Ken Livingstone on Congestion Pricing in New York


In his most recent article for the Guardian, London mayor Ken Livingstone applauds Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to introduce congestion pricing in New York City:

New York is now to get congestion charging modelled on London’s successful scheme. Isn’t it about time the naysayers admitted they were wrong?

Retail sales in central London are far outperforming those in the rest of the country. The West End theatre trade is strong. Tourism is growing strongly. Congestion charging has achieved exactly what it was designed to do — not cut the number of journeys, but shift them from private cars to public transport. It has cut congestion, and cut environmental damage, with the economy continuing to boom.

New York’s decision is a final nail in the
coffin of the claim by rightwing pressure groups and
anti-environmentalists that policies being pursued in London are
against the interests of its economy — for the one thing that cannot be
claimed against New York is that it is an anti-business city!

Now that New York is adopting congestion charging, I hope the small, unrepresentative rightwing pressure groups campaigning against congestion charging and, in particular, the Conservative party, will admit they were wrong.

Photo: anthonymaher/Flickr

  • Damian

    Oh, if only this was the done deal Livingstone makes it out to be…

  • ddartley

    To a certain extent, here in NYC, the debate over whether to adopt a pricing policy is not as clearly split into conservative and liberal sides as Livingston makes London’s debate sound, and that’s very good. Yeah, there’s a little predictability to where most conservatives and liberals fall on the issue, but, fortunately, here in NYC, it’s not as simply a partisan issue as it seems in London–peoples’s positions are determined more by factors other than simply their political alignment. I think that’s good for the discussion in general, because it might help prevent it from taking the knuckle-dragger kind of tone of “ungrateful liberals” uncivilservants guy on one hand, or the rather pompous tone of Livingston (much as I like him) on the other.

    I hope the discussion stays “trans-partisan” here in NY, like it should. It’ll be much more intelligent that way. Oh, and wish me happy birthday–I was born yesterday.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The Livingstone quote is weird in many ways. But I think the difference between NYC and London is that in London the moderates have been won over by the success of congestion pricing, leaving only “rightwing pressure groups.” Here in New York a lot of moderates haven’t seen the benefits, so their opposition is stronger than the far right’s.

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    I’m the one always pushing the discussion to issues of political economy. In this case the prior posts have beat me to the punch. The key differences here are of ideology and structure.

    “Red” Ken isn’t called “red” because thats the color of his socks. He comes from and is nurtured by a long explicitly socialist tradition. This particular quote clearly states his position that urban socialism and private profit business activity are not mutually exclusive. He argues that the social committment to congestion pricing has increased the velocity and density of economic activity in London. But it is a chicken and egg thing. Were there not a culture of social committment and civic trust there would be no concurrence on congestion charging and therefor no greater market economy enhancements.

    Our business culture, central to the ideologies of both political parties, seeks only to diminish the power of government. This is nurtured by an underlying cowboy, quasi-anarchic, political culture of individual solutions and Private (with a capital P) Enterprise. That a business leader who bought his political office with hard currency should lead a drive for civic trust is not merely ironic. In the U.S. only a business leader can even ask for civic trust.

    But the frontier political culture is not limited to the over-riding privatist ideology. Worse, it is central to Federalism. Federalism is a political structure designed to help our nation settle the frontier. That we would now in our history have to battle sprawl was not a problem that the Holy Founding Fathers conceived. The idealized system of “checks and balances” and “states rights” have only served to castrate urban political power.

    Our political culture is very primitive and crude relative to the parlimentary systems typical of Europe. There is very little difference between the parties so much so that those few differences (abortion rights, gun control, NAFTA), blurrred as they are, have to be blown into huge proportions just to hold each party’s base vote during the elections.

    When a party has control of a parliament it may act. Not so in the US. I fear the checks and balances will checkmate and imbalance the creation of a civic consensus around congestion charging. It will be a very difficult political lift without an active, identifiable movement of urban democracy, and probably a political party to support it. That every move we have to make as a city must be cleared by the State or the Feds or the Authorities (MTA, NYSDOT) is quickly going to push this critical issue off into the mire that lost NYC the Commuter Tax. With no political ideology to guide us and no independent political structure to support us this issue will not be able to stand on itself.

  • ParkingWatchdog

    The Mayor has his priorities all wrong – He has not taken care of illegal placard/permit parking first (which he had stated publicly that he would). Congestion pricing is an enticement to all those illegal placard abusers, government employees, NYPD, etc. – to get FREE parking AND FREE entry into NYC. If abolish illegal parking (thousands of violations occuring everyday) the need for congestion pricing is greatly reduced, and many, many millions of dollars (re)gained from previously lost parking meter revenue. I calculated that on my single block alone, with 17 parking meter spaces – since 9/11 – in downtown Manhattan, NYC has lost over $160,000 – Repeat: This A SINGLE NYC BLOCK. The Mayor needs to abolish illegal placard/permit parking first and foremost, then, with thousands switching to mass transit, congestion pricing becomes a moot point, and quality of life in New York is that much better.

  • Robert Gibbs

    The “king” of Manhattan (Bloomberg) is out of touch with reality. He does not care about the hardship that this plan will cause to the lower- and middle-classes.

    The subway is already “congested”. Trains are consistently running slow or held in stations do to “congestion ahead”. How does he plan to add more trains or add cars to existing trains.?

    Overcrowding of trains and and subway stations
    and is a health and hazard problem that no one wants to address. In the event of an emergency the evacuation would be in chaos … (how many lives would be lost).

    The subways are dirty and unsanitary … adding more riders would only add to the problem.

  • Congestion Pricing? No, not yet

    On Bloomberg’s watch, NYC has lost $250-million due to illegal placard in the last 5-6 years (Bruce Schaller report 2006). Face the facts and the stats. This money could easily have gone to improving mass transit, and also keeping mass transit fares down. Bloomberg’s priorities are all wrong – get rid of illegal placard parking and you won’t need congestion pricing. Bloomberg would have a greater legacy by merely enforcing existing No Permit Zone parking laws instead of turning a blind eye like he has for the past 5-6 years.


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