Thursday, July 03, 2008

Money's in driver's seat in NYC

People's pocketbooks and wallets drive behavior. Remember the idea New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed, modeled on a program in London? If you drive your car into the most congested areas of Manhattan, you have to pay a daily fee. The revenue would go toward improving public transit services.

The idea collapsed this spring in the New York state legislature. Now, reports the New York Times, $4-a-gallon gas is accomplishing some of the same goals anyway. One big difference, of course, is that high gas prices are reducing traffic everywhere, not just in the most congested areas. And there's no extra revenue for public transit.

Meanwhile in London, where congestion-pricing godfather Ken Livingstone lost his re-election for mayor, new mayor Boris Johnson, a Conservative, is looking again at the the most recent congestion-pricing zone extension in the western part of the city and says he doesn't want any more extensions.

"I am not going to be having any more congestion charges," he was quoted as saying in The Guardian. "What I am determined to make happen is a modal shift towards bicycling and walking, not just in inner London but also in outer London."

The program overall has been popular with Londoners, who saw congestion diminish and liked what they saw. The betting -- from one of Livingstone's deputy mayors whom I met in Cambridge -- is that it's so popular that even the conservative Johnson won't scrap the whole program. And note that, unlike so many of the more conservative pols in the U.S., even Tory Johnson wants more people walking and bicycling.


Anonymous said...

London is a 2,000 year old city, Mary. And it's insanely dense, even moreso than New York City.

I hope you're not suggesting any of that sort of stuff for here in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Good point. Charlotte has a population density less than 1,000 per sq km.

London has a population density of over 10,000 per sq km.

Charlotte will likely never achieve even 2,000 per sq km. Too many suburbs have already been built within the city limits.

The only changes will be on the margins where you seem some in-fill with higher density. Some minor level of tear down and reconstruction of condos might occur. But for the average, it is impossible to rebuilt Charlotte at this point. Atlanta has the same issue. Once it is built, it is impossible to go back.

Maybe Mary should just move to London so she can be happy. The next round of layoffs at the Charlotte Observer should be in a few months.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe it is either fair or accurate to suggest that conservative politicians don't want people to walk or bicycle. It fact it is an utterly absurd assertion.

What can be said about the matter is that conservative politicians are more likely to not see forcing people to make such choices as a legitimate power of government.

Frank Burns said...

I don't think anyone is forcing people to walk or ride a bicycle. Local government should give us the opportunity to walk and ride a bicycle safely. Charlotte has a great plan if anyone is interested;

Anonymous said...

What congestion pricing does, just like HOT lanes, is give wealthier people the privilege to pass traffic or drive in certain parts of town. This is just one more tool to divide the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.

Anonymous said...

I think Charlotte could learn from this, but it can't ever completely recreate it. Like others have said, we aren't and never will be that dense. I think by adding bike lanes and curb, gutter, and sidewalk (and connecting sidewalks instead of having all these gaps), more greenways, etc we can encourage more people to walk and bike. It will also help raise our quality of life.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea of creating congestion pricing, or Lexus lanes in Charlotte to relieve traffic is misplaced. I know people complain, but really, the traffic just isn't THAT huge a problem here. So, IMO, special measures are simply unnecessary.

My main concern is that our city council will view this kind of thing as an excellent and creative way to extract more cash from the citizenry to fund whatever shinny object they happen to be chasing at the moment.

Lewis Guignard said...

Charlotte already has special tax districts, but for a different reason. If the idea is to force people out of individual cars onto individual bicycles, then why are we building rail lines?

I suggest parking downtown will continue to be limited and people will be forced to find other methods of transportation to their jobs. They may walk, ride the bus, ride the rail, ride a bike and in many cases park their car then do a combination of the above.

While I think we need roads and automobiles, it is not a requirement that the center city supply parking for everyone who might wish to drive there. What you will find, as referenced elsewhere, is the haves will continue to drive their individual vehicles to special parking spots assigned or made available to them (see yourself here Mary) while those down the pecking order will not. Really, can you see the Ken Thompsons etc on the train or a bus?

Other - many suburban areas were built outside the city limits but were taken in by annexation - which continued action has been a profit center for the city.

Jumper said...

As I grow older, I find I have finally learned patience. So it's not so much slow traffic that bothers me, it's unnecessary trips (both mine and others'),and Charlotte's air pollution. I have no AC in my truck, and drive with windows open for a breeze. Cough!

I hope others forgive me for going 55 in the slow lane. I'm trying to improve my gas mileage.

Welcome back, Mary! You have been missed.

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