What Killed Congestion Pricing in New York?

<p>Earth Island Journal takes an in-depth look at how and why congestion pricing got the kibosh in New York.</p>
June 17, 2008, 6am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"On Earth Day 2007, Mayor Bloomberg put forth a 30-year redevelopment plan (PlaNYC) for the city that included congestion pricing as "part of an overall commitment to increase investment in mass transit." Although it was one of only 127 environmental initiatives, such as boosting street-side tree planting and protecting wetlands, congestion pricing received a disproportionate amount of attention, and led to a lively and often fractious debate among city and state lawmakers, local residents, and urban planners. A 17-member ad hoc committee was formed to hone the mayor's plan, and dozens of community meetings were held across the city to solicit residents' views. Bloomberg made the issue a top priority, and invested a large amount of his political capital in passing the measure. But the idea ran into stiff resistance. Opponents, particularly city council members and state assembly members who represent the outer boroughs, decried the legislation as a tax on the poor and middle class, one that would turn Manhattan into a golden ghetto. It was an effective populist appeal, an argument that everyone has the right to drive, and that right should not be infringed upon even if, in the case of NYC, the vast majority of commuters do not drive.

Ultimately, Bloomberg's plan, which narrowly made it through the city council, was scrapped by the state legislature in Albany. The NY state legislature often intervenes in city affairs, and reserves the right to oversee many local decisions – for example, the number and type of red light enforcement cameras, bus lane enforcement cameras, and speed limits for traffic calming designs. It is likely the city's authority to charge drivers would have been challenged in court, delaying the plan indefinitely. As it was, the assembly put the idea to rest."

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Published on Monday, June 16, 2008 in Earth Island Journal
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