECTION: The proposed northern boundary for Manhattan congestion pricing is no longer 96th St.; it is now 60th St.]


Poster 38:
You list a lot of choices that you've made, all of which are legitimate, and admirable decisions. Your choice to have children, to raise them in Rockland County, to take them to school yourself, to respect and accommodate your spouse's decision to work early hours, and to eat dinner with your family are all wonderful. What I object to, is that you then assert that you "have to" drive to work.
"Having" to drive to work is a product of the voluntary choices you've made, which you no doubt value, and rightly so. As you recognize in your comment however, such choices have costs, among them, the fact that your lifestyle is incompatible with living in hell's kitchen and walking to work (suburban living, clean are and good public schools are still something of a luxury). I hope you would consider the possibility that, in order to accommodate your choices, society may similarly "have" to charge you, because society, legitimately or not, does not place the same value on your choices as you do.



1. First, this is one more of Bloomberg's follies, like the Olympics, the West Side stadium, and the takeover of the schools.
2. It is a tax.
3. The money will go to transit in the same way that the lottery money goes to education.
4. Initiatives like this usually arise from the mayor having dinner with friends and hearing them wail,"I can't park here on the Upper East Side because first my doorman gets his spot, and then the workers in the shops take theirs, and why are they allowed to park in our neighborhood when THEY have the subways.We should have permits so only we can park."
5. Like so many of his follies,including PlaNYC, the mayor couches it in green rhetoric. This is greenwashing. Don't be fooled.
6. He is a lame duck. His term is running out, yet he wants to put in place controls for long after he leaves office. He and his friends are setting up a permanent government.
7. He has not shown a specific plan.
Don't be fooled.


Bruce Seidell

Sidewalks are also shared and finite. Walking on a crowded one takes longer than when people on it are sparse. Better charge the pedestrians their share. Bring a few extra dolllars if you have a dog too, but should give discounts for Chihuahuas. One other point, if only those who can afford to pay can drive on the streets, then they should also pay for building and maintaining them. OK if I ride the Broadway bus I'll chip in for Broadway, but don't charge me for Fifth Ave. -Bruce


A side note to this dialogue: mega-sized SUVs hog more road space and generally require a longer time to "get going" from a restive state than do lighter cars. Add to this drivers on their cell-phones who should be paying attention but who clearly aren't (thus, adding more delayed reaction time to the equation) and you have the makings of a perfect storm- two rarely-acknowledged but incredibly pertinent reasons why the traffic situation on our ever busier thoroughfares continues to cascade out of control.

West Villager

The simple fact is this: those that oppose congestion pricing are doing so because they will be personally impacted in a negative way. Those that are in favor of it view it as a societal benefit for the greater good of the city and the environment. I have nothing to gain if congestion pricing is instituted except cleaner air, which EVERYONE will benefit from, even those who are suddenly forced to take mass transit.


I just wanted to add something to the excellent points made by #36.

I live in NJ and commute into NYC by car. I like driving which is good because I don't really have a choice. The bus near where I live takes me to midtown but I work in Washington Heights. It's actually cheaper and faster for me to drive my car over the GWB. Not everyone is avoiding public transportation by choice.


I see the neighborhoods that would become "parking lots" as having their own revenue increase as well, via charging for parking.
It doesn't take much for me to take mass transit. The charge for parking alone in downtown Chicago is enough for me to take the train - and a round trip ticket is almost $10.

Rick F

I am sure that it is because I am Economics impaired, but what I don't understand is how, if we significantly reduce traffic through CP, at the same time, we significantly enhance revenues. If we significantly reduce air pollution, congestion and inconvenience because drivers can't afford to pay and therefore no longer drive, who is paying the huge sums that are going to finance the growth of transportation infrastructure for the masses. To me, it seems like the rich will still drive and the only people forced off the roads will be the poor people who really need to drive like the early morning food service workers, health care providers and construction laborers. As when tolls are raised for the tunnels and bridges, I suspect that there will be an initial falloff in traffic, but that very soon volume returns. If there were no cars, there would be no revenue, so who will pay for the mass transit the drivers now require? I don't get it.


Charles Tsang

I live in London and I'm now part of the extended Congestion Charge zone. I have to pay about ?200 a year to drive the 1000yds out of the zone so I can get to work out of London.
That said, it is clearer within the zone except the few uncharged "expressway" routes.
My biggest concern is the way the congestion charge cameras are now increasingly being used for security purposes. Something known in the IT industry as Mission Creep.
Or to put it in more layman's terms, it's the start of a slippery slope that ends with George Orwell's Big Brother. More details on that slope here...

Hmmm... DoublePlusGood?

Eric Ganther

Dear New York Freeloaders:

Congestion pricing is a tax even Republicans can love!

Sorry folks, but transportation infrastructure isn't free. That very infrastructure that put America on the map costs a LOT of money and a LOT of environmental capital as well. The cheapest way to make infrastructure happen (factoring in the financial and environmental costs) is -- surprise -- to charge users of the infrastructure.

Economics 101

Don't be a freeloader!


@#15 Flighty of the Bronx:

"There seems to be no plan in place to accomodate the massive influx of new people that will be riding in already overcrowded trains."

Since you take the 1, you must be coming down the West Side, so maybe the East Side might as well be in the East River to you. You may not have noticed 2nd Avenue being a giant gaping hole in the earth where they're building a new subway line.


I suspect the "congestion pricing" will actually be welcomed by those who use it, if it is planned well and started...as, I believe, it was welcomed, finally, in London.

I suspect the trucks and cars it will affect will gain more in time saved, and fuel burned, than in the fees.

I walked along 42nd Street in mid-day this week...and I could walk faster than the traffic!

And if the money from the fees went into subways and buses (which crawl so slowly in our congested streets in mid-town), it would be a win-win.

The critical thing is good planning and a modest start.

A poor plan would doom it for years to come, and a modest start could be increased upon--something modest that people agree would have a guick pay-off ("demonstartion project," anyone?).


and another thing...

If you have ever actually been in Manhattan during a workday, you know very well why there is traffic:

1. taxis who stop wherever and whenever they please to pick up or drop someone off

2. truck deliveries who completely block lanes and cause massive bottlenecks.

How about limiting ALL truck deliveries to, say between 11am and 3pm, and create and enforce designated areas where taxis can pick up and drop people off? If you have these taxi areas frequently and strategically placed, this idea isn't as absurd as it might seem. Buses don't stop wherever you want them to...why not enforce taxis to do the same?

Finally, when I become Mayor, I am going to make it so any person whose car breaks down during Rush Hour on any NYC highhway, or any person who is PROVED TO BE AT FAULT for a collision during Rush Hour, will receive a $250 fine for not taking care of their car, or not being a responsible driver. One accident on the Cross Bronx at 6:30am causes hundreds of thousands of people to be late for work and costs the city and its businesses millions of dollars in lost productivity.



I used to live in London during the introduction of CP, which was opposed by many including some in the government. Subway system was by then running at full capacity without much room for improvement. So the plan was to improve the bus system by expanding the number of bus lanes and the number of buses running at peak times. Overall, system has been pretty successful, cutting traffic in central London by nearly 30% without the collapse of public transportation.

I hope CP is introduced in NYC and money raised is put into improving public transport system. Also, Bloomberg should copy Paris with the bicycle system introduced there recently by which bikes are available to be rented throughout the city.


As an aside, the US embassy in London, as well as many others, but not all, refuses to pay the charge, claiming it is a tax, and so the embassy is exempt. The Mayor's office argues that it is not a tax, but a charge for a service (less congestion). However, as I cannot claim a refund if I get caught in a traffic jam and they have failed to provide the service, I tend to favour the embassy's view.


I love all these posts that may have differing opinions on the issue, but they all want the same thing:

A more efficient way to get to work without increased costs.

Folks, if x number of human beings are trying to cross 96th Street every day, whether by car, bus, subway, ferry, yacht or helicopter, it's going to cost money to get them across efficiently. And the higher the number x gets, the more expensive it's going to be to keep the process efficient. It's based on the laws of physics.

I think the people demanding the most efficiency (and comfort) and those causing the greatest demand on the infrastructure providing the efficiency should be the ones paying for it. This is congestion pricing. And if subway fares go up due to increased demand, then those people are still paying for the same thing: efficient ways to get to work.


I love the pro-CP argument - basically if you disagree with CP, you're wrong or you're raising an issue that is a red herring. But I see history of great public projects that NEVER work out as proposed - i.e. the stadiums and all the hidden perks and increased costs, Atlantic yards, 2nd ave subway line, etc, too many to mention, and always never enough costs were projected or never enough monies collected.

The majority of people who oppose CP according to the polls oppose it due to a lack of trust of the money making it to the MTA. That is the virtue of experience making its voice heard, unfortunately. I'd rather it be different but it is true.


Congestion pricing will turn the outer boroughs into parking lots for commuters. Why should other NYC residents--those in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx--pay for the comfort and convenience of the richest residents residing in Manhattan?


Hold on CP-supporters. You all make it seem like mass transit suits everyone, when in fact, it doesn't. I live in Rockland County, and work on the far West Side in the mid 50s, near the Hudson River. I drive into NYC every day...why? Because it takes me one hour, door to door. Driving allows me to take my children to school in the morning (my wife works early hours), and be home by 6:30pm to eat dinner with my family. On the days when I take mass transit, it means driving to a bus stop, then a bus ($15 round trip), then a subway ($4 round trip), then a 15 minute walk, since there are no subways west of 8th Avenue. With ZERO traffic, it takes one hour and forty minutes...and again, thats on a perfect day with ZERO traffic. Instead, I opt to pay $8 just to cross that George Washington Bridge...and being so far West, I can pay ONLY $12 a day to park. Driving is a necessity for me, and the city - where I spend a good amount of money on lunch and shopping - wants to punish me for that. My point, is that you should all realize that many people drive in bcause they HAVE to, not because they simply don't like a crowded subway. CP would absolutely turn the other boroughs into parking lots.



Actually, 2:02, the people who drive into Manhattan are not primarily Wall Street whizzes. They are government workers, who get to park curbside in areas that are off limits to the rest of us.

The city doesn't even know how many parking placards they've issued! I am fully convinced that if this perk of government employment were eliminated, traffic into Manhattan would drop sufficiently enough that congestion pricing wouldn't even be needed.