[Carfreeliving] City searches for traffic innovations
Cheryl.Brinkman at McKesson.com
Fri Nov 11 09:51:09 MST 2005
And NY is considering congestion charging as well.
November 11, 2005
Driving in Manhattan? You Pay, Under One Idea
By SEWELL CHAN
It is an idea that has been successful in London, and is now being whispered
in the ears of City Hall officials after months of behind-the-scenes work by
the Partnership for New York City, the city's major business association:
The idea is to charge drivers for entering the most heavily trafficked parts
of Manhattan at the busiest times of the day. By creating a financial
incentive to carpool or use mass transit, congestion pricing could smooth
the flow of traffic, reduce delays, improve air quality and raise the speed
of crawling buses.
To be sure, it is far from being a reality, or even a complete proposal -
when pressed, the mayor's spokesman said it was not on his second-term
agenda. Yet the Partnership's work suggests a plan that, if carried out,
could profoundly alter the way New Yorkers and those visiting the city use
Congestion pricing is the focus of a nine-month study by the Partnership, a
group with great influence at City Hall, and participants have provided the
first rough outlines of how such a plan might work.
The 840,000 cars that enter Manhattan south of 60th Street on an average
weekday could be subject to a $7 charge during peak hours. Vehicles starting
and ending their trips within that zone might pay a $4 charge. Several
roadways would remain free, like the West Side Highway and the Franklin D.
Roosevelt Drive on the East Side, according to people with knowledge of the
Drivers could be required to prepay traffic fees, either online or at
street-level vending machines. Video cameras would capture license plates of
vehicles in the payment zones, and allow the city to match cars to accounts,
people familiar with the study said. Failure to pay would result in a fine.
No toll barriers would be involved.
Raising money would not be the main goal - although millions of dollars
could be collected and funneled into subways, buses, commuter trains and
bridges. The video cameras would be at street intersections, and tolls would
not be charged on the East River bridges - a prospect that doomed previous
proposals, including one Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg advanced in 2002.
City officials acknowledged that Mr. Bloomberg had always been interested in
some type of congestion-pricing model, but had said that he considered tolls
on the East River bridges politically daunting. And while officials said
some sort of business-district traffic charges could conceivably be
workable, they would have to seriously consider what sort of political fight
that would bring. They stressed that congestion pricing was a battle Mr.
Bloomberg would not wage if it distracted from his other priorities, like
education and crime reduction.
"Although we're always open to ideas from the business community, this isn't
on the mayor's second-term agenda," said Edward Skyler, a spokesman for the
Even so, several administration officials have discussed the plan with the
partnership, and Michael Primeggia, the deputy commissioner for traffic at
the city's Transportation Department, has said publicly that congestion
pricing should be considered. The Partnership intends to complete its study
by the end of the year and to present it to the administration, which the
business group hopes will do its own study.
In London, where congestion pricing began in February 2003 after a year of
planning, traffic has been reduced by a third and some bus lines are moving
twice as fast. Officials are so satisfied that they intend to nearly double
the size of the congestion-pricing zone in 2007. One thing seems certain:
New York would not charge nearly as much as the $14 it takes to drive into
London's financial district during the day.
"Is there an opportunity to create a congestion-relief zone that would help
this global city?" asked Ernest Tollerson, a senior vice president at the
Partnership. "This is a city that wants to add tens of thousands of jobs,
but we can't continue to build streets and roads. For the long-term growth
of the city, we need demand-management tools."
Mr. Tollerson oversees a working group that includes five engineering and
construction firms, Parsons Brinckerhoff, STV Group, Washington Group
International, Siemens and D M J M Harris; a consulting firm, Booz Allen &
Hamilton; and two prominent advocacy groups, Environmental Defense and the
Natural Resources Defense Council.
The team has met about once a month since April, and technical analysts have
been going through reams of authoritative traffic data from the New York
Metropolitan Transportation Council, an intergovernmental body that measures
traffic for air-quality and planning purposes.
Andrew H. Darrell, the New York regional director at Environmental Defense,
said that 80 percent of the cancer-causing substances inhaled by New York
City residents comes from tailpipe emissions. "Most people think of traffic
congestion in the same way they think about lousy weather - it's too bad but
you can't do much about it," he said. "There is no other tool out there as
effective as congestion pricing for cutting traffic congestion in a big city
like New York."
In London, he said, congestion pricing led to a 20 percent reduction in
carbon dioxide emissions and a 12 percent cut in emissions of harmful
particulates and nitrogen oxides, the main components in smog.
Walter B. Hook, executive director of the Institute for Transportation and
Development Policy, which works to reduce automobile dependence worldwide,
said congestion pricing was still a fairly new idea. "For a long time people
thought it was political suicide to implement congestion charging," he said.
Singapore, Oslo and Riga, the capital of Latvia, have all experimented with
charging for driving in town.
The most extensive congestion pricing plan, in London, was pushed by an
activist (and populist) mayor, Ken Livingstone, and overseen by a transport
commissioner, Robert R. Kiley, who happens to be a former president of the
Partnership for New York City and a former chairman of the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority. Mr. Kiley has urged other cities to consider the
Under the plan, drivers are charged a daylong flat fee of £8 ($14) to enter
the so-called congestion zone, an eight-square-mile area around London's
Officials ruled out using "smart cards," similar to the E-ZPass toll-payment
devices used on many bridges and tunnels on the East Coast, as cumbersome.
Instead, 700 video cameras capture multiple images of license plates of cars
that drive through the zone between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., except on weekends
and holidays. Computers process the images, matching the license plates
photographed against a database of drivers who have paid their congestion
Drivers pay in advance, online, over the telephone or at machines at stores
across London. Failure to pay by 10 p.m. on the day of the trip results in
higher fees or fines up to £150 ($261). Disabled drivers and residents of
the congestion zone are exempt, as are cars that have 9 or more seats or run
on electricity or natural gas.
The Federal Highway Administration is spending $59 million through 2009 to
study congestion pricing. San Francisco is exploring how a plan like
London's could be adopted. "The focus would be on where we have the most
serious and chronic congestion," said Tilly Chang, deputy director for
planning at the San Francisco Country Transportation Authority.
She, too, said the program might rely on easy-to-install cameras rather than
transponders, the term for toll-payment devices like E-ZPass or FasTrak,
which is used on the Bay Bridge. "The benefit of using cameras is that they
can roll out quickly," she said. "You don't need transponders."
There is some precedent locally for congestion pricing. In January 2001, the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey authorized higher tolls during
peak hours on its Hudson River crossings, including the George Washington
Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.
Congestion pricing in New York City would probably require approval of the
City Council and the State Legislature, and skeptics are already grumbling.
"What's good for London is not necessarily good for New York City," said
Councilman David I. Weprin, a Queens Democrat who led opposition to tolls on
East River bridges. But he said he would keep an open mind to a
Manhattan-centered plan that did not unfairly burden residents of the other
boroughs. "I'd have to look at it, but my gut reaction is it would be a
nuisance tax," he said.
Carolyn Marshall and Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting for this article.
From: gerstle at mindspring.com [mailto:gerstle at mindspring.com]
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2005 7:25 AM
To: walksfers at walksf.org
Subject: [WalkSFers] E-mail-A-Friend: City searches for traffic innovations
City searches for traffic innovations
SAN FRANCISCO - Since London started charging motorists a fee to drive in
the city’s most gridlocked neighborhood - an idea that is being
floated in San Francisco - traffic in the area has decreased by 30 percent
and public transportation use has substantially risen.
The most shocking fact, however, may be that London Mayor Ken Livingston won
his re-election last year on a platform to expand the controversial program
into two other areas of the city.
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