Where Should We Try Congestion Pricing First?

With all the talk about congestion pricing that's going on in New York the last couple of weeks, momentum is building to do something other than continue to talk about it. And from the first reactions of the political establishment, you can break down the reaction to basically Manhattanites favoring the idea and folks from Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island opposing it.

But based on the chart above, 39% of the total number of people and 606,000 people by car entering the Central business district enter through 60th Street from either the Upper East or Upper West Sides. This includes the all the traffic that enters the CBD from Northern Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester/Rockland Counties, Northern New Jersey GW Bridge) and Connecticut.

What if that's where we start with Congestion Pricing? What would the political landscape look like if we just started with all vehicles going over the strip line at 60th street going south in the morning and north in the afternoon / evening?

Just based on pure numbers of drivers in NYC, you might expect opposition to come from mostly from the Upper East Side, and certain sections of the more suburban northern Bronx. At the state level there might be some opposition from Westchester and Rockland Counties. And while there might be objections from New Jersey residents, it is not clear where in the political process they would have a say.

Within the city itself though, of the communities that would be most directly impacted the community that has the highest number of commute-by-car residents (Upper East Side) also has the most viable transit alternatives by subway, commuter rail or bus. And those communities bear the brunt of auto commuters that simply use their roads as thoroughfares to get to the Central Business District and therefore stand the most to gain in traffic congestion reduction.

Then if we look at the simple percentages we see that almost all of the affected areas in NYC have less than 15% commuting by car with just a few northern Bronx areas with a higher than 15%. But again, they have transit alternatives to the CBD and would greatly benefit from having reduced traffic in their area.

Politically, starting with the 60th Street strip-line makes sense, since Manhattan is desparate for traffic relief, the Bronx seems fairly ambivilant if not an advocate for Congestion Pricing and the critics in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island would be neutralized by not having this affect them.

If successful, this congestion pricing experiment may spread to the other entrances to the CBD, but not necessarily. There may be other mechanisms to reduce traffic volume in those areas that are more politically viable, such as expanding bus rapid transit, charging higher rates for on-street parking in midtown and reducing the number of city employees that have official placards for their cars.

It's time for Manhattan and the Bronx to lead on this issue as two boroughs that are most distressed by the constant flow of polluting and noisy automobiles flowing through their densely populated areas.

Is there a discrepancy in these maps? In the lower colored maps, it looks like Staten Island is one of the biggest sources of auto traffic, but in the top map it says that only 1% come from or through Long Island.

As for the counties just outside of NYC, the state could perhaps work with Metro North to add more trains on the westchester side, but Rockland will always be a problem because although there are (a few) train lines there, the riders are forced to connect in Secaucus, and those trains don't run on the weekend at all. Maybe a direct connection to either Penn Station or GCT is in order?

As for the Upper East Side, well, a PR campaign there is where you come in! But seriously. I think on Streetsblog, someone said, "Well, there are so many rich people on the UES that it won't matter, because they'll just pay." Actually, I'd be curious to see the income breakdown. Do you have that? And the 2nd Ave Subway is going to ultimately play a major role in determining whether UESers take more public transportation, so even though a lot of people are wary about funding public transit with bonds, I think in this case it's the only thing that makes sense.

The difference between the two maps is between "original starting place" (the colored maps) and the actual "point of entry" into Manhattan. Both are important.

The original starting places of the residents driving to the CBD shows where political opposition would probably come from.

The "point of entry" map shows how much traffic is flowing through that point into the CBD. This shows which entry points have the most traffic. The 60th street line have folks coming from northern Manhattan, New Jersey, Westchester, Connecticut...etc

The income breakdown by drivers to the CBD might be difficult to find, but if anyone has that, please send it in. I suspect it's more diverse than most people think. Also some of it could easily be replaced by more frequent express buses to Wall Street area.

The minor problem with your plan is that the East Side IRT is pretty much near capacity, the M15 bus is already handling more riders than a bus line can do effectively, and similar conditions apply on the third/lexington and fifth/madison avenue bus lines. The Upper East Side originally had three rapid transit lines, and now it has only one. The Second Avenue Subway is necessary, and if that can't be built quickly thanks to the incompetence of the MTA and the greed of the various construction industries, then some other alternatives have to be found, perhaps streetcar lines on First and Third avenues. Streetcars have an advantage in being able to be coupled in trains with double or possibly even triple the capacity of an articulated bus. That and they're faster and provide a better ride while making less noise. Plus, people are more likely to switch from subway to streetcar than to bus.
Mass transit capacity is set to boom on the Upper East Side. With BRT coming in late 2007 or early 2008, the over crowding should be greatly mitigated (if done correctly) and then in 2012-13 the Second Ave Subway link from 96th to 63rd starts service it should create the same balance that exists on the West side. And yes potentially streetcars could be added.
Right now, the M15 limited runs every 5 minutes at peak, and the local also runs about every 4 minutes. The problem at such headways is reliability, since any delay will cause result in more people, and thus more delay, at subsequent stops, until you get 5 buses running in a pack. BRT will help mostly by making running time more predictable, if the separated lanes are done properly. And off-board fare collection, if they ever implement it, will allow for much faster boarding, also improving running time significantly. But how much can you increase capacity on a bus line? 25% maybe. And that's still nothing compared to the capacity of a subway line. But even the Second Avenue line will have rather limited capacity, since it will only have a local train, and even that will initially have to share the Broadway express tracks. So the subway capacity can only be improved by about 25% as well. And that's assuming they build the thing at all, which they haven't started doing yet, and it's far from certain that they ever will. After all, they've been promising that subway for at least 50 years.

more than 25%. Remember that the BRT trains are almost 2x the size of the IRT trains, and consequently hold about 2x as many people.
An IRT train is 510 feet long, a BMT train is 600 feet long. The IRT trains are 8'9" wide, the BMT trains are an even 10 feet. The difference in area is about 33%. So the total capacity increase will be something like 33% instead of 25%. Not that huge a difference. The main problem is that they're building only two tracks on Second Avenue, and that the service on those two tracks will have to share the Broadway express for a long while.
Glenn, great idea for a politically easier hopefully temporary compromise. Good thinking.
I am a resident of Bergen County in NJ that seems to be the source of many of the cars driving into Manhattan. Many parts of Bergen County (on the northeastern side especially) are not well served by buses into the city. But I think that even if bus service were iproved, it might not have much impact. Most of the people driving to the city are extremely wealthy people as is easily visible by the amazing number of luxury cars you see along the roads here.
Then we'll be happy to collect a little of that wealth for the priviledge of driving into Midtown.
In London, parking costs you £25 per day (but many people get it thrown in by their company)

conversely the congestion charge is £8.

(multiply by 2 to get USD equivalents).

The Congestion Charge has reduced traffic by 10-15%, but more in the off peak than the on peak.

The conclusion?  Those who can afford to drive to work, still drive to work.  Parking was already their biggest bill.

In economic terms, they are highly price inelastic consumers.  The additional cost is offset by the fact that they can get to work faster (lower traffic).

The discouragement has been on voluntary trips, trips by servicemen and builders, trips 'passing through' the centre, shopping trips etc.

I've been thinking about it, and congestion charging is seeming to me like not all that great an idea, and definitely not the solution to Manhattan's traffic problem. Well, it all depends on how you define "Manhattan's traffic problem". If you define it as "cars are moving too slowly" then yes, it might help a bit, because the benefit from removing that last 10-15% of cars is relatively high. But if you define the problem as "there are way too many cars in Manhattan", then it's not a very good solution at all: you'll have only a bit fewer cars, but they'll be moving faster. It seems like other,  and possibly better, solutions involve taking street space away from cars, and giving it over to wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and dedicated (and separated) bus and streetcar lanes. Of course, there's no single solution to this problem, and the singleminded focus on congestion charging really isn't helpful.

You've hit a nail on the head, I suspect.

Jane Jacobs wrote about this before she died (see 'The Coming Dark Age').  Jane Jacobs, along with Betty Friedan, Rachel Carson, Diane Arbus, Germain Greer and a few others was one of those women who changed the world, a group of women who grew up in the old world, became housewives, mothers, and got dragged willy nilly into changing the world.

New York (and Toronto) owe her a great debt.

Basically roads are traffic generative.  Close a road and  some of the traffic disappears.

We will shilly shally around with 'free market' solutions, which make great sense in terms of the economics I was taught.

And we will then find, that to increase the number of journeys, to get an acceptable throughput of people (and not incidentally to confront global warming) we are going to have to do something really, really radical.

Like ride bicycles.

One thing that nobody seems to have suggested for congestion charging is somehow scaling the charge by income. A trivial way to do this is by charging differently for different types of cars, but there are more direct ways to link the charge with income as well. The advantage of this move is that it at one stroke completely gets rid of the opposition's "what about the poor people who can barely afford a car" argument. And scaling charges to income is not completely without precedent: fines for traffic violations in Finland work like that, and some Nokia executive got a million-dollar speeding ticket once.
How about giving low income folks free passes for the transit system and cutting all fares for everyone else?  Have the congestion charge make up for the lost revenue.
London again.

Revenues from the Congestion Charge haven't met expectations.  Traffic fell by more than expected (but not at peak hours).  Costs of running the system have been higher than forecast.

Meanwhile the system is flooded with low cost users (kids under 16 are free on buses, also those over 65 etc.).  But the transit system (at peak) is 100% capacity.  Kiley (former head of the NY Transit, imported to run ours) told the Mayor this would happen, but our Mayor is an ex Trotskyist demagogue (think of him as a Rudi Giuliani of the Left).

Another nuance is we now have double length 'bendy buses' to replace the conductor on the old Routemaster double decker.  As a result (you get on and off at any door) I would estimate at least 1/3rd of riders are not paying (you don't pay a fine often enough to make it worth paying).  Maybe over half of riders on some routes.

Difficult to administer and too easy to cheat, I suspect.

Scandinavian societies are high homogeneity, with high compliance to laws.  New York is a high heterogenity, low compliance to laws kind of place (OK it's not Lagos, but compared to most major western European cities).

Systems and social programmes that work in Scandinavia and in Singapore, don't work so well in freewheeling 'Merica.