DMI Blog

Elana Levin

Talking about Congestion Pricing

update: great post by Paul Curtis at Daily Gotham.

Read "London mayor has lessons for NYC on congestion pricing" by Journal News columnist Noreen O'Donnell.
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Friday morning over 200 people braved the early morning traffic to attend our Marketplace of Ideas panel on congestion pricing. The policy on the table: the most hotly debated, part of Mayor Bloomberg's recently revealed plan for a greener New York - an $8 congestion fee for driving into Manhattan's Central Business district during peak hours. We had the opportunity to learn about the ins-and-outs of congestion pricing first-hand from Nicky Gavron, Deputy Mayor of London and point person on her city's successful congestion pricing plan. The panelists laid out the range of needs and concerns in this debate, from those of small business owners in Queens to the high rate of children with asthma living along congested through-ways. If what the distinguished guests on the panel said is right then congestion pricing isn't just generating hot air, it's New York's future.

(photos by Lindsay Beyerstein - more on flickr)
full congestion pricing panel.jpg
(Deputy Mayor Gavron, Councilman Eric Gioia, Andrea Batista Schlesinger, Councilman John Liu and Ed Ott of the NY Central Labor Council)

Gavron and Gioia.jpg
(Deputy Mayor Gavron and Councilman Gioia)

The panelists took questions from the audience through-out the conversation but there were so many people in attendance that we couldn't get to all of them. So in the interest of continuing the conversation (and because we said we'd do it as we wrapped up the panel) . I've combined questions that were similar for brevity's sake. So did the panel get your gears turning? Join in the discussion. (Read the questions in the extended entry)

* If congestion pricing is not approved by the state legislature what alternative policies do you support and recommend?

* What role, if any, did noise pollution have as a factor in arguing for and implementing congestion pricing in London?

* Are new London buses standard diesel? Many fewer of them than cars but potentially much worse especially for particulates.

* How much investment in transit improvements was made by the start of London's congestion charging program and where did that initial funding come from?

* Is a marketing scheme better if decreasing the amount of CO2 is the ultimate aim? We are speaking about congestion pricing but this is just a tool to control Co2..

* How does your office deal with the challenge of making Heathrow Airport and its airlines more socially and ecologically responsible?

* Congestion charging is ok if money is put into mass transit for transit challenged Staten Islanders. We need to be part of the dialog. My children have moved to New Jersey because they have a shorter and more pleasant commute from Freehold/Trenton/Princeton area to their jobs in Manhattan.

* Given the lack of job growth in NYC over the last 50 years, combined with the fewer miles of subway track and the disappearance of manufacturing, why isn't the decentralization of the city's business districts a core aspect of plaNYC?

* Do we need to lose our freedoms in order to fight pollution? You emphasize more traffic cameras and draconian enforcement of regulations. We have already lost plenty of freedoms after 9/11.

* How can we get the NYC Police Department to enforce the 3 minute idling law (they are among the worst offenders themselves).

* Why are taxis not charged either in London or in the proposed scheme for NYC? Don't half-empty taxis contribute a large share of the congestion in both cities?

* Can you compare the typical door-to-door time in your new improved London Transport system with the same trips on your less congested roads?

* What is the next generation of congestion charging for London? GPS or tag and beacon?

* What is the expected timing of implementation? What about the parking industry?

* Car and truck use cost New Yorkers $40 billion a year in the cost of congestion and environmental damages Costs borne by non-motorists as well as by motorists. How do we begin to offset the costs equitably?

* What kinds of extensive consultation were done with the public and business leaders in London? How much money/city staff tie costs did this take and how long did this process last?

* Tolls are great for raising dollars for transit. However they will do little to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Please comment on land use controls, vehicle fuel economy, weigh distance user frees, carbon taxes - actions that will cut CO2 emissions.

* How will congestion pricing effect all the investment banks and law firms that provide limitless numbers of Lincoln Town Cars for their employees?

* We keep talking about how New York City will help alleviate problems with more mass transit. But what kind of cooperation and receptiveness can we expect from New Jersey and Connecticut?

* Does the City Council have any role in congestion pricing given that it receives state legislative approval-- and if the City Council has a role, where does the "decider", Speaker Christine Quinn stand?

* The climate has been in a warming process as an interglacial period for the last 10,00 years. How will reducing greenhouse gases stop the process which is a natural one?

* From a camera/technology perspective, what would be an acceptable accuracy rate? I.e. rate of I.D/plate read/mis-read?

* Steve Adler's study of the potential of an open market for surface transit in NYC shows that such a policy would lead to roughly fifteen billion dollars in net benefits per year in the 5 boroughs alone. It would produce enormous savings in waiting, walking and riding time for existing bus users, together with substantial net reductions in congestion, pollution, energy consumption and taxes. Have you studies the potential of an open market for surface transit in NYC or London? If not, would you like to take a closer look at Adlers' study?

* Would Deputy Mayor Gavron explain how their medical visit exemption works?

* While transit service is indeed uneven across the city there is no neighborhood where the majority of commuters drive - so the people Ed Ott's and Jon Liu refer to as "people with no choice but to drive" have neighbors with a choice?

* Speed limit in NYC is 30mph. Vehicles regularly go 40 and 50 mph on side-streets and on avenues. What are speed limits in London and do the cameras have an impact on illegal speeding?

* Assuming any pricing plan would restrict movement into Manhattan, how would this conceivably impact the environment of all five boroughs?

* My question concerns air quality vs. climate change. There seems to be no distinction made between CO2 emissions, which contribute to greenhouse gases and particulate matter pollution, which more directly affects air quality. Is there a difference? And if so, which industries do we focus on? Heating oil? Manufacturing facilities? Airline and trucking? Ground transportation? General motorists? If its about traffic congestion, there must be better enforcement of current traffic rules.

* What portion of the total congestion charge is paid by businesses (particularly pick-up and delivery of goods)? Do we know what part of these business costs is passed on to customers in the form of higher prices?

* Is there a goal in the percentage or amount of vehicles you want to reduce?

* Taxis add to congestion and emissions significantly as they spend half their time driving around Manhattan with out passengers looking for a fare. Are taxis in London fuel efficient? Do London's taxis queue at taxi stands or do they pick up passengers at any curbside? What will NYC's taxis do in the congestion pricing era?

* The joke about the U.S. embassy raises the issue of diplomatic vehicles. Are they exempt because the U.N. produces at much larger number for NYC?

* Congestion Pricing can be a breath of fresh air for communities like Harlem that suffer from high asthma rates among our children- 1 of every 4 suffers from it. What has been the measurable health benefits in London? How do we prevent this from simply being a benefit to businesses?

Elana Levin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 7:20 PM, May 21, 2007 in Cities | Community Development | Drum Major Institute | Environmental Justice | Transportation
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