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Anthony Weiner

Will the Critics Kill Congestion Pricing?

3:13 PM EDT on May 8, 2007

Representative Anthony Weiner,  New York's 9th Congressional District

In his latest article for the Gotham Gazette, Bruce Schaller, head of Schaller Consulting, and author of  "CITYinFLUX: Understanding and Untangling Traffic and Transportation in NYC" writes that the the most biting criticism of congestion pricing, mostly coming from representatives of areas outside of Manhattan, is the claim that a fee is an unfair tax on the working person:

U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, who plans to run for mayor in 2009,charged that the proposal "creates class conflict" and constitutes a"regressive tax on working middle-class families and small-businessowners."

Yet the fact is that outer borough autocommuters tend to have higher incomes than subway commuters, so a feethat improves transit is actually more equitable than the currentsystem. In fact, auto commuters who use the free bridges are beingsubsidized by transit users whose taxes pay for bridge reconstructionand maintenance. Is that equitable?

Schaller goes on to challenge the skeptics:

Opponents will have to respond to the public's increasing focuson environmental aspects of this issue. The mayor pointed out thatchildhood asthma rates are four times higher in the city thannationally. How unfair are steps to reduce vehicle emissions that carrythese severe health effects? Given the public's desire to see something done about trafficcongestion, opponents will also have to convince people suggest that they have a better idea.

Councilmember Weprin called for "simple traffic mitigationalternatives to reduce congestion," but the city has made major avenuesone-way, timed signals to maximize traffic flow, restricted turns andtaken numerous other auto-friendly steps. Will the public buy the ideathat a few more tweaks will significantly reduce congestion, especiallyin light of the anticipated city's growth?

Congestion pricing clearly faces an uphill climb. But the moreNew Yorkers understand the benefits of the mayor's entire plan, themore support congestion pricing is likely to increase.

Photo: smoothdude/Flickr

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