Alternatives to the traffic congestion charge?

A local group opposed the congestion charge (“Study Gives Alternatives to City Plan for Traffic,” William Neuman, NY Times, 2007-10-12) proposes alternatives:

Raising parking meter rates in Manhattan, creating more taxi stands and putting in place a series of other measures could achieve the same level of traffic reduction as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, according to a report by a group opposed to the mayor’s proposal.

“We’ve said all the way through that there are better ways to deal with traffic congestion,” said Walter McCaffrey, a former city councilman from Queens who is the spokesman for the group, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free.

Mr. McCaffrey said the report was sent this week to the 17 members of a commission created by the State Legislature to study the mayor’s plan for an $8 charge on cars entering or leaving the area of Manhattan below 86th Street.

The commission is also required to consider alternatives to the mayor’s plan that could achieve similar results. The Bloomberg administration has estimated that its proposal would reduce the miles traveled by vehicles in the Manhattan charging zone by 6.3 percent.

The commission must make a recommendation to the Legislature by Jan. 31 on a plan to ease traffic congestion.

The report by Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free identifies 13 measures that, when taken together, it predicts would reduce traffic more than the mayor’s plan.

Chief among the measures is a proposal to increase greatly the number of metered parking spaces in Manhattan by putting meters on many blocks where parking is now free. The study also proposes raising the rate for on-street parking, doubling it in many areas and increasing it even more in the busiest parts of Manhattan.

The goal would be to create a higher turnover in parking spaces, in order to lessen the time drivers spend circling the block looking for parking. The report says that is a major contributor to congestion in parts of Manhattan.

I think we should do that anyway, but here’s where it gets iffy:

Hugh O’Neill, the president of Appleseed, an economics consulting firm, which wrote the report, said that the goal of the study was to find measures that focused on specific causes of congestion. The report also includes proposals that the city could carry out on its own, without the Legislature’s approval, which is needed for congestion pricing.

The report calls for the city to eliminate many of the thousands of parking placards that city employees use to get free parking.

It’s really amazing that the city would want to decrease the environmental effects of driving and then turn around and encourage its employees to drive. NYC has the most extensive rapid transit system on Earth; we could encourage our civil servants to use it.

Other proposals included more taxi stands and higher peak hour tolls. The mayor’s office had no comment.

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