Tuesday, April 15

A Eulogy for Congestion Pricing

At least in New York ... and at least for now.

Democratic lawmakers in New York's state legislature put the kibosh last week on mayor Bloomberg's proposal to charge an $8 fee for entering midtown Manhattan, even though New Yorkers seemed to be willing to give it a shot. The defeat may have been due to simple political wrangling withing the state, but the Washington Post yesterday also suggested an ideological rift between liberals could be at play.

"Liberals focusing on climate change and smart growth tend to love road pricing. But liberals focusing on social inequities tend to believe that high-income taxpayers should pay for public amenities that are available to everyone."

Congestion pricing is hailed for its environmental benefits but dismissed for its regressive implications. Is this a true impasse or is there a way forward that could achieve both goals?

It seems to me that any privatization of the road system should be accompanied with an equal incentive program for public transit to balance out the adverse effects to lower-income households. It looks like that is what Bloomberg and others are trying to do, but I suppose the political case is yet to be made.

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