There’s a wild idea making it’s way around New York City, these days, and we can expect to hear about it, in Boston, in the near future, as well.

From The New York Times:

The idea is to charge drivers for entering the most heavily trafficked parts of Manhattan at the busiest times of the day. By creating a financial incentive to carpool or use mass transit, congestion pricing could smooth the flow of traffic, reduce delays, improve air quality and raise the speed of crawling buses.

The City of London put something similar to this into effect, in 2003, and has had some success with the program.  Traffic has been reduced by a third and some buses are estimated to move twice as fast.

How would something like work? In New York City, the idea would be something like this:

Cars entering Manhattan south of 60th Street (near Central Park) on an average weekday could be subject to a $7 charge during peak hours. Vehicles starting and ending their trips within that zone might pay a $4 charge.

Drivers could be required to prepay traffic fees, either online or at street-level vending machines. Video cameras would capture license plates of vehicles in the payment zones, and allow the city to match cars to accounts, people familiar with the study said. Failure to pay would result in a fine. No toll barriers would be involved.

There wouldn’t be any “Fast Lane” transponders or anything.  Cameras would take photos of license plates, and using technology, be able to match plate numbers with car registrations.  A driver would have until the end of the day to make payment for driving into the city, or face a fine.

Disabled riders would get a free ride, as would those driving an electric or alternative fuel car.

Does this sound like too crazy an idea for New York City, or Boston?  Not really.  Anyone coming into the city from the North, over the Tobin Bridge or through the tunnels, already pays $3 to get into the city.  Drivers coming in from the west on the Mass Pike pay tolls, too.  True, the tolls don’t vary based on time of day (but they could).  Meanwhile, drivers from the south get into Boston, for free.

The goal isn’t to raise revenue.  (Who would get the revenue would be a big question.  Can you imagine the political fight over it?)  Any money collected would be returned to citizens, by subsidizing mass transit or highway improvement programs.

The goal is to reduce emissions, plus improve traffic flow.  Boston, in fact, has been in violation of clean air regulations since the 1970s.  Reducing traffic would go a long way to making the air cleaner.

Expect an article in the Globe, within a week or so.  That’s my guess.

Complete article: Driving Around Manhattan, You Pay, Under One Traffic Idea

(Oh, my god, is that the worst article title, ever, or what?)

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Updated: November 2019

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