Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More on tackling urban transportation congestion … stick, or bus ticket?

  As Americans return to their workplaces after the busiest travel weekend of the year, here are two updates, from opposite sides of the globe, on transportation topics that I wrote about last week.

Newyork_1   Environmental advocates are pushing New York City to impose a fee, like downtown London's, on motor vehicles entering the crowded southern half of Manhattan.  While I like the concept of impact fees, the plan raise some concerns (beyond the opposition of outer borough and suburbanites who don't have easy access to the subway, bus, or commuter rail system).  First, the supposed air pollution benefits are likely to be minimal, considering that the number of vehicles in lower Manhattan is just small fraction of the area's total air pollution.  Second, unlike London (and other less-sprawling European metros), New York should worry that making it more difficult to get to Manhattan may encourage businesses to re-locate or establish in the suburbs.  Many big corporations have already fled the congested city for greenfields in New Jersey, Westchester, or Connecticut in recent decades; relative disadvantages in transportation laws will simply encourage more movement to the suburbs, undermining the intended effect of the city's plan.  (Right, Judge Posner?)      

Sydney    Across the world in Sydney, Australia, the city is planning to turn some downtown street lanes into dedicated bus routes, instead of the more expensive option of rail routes.  As more and more cities across the globe accept the idea of clean, efficient, and hi-tech dedicated bus routes, eventually many Americans will abandon their almost innate rejection of the urban bus as the most promising solution to urban transportation needs in the 21st century.   


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