New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed to introduce a London-style congestion charge



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New Yorkers mostly hostile to
suggested congestion charge

By Paige Kollock, VoA

11 June 2007: When big city mayors, business leaders, and environmentalists gathered recently in New York City to discuss climate change, at the heart of their talks was the effects of carbon emissions on the environment.

The mayors stood under the blazing sun in Central Park and vowed to take a stand, to make their cities greener, with or without the help of their national governments. “We are united in the determination to meet the challenge of climate change,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Throughout the four-day summit, the mayors discussed ways in which to reduce  the amount greenhouse gases, the so-called carbon footprint of their cities.  One measure that several cities are considering to reduce carbon emissions is traffic pricing.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a so-called ‘congestion tax’ on cars entering Manhattan during business hours.

London already has a similar tax. Since 2003, British drivers have had to pay the equivalent of about $16 to enter downtown London. Ken Livingstone is the mayor of London. He wants to expand the program to the outer boroughs because it has worked so well in the city's center.

“Forty six per cent of the journeys in London were by car,” he explained. “Today that's down to 42. And that's shifted 20 per cent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the central zone, reductions of nitrous oxides, in particular, of over 10 per cent.”

Bloomberg's plan would charge $8 to enter Manhattan between the hours of six in the morning and six at night. Trucks would pay $21. A random sampling of New Yorkers found little enthusiasm for the scheme. “I think it's a horrible thing to put more stress on hard-working Americans who pay their taxes,” said one. “I'd become very poor, very quickly,” said another driver. “That's all I do is drive, and cabs are expensive, but there does have to be a resolution to the congestion problem.”

Transportation Alternatives is a non-profit group that promotes biking, walking and public transportation. It says a congestion tax is the solution.  Under Mayor Bloomberg's proposal, the estimated $31 billion made from the congestion tax over three years, would go to improving public transportation.  Paul Steely White is the executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

“Even for those who will pay the charge, they're going to get a benefit, in terms of a quicker commute.  If you're a construction worker or a plumber or an electrician, your day is going to be more efficient, squeezing in another job or two,” says White.

But some New Yorkers think they will need those extra jobs because consumer prices will go up. “I'd have to charge my customers more money, which ultimately becomes a vicious cycle,” says one citizen. “I'm in the antique business, and so if I get charged more money, I'm going to have to charge them more money.  In the end, everybody pays for it.”

Like London, Singapore and Stockholm have already incorporated traffic pricing plans. But some of the famously quarrelsome citizens of this metropolis may shout it down.


It has been estimated that a congestion charge of $8 would reduce New York's motor traffic by up to 15 per cent


On other pages
Road tolls prove a success in cities around the world
London’s congestion charge is probably the best-known in the world, but it has not been the most successful. That honour appears to go to Durham, a city in northern England noted for its cathedral and castle. Durham introduced a cordon-based pricing scheme in 2002, the first in the United Kingdom, and a year before London.

Traffic has fallen by 90 per cent since motorists were hit with a £2 (US$3.5) fee to drive in the World Heritage-listed city centre between 10am and 4pm, from Monday to Saturday. In comparison, London's congestion charge has reduced its considerably higher traffic levels by about 20 per cent, and has led to a 29,000 rise in bus passengers going into the city centre during morning peak.

From February 2007, the area that falls under London's congestion charge - which is £8 per weekday for unlimited travel between 7am and 6.30pm - will almost double in size to take in the Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea districts.

Britain's Commission for Integrated Transport released a comparison of 22 road-pricing schemes in 14 countries last month, saying their success had produced a new political confidence in congestion charging. More