Bloomberg Explains Congestion Pricing

Mike Bloomberg's call for congestion pricing came on Earth Day 2007 when he presented his full plan for making NYC more sustainable by the year 2030. This is a video exerpt of his speech outlining how congestion pricing will work.

It stands up well as a good synopsis of how congestion pricing will improve NYC's sustainability. Bloomberg is on a roll lately as he unveils his environmental initiatives and explains how in reducing oil consumption and greenhouse gases we can also improve quality of life for millions of people in NYC. It shows how reducing oil consumption and greenhouse gases can be win-win instead of a sacrifice.

I have a modification to the plan to suggest: congestion pricing for taxi rides.

A good deal of the traffic in midtown is caused by taxis. Most of them make short runs between points that are well served by mass transit, thus taking a cab is more of a life style choice than anything else.

So I propose that all trips between two points in the zone have a surcharge added to them. Those taking trips from midtown to or from the outer boroughs would be exempt since many of these areas are harder to reach via mass transit.

Fewer taxi trips will have more of an effect on traffic flow than commuters driving in and parking for the day. They only cause congestion at rush hour, cabs do so all the time.

Obviously, like gasoline in general, taxis are still too cheap. Although they cost more than the alternatives, the perceived value (time, convenience) makes up for it. So we choose the least environmentally friendly alternative (I plead guilty... I do this also in Europe if it is late and I am tired).


Don't taxis, especially in congested areas like New York, sit around a lot with their engines running. Hope they transition all taxis to hybrids and/or vehicles with auto engine stop.

While I'm encouraged to hear about the Hybrid taxi plan, I think it's important to look at Taxis in general from another angle. This one vehicle (a given cab) is making countless point to point connections for people around the city. It is one engine block, already heated up, it often can pick up a fare not far from where it dropped the last one off (intown, anyway), doesn't circle countless blocks looking for parking, etc.. There are definitely some energy advantages to using cabs over personal autos.. and let's face it, it will be a reality in any city, because there is always a demand for it.

That said, I do want to see many more pedicabs licensed in NY, and I hope that we can develop systems to use the subway-tracks for nighttime Freight delivery, to get some of the Trucking off the NYC streets, which I see as a much bigger block to traffic and to bike-lanes, where trucks park perpetually, and which do immeasurably more damage to the road surfaces than any passenger cars.

There's two other new posts by Glenn on NYC topics over here at TOD:NYC, make sure you check them out too!

While I love the idea of congestion pricing, I wonder if it will be that successful in New York given that it literally has millions of millionaires. Millions will not blink at $8 per day pricing.

Pricing is just a seemingly kinder and gentler form of coercion, than well, coercion. We shall see, I guess, how this all works out, if it can get through the New York legislature. Which, by the way, what's up with that? Sucks that New York City has so little autonomy.

The rich, the Trumps of the world, will continue to dart about in their limos. In fact, with congestion pricing, driving will be even more appealing to the rich or the wannabe rich because it will have status. "See, I'm rich enough to pay the tax, look at me".

I would prefer out and out coercion. Decide what level of traffic you want and issue medallions, as they do for taxis, in a lottery. Make the medallions tradeable. That way, even though the rich will continue to do what they want, they will have to pay the less rich or those who can't or don't want to drive.

What if the congestion charge is not high enough? Will they have to go back to the damn legislature to raise it. And every time they try to raise it, there will be political hell to pay. And Mayors after Bloomberg probably will not have the cohones, if history is any guide.

Ideally, there should be no driving except emergency driving in New York. But as long as a lot of people will still get to drive because they can affor the tax, I think this plan is discriminatory and unfair. Driving will be seen as a privilege, which is a very bad message.

I started this post by saying I love the idea of congestion pricing. Now that I think about it, perhaps I don't.

"Driving will be seen as a privilege, which is a very bad message."

Hmmm...what else should driving be considered if not a privelege? An unalienable right?

If only the rich can drive for a while, then we might see the masses begin to use their voting power to level the playing field by pushing in the other direction...maybe by mandated driving-free zones in congested cities.

I thought that would be misinterpreted. I meant that driving would be seen as something only the privileged can do.

The congestion charge works very well in London, as a relatively 'poor' person I pay it occassionaly when I need to travel across town on the way to visit somewhere out of town. Otherwise I use public transport. Those occasional trips now take half to a third of the time they used to, which is worth paying the money for.

We do however have a significant problem with a small number of rogue countries whose diplomats steadfastly refuse to pay the charges, the main culprits being Angola, Nigeria, Sudan and the USA.

Pricing is not coercion, which is why you conclude for yourself that you would prefer coercion. You are probably thinking that it's more fair to treat rich and everyone else the same. Of course, then the rich will bribe/reward/salary the gatekeepers. As they do now. Or buy taxi medallions, taxi companies or all the ways to make and sell taxis.

That dilemma doesn't change until the disparities of wealth are addressed. The archdruid's column discussing a recent article by Astyk addresses that: one can *think* it's going to happen - doesn't mean it will.

It does seem to me, however, that unless we address inequality and fairness, energy decline will not be graceful. Once again, that doesn't mean we will address inequality and fairness. Personally, I think that will only get worse until people start picking up rifles. And that won't make it better either, except that people will know who their friends are.

cfm in Gray, ME

Another thief justifying his theft. Who says the govt is the best user of the funds that are confiscated by this stupid policy?

"As the city continues to grow, the costs of congestion to our health, to our economy, and to our environment are only going to get worse. The question is not whether we want to pay, but how do we want to pay. With an increased asthma rate? With more greenhouse gases, wasted time, lost business, and higher prices, we create a modest fee to encourage more people to take mass transit?"

I see encouraging more mass transit as a constructive step within modern society's business-as-usual exponential growth paradigm. It begins to discriminate.

Unfortunately, with regard to "the costs of congestion," I think that as long as we continue exponential growth, we will continue to amplify those costs, and more, to the surrounding system. At root are basic implicit assumptions about exponential growth.

Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast?" (video clip: 8.5 min)

I didn't watch the clip,(mostly because I live on the other side of the continent) but I did read the comments, and gather that it will be $8 dollars. That sounds rather cheap to me, I would have thought something like $25 dollars would have done the trick even for the wealthy.

I think that this is a great start, and a start is all you can really hope for. Many other commenters are somehow hoping for "the perfect world" to be realized, and I can tell you that that will never be the situation. Making the world perfect for us wouldn't go over well with many other people, and so these dreams would never materialize. Instead, let's try to support this. Of course, politicians have to refrain from angering any powerful segment of their constituency, so they can't implement everything they'd like the way they'd like, but they can start the process, which is what Bloomberg seems to be doing. And remember, as with anything, a success can lead to more successes in the future.

The commenter from England seemed to think that the London congestion pricing was a good idea, and now I can tell you that after living in Singapore for a year, I must say that Singapore's traffic is the best I've seen in any city. There are few to no traffic jams, even during rush hour. I should know, because the bus I'd take would effortlessly make it down the main roads to the next stop, and eventually in and out of the Central Business District. No stop and go stuff.

So I say, hey, implement the plan. If it works, and people like it, perhaps a stronger version can be put in place later. As things are now, anything stronger would not be carried out at all because of public opposition.

Update: I just read that Mayor Bloomberg has a plan to replace the current yellow taxis in New York with hybrids by 2012. By October 2009, all new taxis must get at least 30 miles per gallon (compared to the 14 or so of the current fleet) and be hybrid, according to the May 23rd issue of the Charlotte Observer.