IBM Pitches Congestion Pricing to Middle America

This IBM ad, now airing during NFL playoff games, is definitely aimed at the motoring set. More remarkable than its windshield perspective, though, is that it’s being used to introduce the concept of congestion pricing to sports-obsessed Americans, and it doesn’t get more mainstream than that.

Instead of encouraging people to get out of their cars — ’cause that would be nuts — the spot touts IBM’s "smart" tolling technology, now employed in Stockholm (and proposed for New York in 2007). The ad is basically saying, "Don’t you hate waiting in traffic? Sure. We all do. It wastes your time and your gas. And it’s stupid. Here’s something we can do about it."

Yeah, it’s just a commercial, and talking is a far cry from doing. But the mere fact that this message is out there between kickoffs is worth noting.

Oh, and go Steelers.

Video: IBMAdvertising/YouTube

  • Though Phoenix is emblematic of the worst type of auto-centric sprawl, I still feel compelled to root for the Cardinals, the underdog’s underdog.

    If we were rooting for cities, though, I’d much rather pull for Baltimore, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. OK, not Philadelphia — their fans don’t deserve a World Series and a Super Bowl.

  • Glad to see I’m not the only one who forms allegiances based on urbanism once my team gets eliminated.

  • J. Mork
  • Yeah but did you notice the quick, almost subliminal image of about 15 people riding bikes at second 21 (in Asia BTW – I was able to pause it on the image). I found that interesting.

    And yeah! I second the Steelers. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid but still would have liked the Giants go further.

  • Go Lions!!

  • Loved the fast images of bikes passing by. that’s what I call subliminal bike promotion!

    Congrats for the guys at IBM!

  • Carl

    > Instead of encouraging people to get out of their cars — ’cause that would be nuts –

    Actually, the goal of congestion pricing is to change the coefficients in the equation people use to make their decisions and thereby encourage them to modify their behavior. This change in behavior can take the form of carpooling, taking public transportation, working different hours to avoid rush hour, or actually getting out of their cars and walking/biking. It’s just a more civilized and intelligent way of doing it than directly asking them. The point is that once you make people pay for those negative externalities that they are imposing on other road users they actually start including those factors into their decisions and they’ll respond intelligently and dynamically.

    So yes, it would be nuts to just stand outside in a sandwich board telling people to stop driving. Asking people to behave counter to their self-interest (or perceived self-interest) usually isn’t very effective. But it should be possible to enact structural changes that make walking/biking/public transportation a more sensible choice.

  • Carl

    PS Go Steelers!


Congestion Pricing Q&A With Rohit Aggarwala, Part 1

Too many unanswered questions. Among New York State Assembly Democrats, that has been one of the most frequent criticisms of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal for a three-year congestion pricing pilot project in New York City. Last month, Lower Manhattan Assembly member Deborah Glick said that she and her colleagues were “confronted with a dearth of information […]

Glick’s Excuse: Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Welcome to Glickville As Deborah Glick herself would tell you, no state legislator had more reason to support congestion pricing than she did. In a district where 95.4 percent of working residents would not have paid the charge, where households with a car are outnumbered by households sans vehicle three to one, and which nonetheless […]

Weinshall in Stockholm: Praying for Safer Streets

"The tragic loss of two bicyclists this week has shocked all of us and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families and friends. Unfortunately, New York City’s crowded streets often cause conflict between cars and bicyclists as they attempt to share limited space." — NYC DOT statement, June 29, 2006. On Thursday, June […]

Wanted: Crowd-Sourced Transportation Analysis

My recent post refuting David Owen’s attack on congestion pricing ignited a long, rich thread. Here’s one comment, from "Jonathan," that struck a nerve: [A] cordon-pricing plan … which doesn’t charge center-city residents could result in an increase in those residents’ automobile use. If the streets are free of outer-borough traffic, more of my Manhattan […]