NYC may be leading the next wave of driving-reduction initiatives as it considers congestion pricing for parts of Manhattan. According to the NY Times:
"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."
Congestion pricing, charging variable tolls based on predicted or actual congestion, was first tried on a large scale by London, which charges drives $14 to enter the financial district during weekday work hours. (New York would probably charge between $4 and $7 per car.) In the US, San Diego, Minneapolis, and a number of other cities have toyed with the idea, but New York’s would be the most aggressive and comprehensive program.
Obviously, there are a welter of environmental benefits from crimping driving—it reduces air pollution, carbon emissions, and sprawl just to name a few—but I wonder if the big lesson from the big apple is not what congestion pricing accomplishes, but who’s supporting it.
In the past, environmental advocates have had only limited success in winning policy changes that diminish driving. But in NYC the champion of congestion pricing is the city’s major business assocation, Partnership for New York City. I wonder if there’s an object lesson here about figuring out ways for environmental advocates to leverage the huge power of the business lobby to green ends.