Both the City of Cambridge in England and the City of New York in the USA are currently considering congestion charging schemes. That’s despite the fact that the London scheme has proved to be an abject failure in cutting congestion even after increases in the charge several times.
The Cambridge scheme has been proposed by the Greater Cambridge Partnership and would impose a charge of £5 for private vehicles between 7am and 7pm on weekdays. There may be some exemptions and bus fares may be able to be reduced as a result – but there are no promises on either.
New York has also been considering a congestion charge scheme for some time but there has been strong opposition. Particularly from New Jersey residents who already pay high tolls to cross bridges into the City. The proposed charge by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to drive into downtown Manhattan would be $23 and would be used to subsidise public transport fares.
New York has the same problem as London. Transit ridership has rebounded slower than the MTA was anticipating after the pandemic. Weekday subway ridership is about 60% of 2019 levels. Revenue used to cover about half of the MTA’s operating costs but now pay for 30%, according to the MTA.
Any congestion charge scheme would still need Federal approval.
New York has been considering a congestion charge for some years, but it has always been opposed by surrounding boroughs. A good article in the New York Times (see link below), spells out why it should not happen in an article which is headlined “Congestion pricing is coming to NYC — though London shows it’s a disaster”.
This is some of what the article, written by Joe Borelli, minority leader of the New York City Council, says:
“Before Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Legislature smack us with this new tax, they may want to check whether it actually works.
Will it deliver on its promise to greatly reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and address transit-revenue gaps?
If you ask Londoners, certainly not.
The city’s traffic scheme has not lived up to the hype, and now London is not only the most congested city in the United Kingdom, it is the most congested city in the world.
In 2021, London drivers lost an average of 148 hours to congestion, costing $1,211 per driver, as it topped the most recent Global Traffic Scorecard compiled by INRIX, a leading transportation-analytics firm. (If you’re wondering, New York City is only the fifth-most congested city, just below Moscow.)
This study isn’t an outlier. Pre-COVID London was ranked among the worst traffic cities by the TomTom Traffic Index, “out-trafficking” crowded cities like Shenzhen and Kuala Lumpur. An earlier 2019 Inrix traffic analysis further confirms London has more congestion than New York. Imagine that — the Empire State, the Big Apple taking their cue from a city whose solution is worse than our problem. Bollocks!
Despite London’s ballyhooed congestion charge, it’s planning a massive restructuring. The CO2 from all the idling cars clogging the capital have spurred Mayor Sadiq Khan to propose scrapping the current £15 ($20) fee system altogether in favor of an entirely new scheme in which all London drivers would incur an initial surcharge and pay an existing “Ultra Low Emission Zone” fee, plus pay-per-mile charges as needed.
Nothing screams “Success!” or “Replicate me!” like London’s leadership proposing a start-from-scratch overhaul because the system failed to meet its goals.
Essentially, London may soon be charging motorists as if they were taxi passengers — except they will be driving themselves in their own cars, along streets their tax money already pays for. We could chuckle about the absurdity of all this if only Democrats like President Joe Biden were not already pushing our own mileage-tax proposals here in the States.
The real reason London leaders are planning a vastly expanded tax structure on all vehicles may be far more cynical than saving the planet: The city desperately needs more revenue. Despite all the fees and fines it has collected since congestion pricing went into effect, the city’s public transit and roadway agency, Transport for London (TfL), is going broke.
As it stands, despite receiving a massive COVID bailout from the national government, TfL needs another $1.3 billion annually to operate in the black. Even before the pandemic, TfL’s budget shortfalls and cost overruns were more consistent than its bus schedule.
All this should sound eerily familiar to outer-borough New Yorkers who at present pay for the privilege of driving to posh Manhattan while their own streets remain choked in transit deserts.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority already runs its own version of congestion pricing, called MTA Bridges and Tunnels. Under this scheme, the state chooses which bridges and tunnels motorists must pay to cross to subsidize the public transportation of others. Just like London, a series of anti-car progressive lefties have pushed increases of these fees to satisfy MTA budget needs. In the past 30 years, those tolls have increased more than 375%. Even Bidenflation can’t keep up.
We don’t need to know how a new driving tax will affect our lives — we are already living it.
London’s congestion-pricing failure should serve as a cautionary tale. But our “leadership” in Albany is not going to read it let alone heed its warnings.
Instead, after New York City’s congestion plan creates more traffic, fails to reduce emissions and produces far less revenue than expected, Hochul & Co. are likely to arrive at the same conclusion as their London counterparts: charge more money, impose higher fees and expand the catchment area.
In the end, all roads lead to revenue”
Mr Borelli is right, the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) has never worked and is primarily a revenue raising measure. It should be scrapped! And New Yorkers should not follow London’s example.
Our new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a tweet that spells out his priorities. This is what he said:
Okay—here’s the plan:
🔨 Create + protect jobs 💰 Help businesses grow 🌳 Tackle the climate crisis 🏠 Build new homes 🚓 Invest in policing 🎬 Create opportunities for young people 🏆 Celebrate diversity 💪🏽 Root out inequality ⚽ Deliver an amazing Euro2020
These are all fine words, but rather like the Government’s policies as outlined in the Queen’s Speech, rather short on detail. It also contains phrases like “celebrate diversity” that are not just meaningless, but do not lead to specific actions or budget allocations. Many people would argue that there is too much diversity in London and that leads to social incoherence, and why should the Mayor be spending time or money on celebrating it anyway? We all know that the population of London is now very diverse and we have all come to accept that. So what is there to celebrate?
One big issue is certainly the comment that he plans to “Tackle the Climate Crisis”. Is there one? If you look at many London boroughs who have introduced Low Traffic Neighbourhoods they have justified this on the basis of tackling climate change. They argue that it is important to cut emissions from vehicles when doing so will have minimal impact on the climate. Climate may be influenced by man-made emissions (although some dispute that) but cutting vehicle emissions in London will have a negligible influence. Emissions in London come from many different sources and directly relate to the population of London and their requirements for buildings, heating and transport. The Mayor’s policies imply more businesses, more buildings to accommodate them, more homes for the workers and more infrastructure to support them so this is all contradictory.
Only if the Mayor adopted a policy of reducing the population of London while providing more infrastructure – particularly in terms of transport – would the environment be improved.
New York, New York
It’s interesting to look at another major city which has similar transport problems – a heavily congested road network and a public transport system in deficit. Just like the impact of the Covid epidemic on the budgets of Transport for London, New York is facing a major problem. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) budget (which covers the subway and some bus services and is equivalent to TfL in London) is projecting a deficit of $16 billion for the period 2020 to 2024, even after major cuts in services.
New York is planning to introduce congestion charging to cut traffic and of course generate some income for the MTA – as much as $15 billion by charging $10 to $15 dollars per day for those entering Manhattan. But the adjacent state of New Jersey, from which many people commute into New York City, is threatening retaliation. Senator Laguna and Assemblyman Tully are developing legislation that would impose tolls on non-residents driving between New Jersey and New York. Mr Tully said “We should not be used to fund the MTA”.
This is equivalent to Essex or Kent imposing a tax on Londoners who drive into their counties if Sadiq Khan imposed a toll on those who drive into London from outside the M25 – as he is proposing. This is surely a very good response to such a threat!
County Councils that border the M25 should surely be asking the Government for such legislation, or asking the Government to stop this taxation without representation.
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