If Congestion Pricing Fails, Rest Assured, There’s Always Plan B

Copenhagen-based Flickr photographer Zakkalicious tells us that this cartoon was originally published in the May 1933 issue of Toy World magazine and also appeared in David Herhily’s 2004 book, "Bicycle."

  • Larry Littlefield


    And Plan B, now that CP has mobilized people, is to redistribute street space, since everyone pay equally but motor vehicles suck up more of it. (Could be part of Plan A, too).

    The CP rationale is that street space is scarce and everyone has an equal right to it, so it needs to be rationed by price to limit congestion.

    Without such a limit, the only constraint on congestion is congestion itself — people will drive until the traffic is so bad that some of them can’t stand it, so whoever is willing to waste the most time gets the street space.

    That means that whenever an area is highly congested, it will remain highly congested no matter how great your efforts to accomodate traffic — and no matter how much you remove that accomodation.

    Mannhattan is congested with signals set to maximize traffic flow, narrow sidewalks, and lots of lanes allocated to general traffic (legally or illegally) and parking. Manhattan will also be congested if sidewalks are widened, barriers are used to limit lanes to buses, and to bikes/skaters/segways, signals are set for 18 miles per hour, etc.

    As a part time pedestrian and part time cyclist in Manhattan, I want my share of the street to equal my share of the population, or my share of the tax revenues used to maintain the street. And given all the square footage 100 percent allocated to motor vehicles (legal parking, limited access highways, the central lanes of major arterials), that will require a much bigger share of what is left, with or without CP.

    CP is about allocating space among drivers, with a financial kick-back to the rest. Without it, allocating space between drivers and everyone else becomes an all-out battle.

  • I agree, Larry. I would add that we should also reallocate tax money that is planned to subsidize driving, like the $850 million for the Shore Parkway bridges.


  • JK

    “And Plan B, now that CP has mobilized people”
    Well, there really is a Plan B, and I hope you’re right and the public gets behind it. From public documents and presentations, we have a pretty good idea of what DOT’s Plan B is. It includes:
    > Real BRT in all five boroughs (Bus lane enforcement cams must get state legislative approval.)
    > Curbside parking reform. Not clear how widespread, but looks likely that there will be higher meters in the CBD and probably elsewhere.
    > High visibility ped improvements in places like Times and Herald Square and proliferation of plazas reclaiming excess street capacity.
    > Continued rapid expansion of the on-street bike network and completion of key greenway links in every borough.
    > More bike promotion with ciclovia type car-free events and ride promotions.
    > Continued exapansion of ped improvements Safe Schools and Seniors programs.
    > (Car-free parks. Not articulated, but I’m optimistic. It’s symbolically too potent.)
    > More Health Dept and connection between tranport, land use and fighting obesity and inactivity.

    Jan Gehl said it took 30 years of steady improvements to remake Copenhagen. NYC has had about 20 years of fits and starts, that probably add up to one to five years of Copenhagen effort.

  • I had an interesting discussion regarding with some friends/acquaintances regarding CP last night. There were four other families in the discussion, they all lived in Manhattan, had education/arts type jobs, had kids, owned cars, opposed CP–all intelligent, sensitive, seemingly thoughtful people. Two had Mitchell-lama parking spaces, two parked on the street. They initially cited a variety of myths in opposition to CP which I easily and gently debunked. Then they basically admitted that the main reason they opposed CP was because of the wonderful freedom they felt from owning a car in the City. The on-street parkers admitted that they only used the car on weekends, but still valued the feeling of knowing they could drive anywhere they wanted whenever they wanted, even if they never really did so. The Mitchell-Lama parkers admitted that they probably pay about $1,500 a year or more in parking tickets. They all viewed the charge as unfair because they perceive themselves as middle class and over-taxed.

    On the other hand, several of them expressed seemingly sincere interest in the possbility of in switching to a bicycle for daily transportation, through clearly were not ready to make the leap. They semed particulalry persauded by the arguments that bicycling is part of a healthier, more active and engaged lifestyle for kids, and that too much NYC public land is devoted to storage and movement of parked cars.

    My takeway is that people have an irrational love of their cars and that’s what’s driving this whole anti-CP thing. For me, Plan B (along with the measures Larry mentions above) means continuing to persuade as many people as possible to try everyday bicycling in NYC.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (The on-street parkers admitted that they only used the car on weekends, but still valued the feeling of knowing they could drive anywhere they wanted whenever they wanted, even if they never really did so.)

    Hence the need for widespread availability of hired-for-use cars in the no car lifestyle. My family feels freedom from out car too, but I, who have to park it and get it serviced feel like a slave.

    Just tonight we chose a restaurant we could walk to and not one we would have to drive to because I was worried about finding a space good for alternative side tomorrow.

    And just yesterday I got a parking ticket after my wife and I spent five minutes looking for a sign trying to figure out why the space was not legal. No matter how hard you try, you end up with tickets.

  • Josh

    “Hence the need for widespread availability of hired-for-use cars in the no car lifestyle. My family feels freedom from out car too, but I, who have to park it and get it serviced feel like a slave.”

    You mean like ZipCar?

  • Larry Littlefield

    (You mean like ZipCar?)

    Zip car, rent a car, etc.

  • Josh

    Right, I know. My point is that the service you said there’s a need for already exists. I guess the next step is to get people to take advantage of it rather than owning their own cars in the city.


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