Congestion Pricing: The Public Conversation Begins

The New York Sun has the first of what will be a littany of congestion pricing stories coming out in the next few months. Finally, with city and state elections out of the way, New York City is about to embark on a substantive discussion of its transportation, traffic congestion and long-term sustainability issues. Some excerpts below:

While Mayor Bloomberg publicly maintains that the city is not interested in charging drivers a fee to enter Midtown Manhattan’s business district during its busiest hours, four independent groups are quietly conducting studies to determine how imposing such a charge could reduce city traffic and benefit the economy. The studies, set to be released within the next few months, could renew pressure on the mayor to consider instating the fees known as congestion pricing.

The Partnership for New York City, a group of 200 CEOs from New York’s leading investment firms, will release a study in two weeks on the impact of traffic on the city’s economy. "Congestion is a serious problem and other cities are finding solutions," the president and CEO of the partnership, Kathryn Wylde, said. "There’s been a lot of analysis of air pollution, health effects, and fuel costs of congestion, but there really hasn’t been anything on what impact traffic congestion has on the cost of doing business in the city." Congestion pricing, along with greater enforcement of parking regulations and improving mass transit options, is one option the group is studying.

Additional studies are being conducted by Bruce Schaller for the Manhattan Institute, which is hosting a panel discussion on the issue on December 7, the Regional Plan Association, and Transportation Alternatives. The fact that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was, essentially, given her job by the powerful Queens Democrat machine will be a factor in the conversation about congestion pricing:

City Council Member David Weprin, who represents eastern Queens, has emerged as the leading critic of congestion pricing. "There are people in Eastern Queens and Staten Island and other parts of the city who are not near public transportation. I don’t want to discriminate against those individuals," Mr. Weprin said.

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