Congestion Charging Rumor Mill

kiley.jpgThree congestion charging rumors, all from excellent, though, un-named sources:

1. Bob Kiley, the Transport for London Commissioner who oversaw the design and implementation of that city's successful congestion charging system is joining Parson's Brinckerhoff in New York City. Parsons is the global engineering firm that has been leading the Partnership for New York City's secretive, years-long congestion charging study. The move has not yet been announced publicly and it is not known what his specific title or role will be. Clearly, Kiley would be an ideal candidate to get a congestion charging system up and running in New York City. Before revamping London's transportation system, he served as Chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and President of the Partnership for New York City. Word has it that Bob and his wife Rona are looking to move back to the United States from London within the next three to six months.

2. Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia was in London last week to attend the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress meeting. At the conference Primeggia and other delegates were invited "to see first-hand innovative projects such as the Congestion Charging scheme and the cutting edge technology powering London's Transport Control Centre and London Underground's Network Operations Centre," according to London Mayor Ken Livingstone. My source speculates that Primeggia is charged with looking at how a congestion charging system might be applied to New York City (forgive the pun). The agency has not responded to queries on that.

3. Finally, a City Hall source says that after the 2012 Olympics bid died Mayor Bloomberg started looking for a significant transportation legacy to leave behind and his administration's second term reorganization of DOT and the development of the City's Office of Long-Term Planning are a part of that. But time is tight to do anything significant on the transportation front. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff is really "breathing down the neck" of the Long-Term Planning Office to deliver a solid product within the next two months. In fact, Doctoroff often likes to remind his Long-Term Planners exactly how many hours they have left before their deadline. There is speculation that the Long-Term Plan will include discussion of congestion charging based on ongoing research by the Partnership for New York City.

At the end of her speech at the Manhattan Transportation Policy Conference yesterday, Commissioner Iris Weinshall referred to the new Long-Term Planning effort, saying, it is "considering a wide range of strategies to shift travel away from the automobile and onto transit" and she expects that it "will include some big ideas." Could one of those big ideas be congestion charging or is this all just wishful thinking based on hearsay? Borough President Stringer now refers to congestion charging as "an applause line" in Manhattan, at least. Clearly, it is no longer the political death trap that it once was. So, what are the odds that the Bloomberg Administration will put a serious congestion charging proposal on the table before the start of the '09 campaign season?

I say, 2-to-1. It's a little bit hard to imagine a Mayor putting such a big idea on the table right before the end of his second term. Then again, maybe that's the best time to do something as politically treacherous as congestion charging...