Detractors Find Congestion Pricing Facts in Short Supply

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Add the Queens Chamber of Commerce to the list of pre-emptive congestion pricing foes.

The chamber's Legislative Advocacy Committee has prepped a report on the "harmful effects" of congestion pricing on businesses, and chamber members are also reportedly spreading the word.

Writing in the chamber newsletter, Queensborough, QCC President Raymond J. Irrera espouses the usual rhetoric regarding "punishing" motorists with a "tax." Irrera fans the flames by citing the "dire negative impact" congestion charging supposedly had on downtown London.

Also in Queensborough, City Council Member Tony Avella refers to vague "serious financial consequences" of New York's non-existent congestion pricing plan, and takes the opportunity to plug his legislative proposal to ban the city from "imposing tolls or other charges on any and all bridges controlled by the New York City Department of Transportation." Avella finds himself in good company on the council, which appears on the verge of enacting its own anti-business initiative.

Thing is, the London experience shows that overall business does not suffer from congestion charging. According to Malcolm Murray-Clark, who runs the London program and who visited New York a few weeks ago, a very small number of auto-dependent businesses were negatively affected there. This could be because, among other reasons, while the number of car trips into London's central business district was reduced by 31 percent, the number of people entering the CBD dropped by just two percent.

Murray-Clark was careful to point out that congestion pricing is no "panacea," and that implementing the plan successfully required a lot of give-and-take between government and the private sector. Seeing as how other New York business leaders have pegged the cost of gridlock at $13 billion a year -- not to mention all those inconvenient side effects -- maybe honest dialogue would be a better course than unsubstantiated hysteria.

Photo: latca/Flickr