Congestion Charging Rumor Mill

kiley.jpgThree congestion charging rumors, all from excellent, though, un-named sources:

1. Bob Kiley, the Transport for London Commissioner who oversaw the design and implementation of that city’s successful congestion charging system is joining Parson’s Brinckerhoff in New York City. Parsons is the global engineering firm that has been leading the Partnership for New York City’s secretive, years-long congestion charging study. The move has not yet been announced publicly and it is not known what his specific title or role will be. Clearly, Kiley would be an ideal candidate to get a congestion charging system up and running in New York City. Before revamping London’s transportation system, he served as Chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and President of the Partnership for New York City. Word has it that Bob and his wife Rona are looking to move back to the United States from London within the next three to six months.

2. Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia was in London last week to attend the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress meeting. At the conference Primeggia and other delegates were invited "to see first-hand innovative projects such as the Congestion Charging scheme and the cutting edge technology powering London’s Transport Control Centre and London Underground’s Network Operations Centre," according to London Mayor Ken Livingstone. My source speculates that Primeggia is charged with looking at how a congestion charging system might be applied to New York City (forgive the pun). The agency has not responded to queries on that.

3. Finally, a City Hall source says that after the 2012 Olympics bid died Mayor Bloomberg started looking for a significant transportation legacy to leave behind and his administration’s second term reorganization of DOT and the development of the City’s Office of Long-Term Planning are a part of that. But time is tight to do anything significant on the transportation front. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff is really "breathing down the neck" of the Long-Term Planning Office to deliver a solid product within the next two months. In fact, Doctoroff often likes to remind his Long-Term Planners exactly how many hours they have left before their deadline. There is speculation that the Long-Term Plan will include discussion of congestion charging based on ongoing research by the Partnership for New York City.

At the end of her speech at the Manhattan Transportation Policy Conference yesterday, Commissioner Iris Weinshall referred to the new Long-Term Planning effort, saying, it is "considering a wide range of strategies to shift travel away from the automobile and onto transit" and she expects that it "will include some big ideas." Could one of those big ideas be congestion charging or is this all just wishful thinking based on hearsay? Borough President Stringer now refers to congestion charging as "an applause line" in Manhattan, at least. Clearly, it is no longer the political death trap that it once was. So, what are the odds that the Bloomberg Administration will put a serious congestion charging proposal on the table before the start of the ’09 campaign season?

I say, 2-to-1. It’s a little bit hard to imagine a Mayor putting such a big idea on the table right before the end of his second term. Then again, maybe that’s the best time to do something as politically treacherous as congestion charging…

  • JK

    Maybe we are looking in the wrong place politically. It seems pretty likely that Sheldon Silver will want a say in approving pricing, City Council certainly will. Most importantly, so will the soon to be most important, popular and powerful politician in the state — Eliot Spitzer.

    Maybe the thing that puts pricing over the top is the MTA debt bomb exploding and the spectre for Spitzer of $3 base fares.

  • All good information and reason to suggest that this might be in the serious planning stages.

    Here’s my best guess with no inside knowledge. First he’s going to have to show that he’s tried everything else and it still doesn’t completely solve the traffic congestion problem. That means putting all the infrastructure and alternatives in place (bike & BRT network, increased MTA subway service, revised parking policy, etc) before he or his successor can argue there is no alternative.

    He can’t just do this through force of personal will as he attempted with the Olymics. He will need to pursuade the voters and local elected officials in the outerboroughs that this is the right thing to do.

    One thing that would help is if the city set targets of an acceptable target of cars entering the Central Business District. Missing that target would result in unacceptable levels of pollution (asthma, lung disease, etc), obstruction of emergency vehicles (response times) and impede business in the city.

  • P

    So can we expect more reports from yesterday’s conference? What were the conclusions from each of the breakout groups?

  • I know Clarence was there with his cameras so you should have some actual video in the near future. and BP Stringer’s office is going to summarize it more formally at some point.

    I attended the cars and buses break-out session. One of the most notable things I took away was the near universal dislike (in Manhattan) of personal automobiles causing traffic and getting in the way of local people walking, taking the bus, getting deliveries, etc. There was fairly broad agreement that better regulating curbside parking was an important tool whether through neighborhood parking permits or increasing metered rates to encourage people to go to indoor garages.

  • Clarence

    I expect we will have a video wrap up in about 10 days or so…there is a ton of footage and one of my fellow employees will be tackling this vid. We were able to do about 20 plus in-depth interviews with a cross section of folks at the Conference and seeing viewpoints from them as well as many suggestions from breakout session folks will be inspiring.

    I actually can’t wait to see the video, maybe because I am actually not editing it for a change!

    The Scott Stringer speech is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iJnpBlmlpg

    And the Fun Enrique Penalosa ride to the conference is here:

  • On Monday, Gotham Gazette will run an edited text of the talk by former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa, who instituted an array of policies to restrict car use in his city of 7 million people. He also offers a ringing explanation of why it is essential to do that and suggests a few wayts New York could follow suit.

  • Thanks Gail. I’m glad GG is on the case!

  • someguy

    gothamgazette ROCKS!

  • Thanks! We’ll have an edited version of Iris Weinshall’s comments too — all available Monday a.m.

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