Our house at the corner of St. Marks Place and Westervelt Avenue, St. George, Staten Island, N.Y., Thanksgiving Day, 2007
Resurrecting an old idea (and maybe a better one)
[I'm convinced that no matter which form the Feds decide to fund and the city finally adopts, Congestion Pricing will be a major benefit to pedestrians and walkers--and all New Yorkers. Not only because it'll generate the revenues needed to pay for expansion of and improvements to New York City's public transit system, but because it will make our streets safer and more pleasant for all those who use them.]
In a November 12, 2007 editorial in the Daily News, veteran transportation consultant Brian Ketcham proposes to base Mayor Bloomberg's Congestion Pricing (CP) proposal on an idea that planners, politicians and transportation activists have been yakking about for decades.
"Charging cars and trucks to get into the central business district makes perfect sense," Ketcham says, "but the rest of [Mayor Bloomberg's] scheme would be a logistical nightmare," requiring "costly administration and enforcement" and "adding little revenue."
Calling the mayor's existing CP proposal "needlessly complex," Ketcham advises the mayor to "ditch the elaborate detection grid"--"a full-scale network with 340 charging stations on Manhattan streets south of 86th St."--and replace it with a system that would "close the loophole of the four untolled East River bridges in Brooklyn and Queens."
Take 2: An alternate Congestion Pricing plan
Ketcham proposes the city install overhead charging monitors on the six inbound bridge spans and set the congestion fee so that there's no unfair difference between any CP charge and regular MTA tolls.
He would also install 19 toll collection stations that would, he says, eliminate the free ride now enjoyed by those who enter the central business district from starting points north of 60th Street.
And that's not all.
Paying for the right to occupy prime real estate
Ketcham also recommends the city "eliminate all free and long-term street parking and charge hefty garage rates at on-street meters." Such a pricing recommendation brings the cost of street parking into line with what Manhattan parking lots and garages charge and substantially boosts potential revenue.
But market-based pricing offers benefits that may be even more important. This alternate CP proposal sends the message that bringing a private car into one of the most congested sectors in the country isn't a basic human right; that streets are public spaces that must be shared; that automobiles can't continue to dictate who uses the street and how.
All in all, I think Ketcham's proposal makes a lot of sense. It's easier and less costly to implement and maintain; it makes the cost of entering the central business district by car more equitable (drivers pay the same, no matter how they get there). Ketcham's research shows that closing the various loopholes also eliminates more cars and yields more revenue than the mayor's existing CP plan.
I hope Ketcham's proposal gets the serious consideration--by the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, among others--that it deserves.