Thursday, April 3, 2008

Congestion Pricing in New York

There's a food cart near Central Park that rents for $300,000 a year. That's more than 120 quarters per hour. Yet parking spaces near that cart rent for much less and they are free on nights and weekends. I like the concept of congestion pricing, but we don't need the mayor's complicated system. Instead of begging the state legislator for permission to set up a complicated camera system, why not rationalize the on-street parking?
First, eliminate parking on the avenues and major cross streets, at least between 6am and 8pm during the week. Just get rid of it Raise the prices of the rest of the on-street parking in the city to the point where it's possible to find a spot (queuing theory suggests an 85% occupancy rate). This will cut back on the cars in Manhattan (at least cut back on the practice of driving around looking for a spot) and maybe give the buses a chance to move faster than walking speed.
There are quite a few other things that could probably be done without approval from that state. Why is alternate side of the street parking suspended when it snows? If anything, the laws should be enforced more strictly because that's exactly when it's more important to get equipment like snow plows through. Pedestrians have to deal with piles of snow all winter because cars are in the way of the snow plows. The city could also increase the taxes on parking garages.
Other things that might require approval, but wouldn't be as radical: how about charging market rates for the Bridges and Tunnels (and adding tolls to the east river bridges). If the revenue raised went into improving the subway, or lowering taxes in the other borrows, it might be politically feasible. Sit at a restaurant on 9th avenue and 50th street on a weekend and you'll see cars queuing up for the Lincoln tunnel entrance on 30th street.

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