Should you pay more to drive on congested streets? | The Tylt
Should you pay more to drive on congested streets?
New York, L.A., Atlanta–these cities and more are synonymous with traffic. New York is trying to make a change for the better by charging motorists a fee to drive on heavily congested streets. The result of the toll, in theory, would be increased funds for New York public transportation, lighter traffic, and increased vehicle speeds.
New York drivers will have to pay a daily toll as soon as they enter Manhattan below 60th street, and pricing itself will vary depending on the flow of traffic at any given moment (lighter traffic means a lower toll price). According to Quartz's Alison Griswold:
The toll is designed to reduce traffic and increase vehicle speeds in the busiest part of Manhattan, and to raise more than $1 billion a year for the city’s decrepit public transit systems. The New York Post reported March 29 that 80% of congestion revenue could go to the city’s subway and buses, and 10% each to the Metro-North and LIRR commuter rails.
But Griswold also points out that as much as the public complains about heavy traffic, few people are willing to pay extra in order to eliminate the problem. In the minds of commuters, congestion comes from poor infrastructure. Therefore, the burden of solving the issue should come down to cities, not citizens. Griswold explains:
Congestion pricing has long been popular with transit and policy wonks, but politically unviable in the US. We live in a car-dependent society, and vehicle owners understandably chafe at the idea of having to pay more money to get where they need to go, especially if those fees affect a regular commute.
There are many potential benefits to disincentivizing drivers from getting in their cars alone. With less vehicles on the road, carbon emissions would decrease, people will reach their destinations faster, and driver safety and overall mood will improve. In New York's case, the added element of "congestion pricing" adds the benefit of improved public transportation, which will only further the goal of getting people off the roads.
Los Angeles traffic is so bad that buses crawl along at less than 12 miles an hour. In San Francisco, car speeds have fallen to 10 miles per hour.
Cities cannot maintain this level of traffic and continue to function. Traffic ultimately impacts happiness and productivity, and in cities like these, governments have no choice but to think outside of the box. It's time for new solutions, and other cities are taking note:
“New York’s use of congestion pricing could be a game-changer,” said Travis Brouwer, an assistant transportation director in Oregon, which has considered congestion pricing for traffic-jammed Portland.
“If New York City can prove that congestion pricing can work and gain public acceptance, it could give cities like Portland a boost as we look to introduce pricing.”
But some New York residents also point out that for people who live in high-traffic zones, the extra fees feels particularly misplaced. In these cases, you'd be charged extra to drive around in your own neighborhood. According to the New York Post, New Yorkers are fuming at the idea of paying more to drive on certain roads, regardless of where traffic is high.
“It’s totally unfair to people who live here,” fumed Marlene Baum. “We’re paying taxes that are extraordinarily high already.”
“The city’s trying to raise money to fix the subways and penalizing everyone,” groused West 12th Street resident Marjorie Reitman, 74. “No consideration has been given to the residents. It’s ridiculous.”
Around the country, people feel that this kind of rule amounts to nothing more than cities taking advantage of their residents.