Congestion Pricing — Is it just another tax?


Congestion Pricing — Is it just another tax?

I have been thinking a lot about congestion pricing, the concept of charging people to drive in certain areas at certain times. The idea is to reduce congestion, pollution, and generally make the world safe for democracy and free from original sin. They are doing it in London, and Mayor Bloomberg is touting the plan for Manhattan.


But what is REALLY going to be accomplished.  It seems to me that this is a plan to collect another tax. Look at it this way. The city can’t raise its income and property taxes any higher (they would be pilloried) so they are looking for a tax that doesn’t seem like a tax. In this case, its a tax on drivers. The charge would be $8 a car. People living on the edge of the congestion zone fear that folks will drive into the city, park in their neighborhoods, and then take public transportation to work. Well of course they will.

So Hizzonner is proposing a permit program for the area just outside the congestion zone to handle this unintended consequence. Of course the money from the permits will go into the general fund (another tax?) and the amount of the permit costs is going to be discussed later.

It seems that the city is simply creating a large bureaucracy to collect money to pay for that large bureaucracy. Why not charge market rates for on street parking in New York? Wouldn’t that have the same effect?  Wouldn’t people think twice about driving into the city if they knew they were going to have to pay $30 or $40 to park on street?  Off street rates would go up in kind, legitimate residents could pay a lower fee or whatever.

But to make this palatable, the money would have to be plowed back into the neighborhoods from whence it came. This way, those driving would pay the proper amount for the services (parking) they are provided by the city and the city would use the money to keep the streets in good repair (needed I think in NYC) clean the sidewalks, plant trees, create parks, and etc. However the money, it seems, will simply be dropped into that wonderful black hole known as the "general fund" and never seen again.

This could be done with the infrastructure that is in place. A new taxing plan would not have to be implemented. No one would have to pass laws. There would be no need for "congestion police" to go after those who hadn’t a clue, and we wouldn’t be creating a whole new class of lawbreaker.

This isn’t a problem unique to the uninformed who actually WANT to drive in Manhattan, Arnie wants to do something like it in California and other cities are eying the prospect.

"Well, it works in London."  I’m not so sure — I have ridden in taxis in London since the plan was introduced and can’t see a major change in the congestion in the central city. It may be better but who can tell?  And remember, London (and Manhattan) are basically cities that have a complete, in place, working public transportation system. That’s not necessarily true of LA, or Houston, Or Miami, or St Louis. 

But back to the issue. People who have the bucks will pay whatever it takes to use their car. Those that don’t, won’t. Since very few actually drive to Manhattan for the fun of driving in the city but drive to visit something. They have to park. Setting parking rates to keep 15% of the on street parking available seems to me to the the best way to lower congestion, stop cruising for spaces, and solve the problem.

According to my information, the Metropolitian NYC Parking Association
and Parking Guru Shelly Mallah are supporting candidates that oppose
the congestion plan, concerned about their livelihood. Fair enough. But
It would seem to me that they should be touting market rate on street
parking charges. With them everyone wins. 

Frankly, if it were me, I would stop all delivery services in the city between 8 AM and 10 PM. My experience has been that most traffic problem in New York are caused by delivery services double parking and unloading, thus blocking cross town traffic.If you want to deliver stuff in NY, do it at night when you aren’t causing problems for the rest of us.

Just my opinion


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John Van Horn

One Response

  1. For those PT readers that are either affected by the introduction of a congestion charge in Manhattan, I enclose a link to comprehensive information on the London congestion charge.
    In common with the retail industry, The effect on Parking was significant, with some parking lots income within the congestion charge dropping by as much as 25% and metered parking by a similar amount.
    After over 4 years of the scheme, many parking lots usage and income has not yet recovered to the levels prior to the scheme.
    In terms of traffic, we still have the same bottleneck of traffic driving to London, but now 20 – 30% of drivers leave their vehicle outside the congestion charge, use cheaper parking and get the bus or subway for the last part of the journey saving not only the congestion charge cost but the higher cost of parking.
    Based on the London experience, the $8 charge in Manhattan will soon be double or even treble. My suggestion to those operating parking lots in New York, is to promptly look at good locations for parking lots outside the zone and get a deal in place soon.
    Manny Rasores
    Mr. Parking Consultancy

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