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Thread: Boston city councillor proposes congestion charge

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Boston city councillor proposes congestion charge

    This will never fly with our suburban legislature and governor, but it's worth talking about.
    -------------------------------------------------------------

    The Boston Herald
    Hub aims to take a toll on downtown drivers
    By Kimberly Atkins
    Wednesday, March 30, 2005 - Updated: 04:23 PM EST

    Driving in congested downtown Boston would cost commuters more than time under a City Council plan that would use cameras to snap license plates and assess tolls.

    Councilor Paul Scapicchio wants to create a downtown toll zone where cars would be electronically charged for passing through Boston's busiest thoroughfares in neighborhoods such as the North End, Chinatown, and Charlestown.

    ``It's meant to alleviate congestion on downtown streets,'' said Joseph Arangio, an aide to Scapicchio, who will file an order today calling for hearings on the proposal.

    Arangio said it would also combat pollution, encourage use of public transportation, and give the city an extra source of revenue.

    Instead of toll booths or prepaid pass system, Arangio said, cameras would be installed within the downtown toll zone.

    When a car enters into the zone, the camera would capture the vehicles' license plate, and the tolls can be assessed.

    If the city adopts a program such as the one in London - upon which Scapicchio's plan is modeled - even locals will have to pay to drive neighborhood streets.

    London residents within the zone are not exempt, though they get a 90 percent discount.

    Also under the London system, taxicabs, buses, disabled drivers and emergency vehicles are exempt from the toll.

    San Francisco - a city officials note is geographically similar to Boston - is also considering a similar plan that would discourage use of that city's most jammed streets and use the toll charges for municipal transportation improvements.
    Last edited by jmello; 31 Mar 2005 at 12:58 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    How about fixing the Big Dig first? Wasn't it supposed to allieviate congestion anyway? Now some local pol wants another another moneypit project to keep fattening the municipal unions. What a joke.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Man With a Plan's avatar
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    Article?

    Where did this article come from?

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    How about fixing the Big Dig first? Wasn't it supposed to allieviate congestion anyway? Now some local pol wants another another moneypit project to keep fattening the municipal unions. What a joke.
    It was never supposed to alleviate congestion, only fix the poor design of the original highway (i.e. elevated eyesore, on-ramps and off-ramps sharing lanes, etc.). Enacting congestion charges in downtown Boston would be a revenue generator, not a "money pit." Unions would have nothing to do with it.

    Are you in middle school, or high school?

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    It was never supposed to alleviate congestion, only fix the poor design of the original highway (i.e. elevated eyesore, on-ramps and off-ramps sharing lanes, etc.). Enacting congestion charges in downtown Boston would be a revenue generator, not a "money pit." Unions would have nothing to do with it.

    Are you in middle school, or high school?
    First of all, don't insult me. Second of all, your claim that the Big Dig was never supposed to allieviate congestion is dead wrong. Like those on-ramps weren't a major source of congestion? You're extremely ignorant if you think the unions wouldn't have anything to do with this proposed congestion pricing project as well.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    First of all, don't insult me. Second of all, your claim that the Big Dig was never supposed to allieviate congestion is dead wrong. Like those on-ramps weren't a major source of congestion?
    Only congestion due to poor design. Added capacity (outside of the new cross-harbor tunnel) was never a goal.

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    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Congestion charging is the wave of the future in real cities--that is, places where an alternative exists for driving. This includes in the U.S.: at first Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco, and eventually Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago.

    It's inevitable, and has done wonders for London. It'll probably sweep Europe first, then the mentioned places in North America.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    The Big Dig was sold to taxpayers with the promise of reduced traffic congestion in Downtown Boston. To address this problem the project increased capacity significantly. The six-lane elevated Central Artery was replaced "with an eight-to-ten-lane underground expressway directly beneath the existing road, culminating at its northern limit in a 14-lane, two-bridge crossing of the Charles River."

    Read about it here on the Mass Turnpike Authority website:

    http://www.masspike.com/bigdig/background/index.html

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    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    Are you in middle school, or high school?
    Moderator note:
    Please, no personal attacks. Keep it civil.



    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

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    Industry = $$

    The proposal is an interesting idea and will certianly generate revenue for the city, however, I am unsure of whether or not it will be a net income generator. Municipal governents, atleast in ontario, derive a large portion of their revenue from property tax, especially from commercial and industrial sites. I fear that if the industrial and commercial logistics are not given a discount similar to that for local residents, the industry may leave resulting in a net loss of revenue for the municipality.

    Additionally, it seems that the car is a major form of inner city transportation:

    "with an eight-to-ten-lane underground expressway...culminating at its northern limit in a 14-lane, two-bridge crossing ".

    Will the public transit infrastructure be able to cope with the great influx of passengers? Are there sufficent parking spaces at the city limits to accomodate the suburban commuters?

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    Survalence cameras or CCTV makes me uneasy, regardless of whether it is for "security" or for collecting tolls. There are major privacy concerns when using surveillance under a democracy.

    Who will pay for the installation and maintenance of the congestion cameras, and where will they be located? To capture every car on the scale suggested would take thousands of cameras.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JVeltkamp
    Additionally, it seems that the car is a major form of inner city transportation
    That's what the congestion charge aims to cure.


    Quote Originally posted by JVeltkamp
    Will the public transit infrastructure be able to cope with the great influx of passengers? Are there sufficent parking spaces at the city limits to accomodate the suburban commuters?
    Transit Authority has built multi-story car parks at some stations. Needs to build more, but this kind of building can be thrown up in a hurry.


    Quote Originally posted by JVeltkamp
    Who will pay for the installation and maintenance of the congestion cameras, and where will they be located? To capture every car on the scale suggested would take thousands of cameras.
    Have you checked out the price of electronics lately? I bet a speed bump costs more than a surveillance camera.


    Quote Originally posted by JVeltkamp
    Survalence cameras or CCTV makes me uneasy, regardless of whether it is for "security" or for collecting tolls. There are major privacy concerns when using surveillance under a democracy.
    This one used to carry a lot of weight with me, back when I had something to hide.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JVeltkamp
    Who will pay for the installation and maintenance of the congestion cameras, and where will they be located? To capture every car on the scale suggested would take thousands of cameras.
    Actually, there are only about a dozen entrances to downtown Boston, as it is built on a peninsula.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    Actually, there are only about a dozen entrances to downtown Boston, as it is built on a peninsula.
    jmello, that's true of commuters entering from East Boston, Charlestown, Somerville, Cambridge and South Boston. It's less true for Roxbury, Dorchester and Brookline. But in any case, the issue isn't "can we afford all those cameras?"; London has way more access points than Boston, and they managed.

    The real issue is: "Can we afford not to do this?"

  15. #15
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    jmello, that's true of commuters entering from East Boston, Charlestown, Somerville, Cambridge and South Boston. It's less true for Roxbury, Dorchester and Brookline. But in any case, the issue isn't "can we afford all those cameras?"; London has way more access points than Boston, and they managed.
    It is true of all of downtown Boston. Only about 10 streets cross Massachusetts Avenue and four cross Fort Point Channel. Add the two bridges over the Charles River and one tunnel under the harbor and you have a total of 13 entrances to downtown Boston, an area bounded by Massachusetts Avenue, the Fort Point Channel, Boston Harbor and the Charles River. Of course you would also have to monitor the exits from I-93, I-90 and Storrow Drive into downtown Boston, which number about 7-9. Not that complex really.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Huh?

    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    It was never supposed to alleviate congestion, only fix the poor design of the original highway (i.e. elevated eyesore, on-ramps and off-ramps sharing lanes, etc.). Enacting congestion charges in downtown Boston would be a revenue generator, not a "money pit." Unions would have nothing to do with it.

    Are you in middle school, or high school?
    So what your saying is that they spent BIllions to fix an aesthetic problem.....that makes sense.... Still having spent so many Billions of $$$, you would think that congestion management might have come up at some point.......yet another example of not employing a sufficiently comprehensive point of view on yet another gargantuan transportation related project.......

    Having said that, it is a good idea to exempt all carpool vehicles and buses from the fee.....I don't know how people can afford to live in that state as it is, let alone having to pay even more for the privlege to drive into your own state capital??

    Sure the rest of the state should have a say in congestion pricing in Boston, after all, it is their State Capital too......isn't it.......?
    Skilled Adoxographer
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    So what your saying is that they spent BIllions to fix an aesthetic problem.....that makes sense.... Still having spent so many Billions of $$$, you would think that congestion management might have come up at some point.......yet another example of not employing a sufficiently comprehensive point of view on yet another gargantuan transportation related project.......

    Having said that, it is a good idea to exempt all carpool vehicles and buses from the fee.....I don't know how people can afford to live in that state as it is, let alone having to pay even more for the privlege to drive into your own state capital??

    Sure the rest of the state should have a say in congestion pricing in Boston, after all, it is their State Capital too......isn't it.......?

    Yes, my concern would be the unforseen effects of this...

    would business try to relocate outside city boundaries?

    would business (those based on heavy population) suffer with less MA residents coming into the city?

    would it get so expensive that MA citizens would consider leaving the state?

    what are other potential positive and negative effects all of you see??? (aside from the obvious positive)

  18. #18
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by narrator
    Yes, my concern would be the unforseen effects of this...

    would business try to relocate outside city boundaries?

    would business (those based on heavy population) suffer with less MA residents coming into the city?

    would it get so expensive that MA citizens would consider leaving the state?

    what are other potential positive and negative effects all of you see??? (aside from the obvious positive)
    I don't understand what the big deal is. People in England have less disposable cash than Americans, and it's done nothing but good in London. Read all about it here: http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=16121

    People will pay what it takes. They may make a big to-do, but five or ten bucks is chump change; you pay four or five times that to park your car in a Boston garage for a few hours. You get a falafel in Quincy Market and you've paid out as much as the congestion fee right there.

    It won't stop the merrymakers and suburban touristos, and it won't stop 70% of the daily commuters. But the other 30% that switch to the subway will be just enough to alleviate Boston's dreadful traffic congestion for everyone else. And all that revenue can go toward improving the subway. Next thing you know a certain fraction of people will discover that they don't always need a car. Some might even sell their third family car. Detroit will hate it, and so will the Bush Administration. The money the family saves on car insurance they'll spend at WalMart.

    The idea that people will move elsewhere to avoid the congestion charge is preposterous. Nobody moves for reasons like that. They'll shrug and pay it, bitch for a few months, and get used to it.

    As an avid student of the Law of Supply and Demand, what do you suppose accounts for the high cost of housing in Boston? Do you suppose it's lack of demand? Did they suspend the one and only iron law of economics just for Boston?

    Some people move to Charlotte anyway. They're the dummies; Boston can do without them.
    Last edited by ablarc; 04 Apr 2005 at 6:04 PM.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    I don't understand what the big deal is...Some people move to Charlotte anyway. They're the dummies; Boston can do without them.
    Agreed. One argument being promoted in the press here is that the parking garage and lot fees are enough, and an additional congestion charge is not required.

    There are several issues with this argument:

    1. On-street meters are still only $1.00/hour, while most garages are about $5-10.00/hour. The meter fees should be raised to better match the private parking fees.

    2. Delivery and commercial fleet vehicles are responsible for a large majority of congestion in downtown Boston. A congestion charge would push companies to stagger deliveries (outside of rush hour or overnight), or reduce the number of motor vehicles used for deliveries.

    3. Many high-end employers offer free or discounted parking rates to employees. These would need to be eliminated.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ablarc
    I don't understand what the big deal is. People in England have less disposable cash than Americans, and it's done nothing but good in London.
    OK, fine. Boston is not London, even with a congestion charge added. You cannot simply transpose these things and be confident that it will work in the same fashion. London had far more existing mass transit infrastructure, had far more people as a percentage of population that already relied on mass transit, and relative to size has more people living within the congestion charge area - the downtown residential population is higher.

    Doesn't this seem especially silly given what has just been invested in the Big Dig? What was the final tally? 15 billion? Despite my general belief that cars should be avoided when possible, I would be piping mad at this idea coming up AFTER the Big Dig had been paid for. To top it off, is it not true that the rail transit construction promised in exchange for the Big Dig's expansion of car traffic are threatened by lack of funds?

    But yes, I do recognize that the Big Dig was conceived and constructed started before the notion of congestion charges and reducing reliance on the automobile had become mainstream.

    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    2. Delivery and commercial fleet vehicles are responsible for a large majority of congestion in downtown Boston. A congestion charge would push companies to stagger deliveries (outside of rush hour or overnight), or reduce the number of motor vehicles used for deliveries.
    And who will receive the UPS guy at 3am? Will stores need to leave staff on all night to deal with deliveries?
    Last edited by abrowne; 05 Apr 2005 at 10:26 PM.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    And who will receive the UPS guy at 3am? Will stores need to leave staff on all night to deal with deliveries?
    I said stagger deliveries or use fewer motor vehicles to make deliveries. Packages could be delivered at night to a few central UPS facilities, then hand-trucked to nearby offices or picked-up.

  22. #22
    UPS bike messengers.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by passdoubt
    UPS bike messengers.
    We already have a large supply of bike messengers (often shiftlessly hanging out in downtown parks), the major delivery companies just need a reason to employ them. A congestion charge on motor vehicles might just get them to.

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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    So what your saying is that they spent BIllions to fix an aesthetic problem.....that makes sense.... Still having spent so many Billions of $$$, you would think that congestion management might have come up at some point.......yet another example of not employing a sufficiently comprehensive point of view on yet another gargantuan transportation related project.......
    The Big Dig was meant to alleviate congestion, and it did, on the Highway. The problem here is the congestion on the streets within the city. Now that the big dig is nearly finished, travelling along I-93 from Charleston to Dorchester is easy, meaning the goal of the project was more or less accomplished. The problem that this toll system seeks to correct is the people driving within the city, not through it.

    Oranges and apples, let's not compare them anymore.

    As for the proposed toll system, I'd be for it, but only if it was revised significantly from its current form. There needs to be an exemption or at least a discount for residents and commercial vehicles...they need to use the roads and should be given treatment with that in mind. Charging out of towners who come in for work or entertainment is not a bad idea, as public transportation in Boston can get you pretty much anywhere, and is faster and cheaper than taking a car.

    Finally, a tie-in of the Big Dig is the new silver line project. Boston just dumped a ton of money into rapid-transit, and this would be a good way to encourage people to use it.

    EDIT: I just noticed the post-date on these. Sorry to bump an old thread.

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