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Tuesday’s Headlines: Behind the Anti-Congestion Pricing Headlines Edition

The Post lobs another anti-congestion pricing trial balloon, with a characteristically misleading headline. Plus more news.

12:04 AM EST on February 13, 2024

Photo: Josh Katz

In global cities where congestion pricing has been implemented, opposition has crescendoed — both among the public and in the press — in the immediate run-up to that implementation. That "valley of political death," as Stockholm's Jonas Eliasson puts it, marks the policy's most vulnerable point. Smart politicians hoping to reap the benefits of less traffic and more transit funding only need to push through to implementation, Eliasson has argued, before the public sees and understands the benefits of tolling and popular opinion turns around.

Keep that in mind when you read the New York Post's latest dinger against the toll — a paper-thin assertion that London's congestion pricing, enacted in 2003, "slashed traffic but pinched shops and restaurants."

The paper based its doomsday conclusion — bandied about to Midtown shopkeepers for outrage reactions — on a single report about a single store. Streetsblog contributor John Surico didn't have to look past the report's abstract to disassemble The Post's argument: While department store John Lewis, which commissioned the report, did experience a 5 percent drop in sales in the months after congestion tolls (during a nationwide economic slump), "the charge did not affect overall retail sales in central London," according to researchers.

New York City merchants wildly over-estimate the percentage of their customers who arrive by car. As The Post's story notes, a later study of London's congestion zone concluded that the massive drop in traffic "boosted" the city's overall economy. Another study found the dips in revenues felt by some businesses in the first months of the toll reversed by the end of 2003.

The Post, to its credit, did point out that the drop in traffic from London's congestion pricing far exceeded official forecasts: "Newspaper accounts from its first days in action include quotes from Londoners in awe of the quiet and bird song," writes Post transit scribe Nolan Hicks.

Streetsblog can't wait to see similar coverage in The Post and other pricing-skeptical news outlets after Central Business District tolling launches (hopefully) this summer.

In other news:

  • The mayor and City Council's ill-conceived outdoor dining plan has lost Steve Cuozzo, who writes that, "31 pages of confusing regulations plus a jillion online 'set-up guides' will enrich legions of lawyers and consultants while driving baffled owners to drink." (NY Post)
  • ... while DOT jokes like the program isn't on life support. (NYC DOT via Twitter)
  • The City Council canceled hearings ahead of today's forecasted snowstorm — but school is still in (remote) session. (Gothamist)
  • Expect subways and buses to mostly run according to their normal schedules despite the snow, MTA officials said. (Daily News, amNY)
  • Seems reasonable: The city's Health Department wants to ban smoking from NYC outdoor dining. (Gothamist)
  • New Jersey politicians push for more housing by transit. (Gothamist)
  • Pro-Palestine protesters arrested after attempting to block morning rush-hour traffic. (NY Post)
  • It's election day in Queens and Nassau. (Politico)

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