Why Can't Congestion Pricing Cover the Cost of Public Transit?

In the continuing debate over congestion pricing in New York, Adele Peters asks if transit advocates are stopping short of what they should be asking for: free transit for all of New York.
December 5, 2017, 5am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Benoit Daoust

It's been a rough year for the MTA. Between service failures and falling ridership, many are looking for a way to buoy public transit in New York. Some transit proponents have argued for congestion pricing, but Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to oppose the idea.

"But a report at the time, commissioned by mass transit advocate Theodore Kheel, suggested that a fee on drivers would not only reduce traffic and save the city billions by regaining the productivity of people previously stuck in gridlock, but would be able to pay for free public transportation for everyone else," Adele Peters writes for Fast Company. This is beyond what some have asked for. "The fees could help repair and upgrade the city’s struggling subway system. The idea of free public transit is less likely to ever happen," Peters writes. But that is what Mayor Bloomberg described wanting when he discussed the idea during his term.

For his part, de Blasio suggests funds for the MTA could come from a "millionaire's tax" that would subsidize transit passes for those who can’t afford tickets, Peters reports. But this system would do nothing to curb traffic or creates incentives for transit before the improvements can be made. Peters argues that transit's role will be just as important in the future: "Even if cars are shared, electric, and self-driving, subways and buses still have advantages, including keeping roads less congested. Cities will need to find ways to make those traditional services competitive, and that might eventually mean lower–or even free–fares."

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Published on Friday, December 1, 2017 in Fast Company
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