It is highly likely that New York City will become the first city in the United States to implement a traffic restriction and transit financing policy known as congestion prices. The plan, which tolls, probably around $ 11 a day, to drive into Manhattan under 60th Street, is expected to lighten the city's streetless streets, cut off greenhouse gases and give billions of dollars in new income to the city in trouble mass transport system.
But why should Greater Boston – or a major city in America – pay attention to what is happening in Manhattan? To begin with, Boston recently overtook New York to become number one in the nation in traffic congestion, according to a survey by transportation analysis company INRIX.
What are the costs of all the stalemate? Congestion costs the average Bostonian $ 2,291 a year, and every commuter spends 164 hours a year on stuck traffic. That is close to the tax refund of the average American this year and longer than the annual vacation time of most employees. What would you do with that time back?
Flowering, growing cities such as Boston and New York have tried – and failed – to combat congestion in traditional ways. The Big Dig is a classic warning story: an analysis of the Globe of 2008 showed that traffic delays even increased, in some cases with a doubling of commuting times, because more drivers assumed that driving in the center was easier and with larger numbers on the road.
The Los Angeles expansion of the 405 motorway has also failed. But the construction gave an enlightening anecdote. Lane closures for road works are expected to lead to a & # 39; blockade & # 39; from & # 39; Carmageddon & # 39 ;. Instead, traffic dropped by a staggering 73 percent: warnings warned that the closures would slow traffic for days, many drivers chose not to make unnecessary journeys, leaving roads open for people who had less flexibility around when they had to drive .
The lesson is clear: increasing road capacity only encourages more people to drive, create more congestion, distribute neighborhoods, invite sprawl and polluting communities near and far from the new roads. We also know that it is often not enough to simply offer better public transport; cities need to encourage drivers to change their habits – and as long as roads are free, there is little incentive for commuters to avoid unnecessary journeys or increase the use of public transport.
Enter congestion prices.
In 2003, London implemented congestion prices over eight square miles in the urban core, initially charging £ 5 or around $ 6.50. Transport for London also added 300 new buses, updated bus routes, increased transit frequency and 8,500 new park and ride spaces. The result? Fifteen percent less congestion and up to 30 percent higher travel speeds. The health benefits were also profound: a study found that Londoners earned 1,888 extra years in life thanks to cleaner air.
In New York, we estimate that congestion prices will reduce traffic by 13 percent and reduce greenhouse gases by £ 2.1 billion per year. That became our main argument: everyone benefits from congestion prices. Drivers will be able to commute faster; transit drivers will invest $ 1.5 billion annually in the New York transit network; and everyone breathing in New York will have cleaner air.
New Yorkers have since been trying to withstand congestion prices – Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed it in 2007, when it subsequently collapsed in the state capital. What changed 12 years later? The simultaneous collapse of our public transportation system and the crash of traffic congestion – and advocate for persistent attempts to name both New York crises and existential issues that the Albany politicians had to resolve.
These efforts brought together a foreign-comrade coalition of more than 100 business associations, labor groups, environmental justice advocates, developers and social justice and anti-poverty organizations, all of which were united in a mix of civic duty and self-interest: End of the day everyone relies on a functional transport network.
Boston and New York have their differences, but congestion unites us. I hope Boston doesn't wait as long as New York. Consider this: Transportation for Massachusetts data shows that removing just 5 percent of cars from the streets of Boston can lead to a 20 percent reduction in traffic jams – so a modest toll that peaks during peak hours and falls at other times would have a significant impact on the striker. traffic. And although New York may be the first city in the United States to work out a full congestion price plan, the tolls on the day or "smart tolls" are hardly new: Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta and other major cities do it all. Of the 10 largest cities in the United States, Greater Boston is the only one that does not use a specific time or does not require tolls.
Adhering to the worst congestion in the country, it might be time for Boston to try it.
Nick Sifuentes is the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.