New York delayed congestion pricing. These other cities do it.

This month, New York City was poised to join cities like Stockholm and London in charging drivers to enter certain parts of the city. The program, decades in the making, aimed to reduce traffic and raise money for the city’s beleaguered transit system.

Plans to implement so-called congestion pricing were updated Wednesday when New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) suspended her rollout “indefinitely,” citing continued economic uncertainty in the wake of the pandemic. This initiative would have been the first of its kind in the United States. Drivers using E-ZPass reportedly paid up to $15 to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street.

“After careful consideration, I have made the difficult decision that implementing the planned congestion pricing system risks too many unintended consequences,” she told reporters. Hochul said the $15 fee could “break the budget” of a middle-class household.

But while New York abandons its plan to charge drivers more, other similar projects have been implemented in places around the world, including London, Stockholm and Singapore, where research shows that traffic congestion and air pollution has decreased.

“Wherever congestion pricing is put in place, it works and the idea that it affects the economy is ridiculous,” said Steve Cohen, a Columbia professor who directs the master’s program in environmental science and policy at the university’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Resistance can be overcome once a system is in place and demonstrated to work, Cohen said. In Stockholm, for example, the initiative proved very unpopular when it was introduced as a seven-month pilot program in 2006. It was then put to a vote and narrowly passed. But over the decades, as its benefits became clear, its popularity grew, officials said.

Despite New York’s reluctance, Cohen said, the spread of congestion pricing to other cities will likely continue.

“It’s an innovation that where you have a decent mass transit system can work and it works everywhere they’ve tried it,” he said. “We have more cars and more people, and we are not producing more land. »

Here’s a look at how other cities have tried similar plans.

London drivers pay 15 pounds ($19.19) to enter the city center between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends and public holidays, an increase from 5 pounds when the toll was introduced in 2003.

According to a 2017 study, traffic in London would be 20% slower without this tax. But London is also an example of the unintended consequences that big political changes can bring.

Decreased traffic in central London led to a slight reduction in a handful of pollutants that could cause lung disease, according to a 2020 study. But it also showed that while some pollutants decreased, there was an increase nitrogen dioxide, which can also reduce lung function and cause asthma. The authors found that London’s pricing system exempted buses and taxis. They are more likely to use diesel, which generates more nitrogen dioxide than gasoline engines. Since travelers took more taxis and buses after the introduction of tolls, diesel consumption has increased, as has nitrogen dioxide.

The city also has an Ultra Low Emissions Zone which operates 24/7, except Christmas Day. It charges 12.50 pounds ($15.99) for cars that do not meet ultra-low emissions standards or are not exempt from them.

In Stockholm, traffic was reduced by 20 percent after tolls came into force in 2007. Tolls vary depending on the time of day, but drivers must pay a maximum of 135 crowns, or 12, 80 dollars, per day.

Stockholm is an example of a city that saw significant health benefits after controlling traffic. Asthma rates have declined among children living in the area covered by the tolls, said Emilia Simeonova, a Johns Hopkins economist who has studied health impacts in that region. Hospital visits for acute pediatric asthma attacks fell by 50 percent, according to her research, a change that Simeonova attributes to fewer attacks among children with existing asthma and a reduction in the number of children developing asthma. Pollution has also decreased; The amount of nitrogen dioxide in the area has decreased by 15 to 20 percent compared to the period before congestion pricing, and particulate matter has fallen by 10 to 15 percent.

In Paris, all cars entering the city center must carry a sticker certifying that it is a low-emission vehicle, a problem in Europe, where diesel cars are more common. On days when air quality is poor, even low-emission vehicles may be banned from certain areas of the city. And from 2030, some regions will ban carbon-emitting cars altogether.

Starting this year – in time for next month’s Olympics – Paris will ban many cars from entering the city center. The goal is to reduce “through traffic,” that is, traffic that passes through the area without stopping. Residents and those driving to a destination, such as a museum or doctor’s office, should still be able to enter the downtown area. The city has also significantly expanded its bike paths and created new infrastructure to protect cyclists from car traffic.

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