Will the Critics Kill Congestion Pricing?
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-business
Yet the fact is that outer borough auto
commuters tend to have higher incomes than subway commuters, so a fee
that improves transit is actually more equitable than the current
system. In fact, auto commuters who use the free bridges are being
subsidized by transit users whose taxes pay for bridge reconstruction
and maintenance. Is that equitable?
Schaller goes on to challenge the skeptics:
Opponents will have to respond to the public’s increasing focus
on environmental aspects of this issue. The mayor pointed out that
childhood asthma rates are four times higher in the city than
nationally. How unfair are steps to reduce vehicle emissions that carry
these severe health effects? Given the public’s desire to see something done about traffic
congestion, opponents will also have to convince people suggest that they have a better idea.
Councilmember Weprin called for "simple traffic mitigation
alternatives to reduce congestion," but the city has made major avenues
one-way, timed signals to maximize traffic flow, restricted turns and
taken numerous other auto-friendly steps. Will the public buy the idea
that a few more tweaks will significantly reduce congestion, especially
in light of the anticipated city’s growth?
Congestion pricing clearly faces an uphill climb. But the more
New Yorkers understand the benefits of the mayor’s entire plan, the
more support congestion pricing is likely to increase.