I’ve written recently about how the environmental crisis offers us the opportunity to make life in our cities more pleasant while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions—a win/win situation. Part of the way for cities to do that is to adopt policies based on a green transportation hierarchy, which puts pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit users before automobiles (people before cars).
Finally, I posted a wonderful photograph of Park Avenue, when it was literally a park and before it was “improved” to allow for car traffic, which I thought might inspire us all towards an ideal where cities are livable, safe and free of the terrible air pollution that makes the air so awful to breathe.
Today, all I want to say is that this ideal of a livable city is not as pie in the sky as it might seem. A first step towards it might come for New York City if the New York State Assembly ultimately adopts Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s proposed “congestion pricing,” one solution for reducing traffic in urban centers.
According to Environmental Defense:
“The idea of congestion pricing is simple: Use price to signal when drivers should consider taking mass transit, reschedule their trip or pay a higher fee for driving. An electronically-collected toll system charges drivers more to use the most congested roads at the most congested times. Like airline ticket prices, prices can be cheaper at off-peak times.”
Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal is to reduce traffic
in Manhattan’s central business
district by charging tolls of $8 for cars and $21 for trucks that drive below 86th Street during workdays. The amazing thing about
congestion pricing is that we know that it already
works in London, Singapore, Stockholm and three cities in Norway.
London, for example, has experienced:
- 30% average drop in congestion
- 25% average increase in traffic speed
- 22% and 18% drop in particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, respectively
- 20% decrease in fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
And according to Environmental Defense:
“A key lesson in the London experience is that traffic has not overflowed onto neighboring roads…A final measure of London's success is the satisfaction of those involved. Seventy-eight percent of people who pay to enter the cordon area are satisfied with the system.”
Watch the excellent StreetFilms video below. If you happen to be a New York State resident and you feel inspired to support Bloomberg’s plan, why not call New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (518 455 3791) and let him know?