Congestion pricing is coming


From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

So-called congestion pricing to control traffic is inevitable in Boston. It’s coming soon to Manhattan, where New York City officials plan to charge a toll, perhaps around $10 a day, for driving below 60th Street, at the southern end of Central Park. The idea, besides speeding traffic flow and reducing the emission of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, is to use a lot of that money to fix up Gotham’s deteriorating mass-transit system.

Uber and Lyft, etc., already in effect engage in congestion pricing by charging higher prices during rush hours.

Nick Sifuentes, the executive director of the Tri-State (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) Transportation Campaign, in a Boston Globe piece, notes that Boston’s traffic congestion is now America’s worst, with New York second. The cost of this, in lost productivity, pollution and mental and physical stress, is immense. Mr. Sifuentes reckons that congestion costs the average Boston commuter $2,291 a year and 164 hours (and growing) stuck in traffic.

And building yet more roads and/or widening the ones we have only helps briefly, before those two are filled, in a variant of the Parkinson’s Law “Expenditure rises to meet income.’’

He notes that: “The lesson is clear: Increasing road capacity only encourages more people to drive, creating more congestion, dividing neighborhoods, inviting sprawl, and polluting communities near and far from the new roadways. We also know it often isn’t enough simply to offer better public transportation; cities have to encourage drivers to change their habits — and as long as roads are free, there is little incentive for commuters to forego unnecessary trips or increase their use of public transit.’’

To read his piece in The Globe, please hit this link.