Obama: Congestion Pricing ‘Thoughtful’ and ‘Innovative’

In an exclusive interview with a New York television station, Senator Barack Obama described congestion pricing as a thoughtful and innovative approach to the problem of congestion. In the interview he described it as a way to reduce congestion, reduce pollution, and invest in infrastructure and mass transit. With an April 7th deadline approaching, New York City appears poised to approve a historic congestion pricing plan. (See Streetsblog for exhaustive congestion pricing coverage.)

> WNYC: “Obama Urges Oversite of Financial Markets, Supports Congestion Pricing

Author: Rob Goodspeed


  1. how nice of Obama to opine about something he apparently knows nothing about! It’s not as though my candidate has not done this before, but beware, you may wind up with an Obama/Bloomberg ”fusion” ticket, and then we can kiss social justice and respect for civil liberties goodbye. Not to mention democratic politics.
    If you didn’t like neoliberalism before, why would you like it now that it gets called congestion pricing? Many New Yorkers see it for what it is: a tax on those not wealthy enough to ride taxis or live in Manhattan (because we’ve all been pushed out to the boroughs).
    You want better mass transit? Let’s start there, and let’s consider taxing the corporate employers before the workers.
    There are so many counterfactual assertions involved in the Obama paraphrase above that it would take an essay to refute them.

  2. Gee, Laura, love your car a little too much?

    I hate to say it, but there’s a million ways the current system subsidises the wasteful practice of SOV commuting, and while it would be great to get rid of these subsidies, they are diverse and insidious, and hard to tackle. And they are paid by all of us non-drivers.

    Better mass transit happens when the people demand it enough to pay some cost for it, which isn’t going to happen until they have to choose that, or a higher cost to avoid it. So, if you feel that your mass transit is somehow not good enough for you, how much more would you pay to make it better? Where does the money come from? Where does the political will come from?

    Anyway, I guess I’m ignorant, because I don’t live in New York, with an actual public transit system. I live in Portland, Oregon, where we like to make big talk about what is essentially one light rail line that runs East to West, nowhere near my house, and nowhere near my work. But I – and a lot of other Portlanders – suck it up and ride my bike. I make that one rail line work for me. And I’m voting for city candidates who would consider congestion pricing for our small city. Because they understand that a car culture is not a culture of freedom and liberty.

    Have fun sitting in traffic and complaining about how hard it is to give up your car.

  3. I also live in New York laura and I disagree with you on laura. Congestion pricing certainly isn’t perfect but it would cut down on pollution and make more people consider public transportation.

  4. Laura, setting politics aside, let’s discuss what congestion pricing accomplishes and its costs. While I support a critique of the unquestioned “free-market” model, congestion pricing is hardly the cause of a market failure against lower income commuters. Other regressive penalties are already in place for commuters to lower Manhattan. Exorbitant parking costs, limited on-street parking, and existing congestion hurts the lower income commuter more than it hurts the Wall Street broker because the broker might have a company garage to park her lexus, or she can afford to pay $35 a day for a lot, not to mention that her time wasted stuck in traffic will barely hurt her annual gross earnings.

    On the other hand, the hourly wage laborer is already losing money by wasting time in gridlock, increasing gas prices hurts those who have less to give, driving around to find a meter is a further waste of time/money, and then there is insurance, car payments, maintenance, etc…

    Car ownership, as the only possible means to access employment, is the true market failure…if that were in fact the complete picture.

    But it isn’t. Public transit and the growing popularity of suburban park and ride regional rail (think SEPTA) is providing the way out–CHOICE. It’s the monopoly of auto-dependency that has removed choice and obstructs the lower income commuter from the only path to a functioning “FREE-market” system, or what Rob and his candidate Obama advocate for–a “FAIR-market” system. Allowing the wage laborer to choose a different mode of accessing his job will save money, frustration, and time. Congestion pricing will take some lexus drivers off the road and if the wage laborer really needs to drive, congestion pricing could make it less congested and make his trip less costly.

    Lastly, I’d like to know the numbers of lower-income commuters that are driving into lower Manhattan. I bet its much lower than anyone thinks. As one of the most public transit friendly cities in the world, I’d doubt most are “forced” to drive and the large majority are Wall Street commuters or intra-Manhattan commuters (live in Manhattan and drive to their job in Manhattan). Beware of the lexus drivers who cite the equity issue as a way to escape a legitimate recovery of an externality (congestion) they caused. Congestion pricing revenues can be used to strengthen and expand regional rail and improve accessibility.

    Don’t fight the neoliberals…show them a way to make money that also creates lasting, equitable and mutual gain. That’s Sustainable Smart Growth.

    Obama ’08!

  5. Laura, if you are one of the non-wealthy car drivers in NY then you find yourself in the extreme minority. According to the statistics, something like 80% of the private sector workers who commute into lower Manhattan by car are coming from Westchester or the UES…it is not lack of cab fare that impels them to drive. (Public employees commute more because of free parking perks.)

    And those non-wealthy auto commuters that are out there have everything to gain from the public transportation improvements that are going to be funded by congestion pricing. The only people hurt by congestion pricing are the people rich enough to own cars in the city (where insurance, gas, and parking are extremely expensive) who don’t want to pay a couple dollars for the convenience. They can cry me an oil-polluted river.

  6. “…oil polluted river.”

    Such as that which gets more polluted run off as the result of canceling the project to bury the waterfront highway in a tunnel which could do a far better job at containing such, and the cancellation of the park atop that could have served as a buffer from the run off from the existing street grid.

    “Nice” how subsidizing MTA’s sort of bookkeeping is allowed to subvert the environment.

    Sue the MTA for the Westway $$ which they were really not entitled to.

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