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Things that are more inequitable than road pricing (cityobservatory.org)
233 points by oftenwrong 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 270 comments



I don't know about other cities, but to understand the strong political push back against congestion pricing in NYC requires a bunch of local context.

Neither the rich+, nor the poor, nor the vast majority of the middle class regularly commute into Manhattan by car. The poor and the lower/middle middle class because parking is prohibitively expensive. The upper middle class and the rich because they either live in Manhattan or they'd rather take commuter rail than sit in traffic. To the extent the latter take ubers or similar such services already pay congestion charges and there isn't too much fuss (except from the drives who don't have much political muscle).

The bulk of car commuters into Manhattan are instead those with de jure or de facto free parking. That's largely government workers (e.g. teachers, cops, firefighters) and members of the trades (i.e. construction workers).

For those with de jure free parking congestion pricing isn't a big deal, whatever authority is setting aside parking will either pay the congestion charge or get it waived. It's the beneficiaries of police and traffic control refusal to enforce the law with respect to certain favored populations that are up in arms about congestion charges. Because a congestion charge is likely to be enforced by an automated mechanism which, unlike parking control, will not engage in public corruption on their behalf. And these groups, unlike the uber drivers, do have a great deal of political muscle.

+At least the ordinary rich, hecto-millionaires and billionaires might be a different story


I live in lower Manhattan. My feeling is that every vehicle other than delivery trucks should be banned from the city. There is no compelling reason for anyone to drive in Manhattan. If people are commuting into Manhattan, they should take public transit to and from parking lots in Brooklyn/Queens/New Jersey. You will never convince me that there are low income workers who need to drive in the city as an essential part of their livelihood. That’s just not a real thing here.


Trades people can have legitimate reasons to need vehicles.

Imagine your in charge of, say, taking care of a large planter. You need to bring with you:

- Half a pickup truck of new plants

- A few bags of fresh soil

- A few shovels, buckets, a hose, and other similar tools

They key is really just that vehicles are necessary to transport large quantities of stuff, regardless of whether or not it's a delivery vehicle. I think you'll find that a number of trades include low income workers who are moving around large quantities of stuff.

(This is not intended to be taken as arguing for or against congestion charges or any other policy involving shuffling money around, just against the logic of the above post and outright banning things other than delivery vehicles)


Modify the original post to "nobody needs to commute in a personal vehicle" and it works. The truck full of plants is a commercial truck (it might be personally owned, but should be getting reimbursed for mileage).


Commercial is the wrong qualifier for two reasons.

The first is that you're going to have investment banks declaring their employees cars as commercial.

The second is that you don't have to be a business to take a job taking care of a planter (or whatever). You probably are, but it's not required.

I agree with the principal that "nobody needs to commute in a personal vehicle", but I find it hard to codify it into a reliable law.

Edit: Actually I like Nihonde's own modification: “small trucks/vans on demonstrable business”, I'd add "involving transporting stuff for use in the city".

It will probably still be gamed, but the ambiguity of the wording allows selective enforcement to fight the worst of that.

Edit 2: Actually I don't, considering the other discussions in this thread about police abusing their authority giving them more ambiguous laws seems like a bad idea.

Also - This is a perfect example of why I try to avoid advocating for/against policies on the internet unless it's abundantly clear that they are good/bad.


This is literally the point of congestion pricing.

If you really need to drive around in lower Manhattan once in a while (e.g. you are doing a big run to Home Depot), you pay the $5 fee. Unless you are truly destitute, it's not that bad to pay a couple times a year.

The price system isn't perfect, but it's pretty damn efficient at controlling quantity demanded.


For most cities $5 is not remotely enough to make a difference. People pay that per hour of parking. Make it $20 and you might make a dent.


The truck full of plants is delivering plants, so would nominally fit the definition of a delivery vehicle, at least when it's delivering things.


Well. I'd exclude disabled people from this group of "nobody". For many people with disabilities a car is usually the only real way to get anywhere.


What kind of disabilities are we talking about? Because I’m pretty certain that to a blind person a car won’t help them much, and in fact probably makes life in general more dangerous. Further poor people who have a mobility impairment are often forced into dangerous situations, such as operating a motorized wheel chair in mixed automobile traffic instead of being able to use a dedicated bike lane (yes I’ve seen this many times).

EDIT: I'm not saying wheelchair-bound and other similar people should be banned from driving. Like today, we can add wheelchair-only parking accommodations. In fact, restricting traffic to only people with a genuine need will make their trips faster.


You realize other people can drive the car?


It's called a bus


A bus will not drop you off right in front of a specialist clinic for your weekly appointment. Also buses are incredibly hostile for wheelchair bound people, even if they are not meant to be. Seriously try boarding a bus during rush hour on a wheelchair - the driver has to help you and people have to move to give space for you, but in general it's an unpleasant and humiliating experience(people who are usually already late are suddenly even more late because of you, and sometimes even comment on it - you need to grow some proper thick skin to not give a damn).

Besides, even if you are on a wheelchair with lower body paralysis you can still drive with hand controls.


Paratransit is recognized in North America as special transportation services for people with disabilities, often provided as a supplement to fixed-route bus and rail systems by public transit agencies.[0]

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paratransit


Yeah, but that's still delivery of a sort, isn't it? GP says only delivery should be allowed. Cars that are only transporting a person and nothing else are unnecessary; that person can be transported by subway instead. Only transporting goods really requires a car.


Couln't agree more. Better for walk ability, can increase number of dedicated bus lanes, have express lines, and local van lines. With the density in new york, you could have these buses and vans running all day, it would give much better access to subways and importantly can alleviate subway needs at night (why run a train every 30 minutes with 8 nearly empty cars, if you can instead run 2 buses every 30 minutes, or a bus every 15 min).

for buses Otherwise there will be clear roads to have a good bus system that can run express and local lines better, can start shutting down the subway for a few hours a day, and the bus should work just as well


> My feeling is that every vehicle other than delivery trucks should be banned from the city. There is no compelling reason for anyone to drive in Manhattan.

I recently played for a contra dance in Manhattan. My band members and I drove in a small car, with a sound system, keyboard, and other instruments. I would have been happy to pay some sort of toll/charge/fee/tax but any other way of getting our equipment to and from the gig would be far more expensive and a lot of a hassle.

(My family doesn't have a car, and I commute to work on the subway)


Try getting a Ceili band to a gig :D

I think the article is trying to get to this train of thought.

We want X that requires a vehicle, instead of assuming that this is a zero cost activity lets factor in the cost of parking, mileage etc.

Assuming for a moment that the total cost was an extra $200 any self respecting contra dance should be able to spread that out at $1-$2 per person.

I grew up in a musical family and spent many a weekend covering vast distances in the back of an old car so my dad could play a gig that barely broke even. Reminds me of the definition of a musician: "A musician is someone who will load $5,000 worth of gear into a $500 car to drive 100 miles to a $50 gig."

But seriously, people need to value things correctly. I spent some time on a local council and the shopkeepers would be up in arms whenever they thought they'd lose a parking spot, despite every census showing most of their customers walked to their stores. The shopkeepers viewed the parking as "their parking" and not "our parking" (As in the community). Yet for some reason the footpaths were most definitely "ours footpaths" (The council's) so repairing or even cleaning them was the Council's job, and heaven forbid we suggest the shops pay towards that cost.


The opinions of businesses wrt parking are the same stateside, but legally it is the property owner's responsibility to build and maintain clean sidewalks, while street parking is part of the public-ally owned right of way (meaning it can be re-striped or removed at whim).

Its common in Seattle for the city to do basic maintenance on a sidewalk, and bill the property owner for the amount, as they failed to maintain their sidewalk (whether Ivy has overgrown the sidewalk, roots have uplifted it, or its become a public health hazard due to lack of cleaning).

It is really nice to walk on freshly steam cleaned or pressure washed sidewalks :P


That is a form of delivery vehicle in a way, right?


Sort of, but it's not registered as "commercial", driven by a professional, or anything else people would normally think of as a "delivery" vehicle. Like, if you call any vehicle that moves things from place to place a delivery vehicle then everyone who drives to the grocery store to buy milk is operating a delivery vehicle.


My compelling reason is that I live in Manhattan and frequently make trips to visit family that are not well served by public transportation. And when I'm there, I prefer using a vehicle to get around.

I often return to New York with a carful of groceries, luggage, etc. I've tried this via public transit -- it's a miserable affair. The utility of a personal vehicle for me is very high -- perhaps substantially higher than it would be for you.

There's no need to justify vehicles based on economic classes and livelihood. Why does the car debate need to be made into some kind of class conflict? It's just more convenient and pleasant, and that's how some choose to spend their money.

I'm sorry it inconveniences you, but our society exists because we're willing to be slightly inconvenienced by our neighbors (especially those with different preferences than us) in exchange for certain benefits.


The argument against here that I find most compelling is that the externalities of you driving your car are so insanely huge that it should be priced into the range of ridiculousness.

Things that you have to consider (The numbers attached are completely made up and probably off by multiple orders of magnitude in most cases, but are to make the point that you should be assigning costs to these things. Then you should multiply by them by reasonable estimates of the quantities that make up the denominator on the unit and see what you come up with. Also note that as there are less cars on the road the externalities per car probably go up):

- Air quality (say, 0.1c per person you drive past?)

- Noise polution (say, 0.1c per person you drive past?)

- Road size - realestate cost (say, 0.000001c/trip per per person who pays taxes?)

- Road size - increased walking (and other travel) time (say, 0.0000001c/trip per person who crosses a road you drove on?)

- Congestion (say, 1c for everyone on a bus behind you?)

- Road maintenance (probably negligible compared to the other costs)

- Pedestrian safety (...)

- Climate change (...)

Our society exists not just because we're willing to be slightly inconvenienced by our neighbors, but because we are willing to go to reasonable lengths to avoid inconveniencing our neighbors. Perhaps, reasonable lengths includes not driving into the city.


There are serious attempts to estimate the externalities that arise from automobile use in general: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.661...

Adjusting those estimates (only) for inflation, they work out to about $2.14 per gallon in driving externalities.


While it looks like a reasonable attempt, it’s only looking at directly related effects. For instance, it notes that pedestrian fatalities have decreased since 1960 due to, among other things, discouraging people from walking. The effect of cars on population health would be much harder to quantify but might end up dwarfing many of the other factors.


Note that these estimates are attempts in general, not in the context of Manhattan, or downtown in any other city.

I'm not aware of any studies that attempted to estimate them in such an environment, I think that local factors (basically density of people) change the calculation substantially.


So.....even if you add it to the price of US fuel, it's still cheaper than fuel in the UK? And British cities have just as much trouble with congestion as American cities do. I guess what I mean is that if this extra money is meant to be a deterrent to driving it's just not enough. I'm not sure what the price would need to be to be honest. I've been to Portugal recently and the price of petrol is just insane - in the order of $8-9/US gallon. And yet people sitll drive, larger cities still have loads of congestion. And Portugal is very poor by European standards.


If this is a reasonable calculation, then I don’t think the costs are so insanely high.


It's circular logic to assume the externalities are ridiculous, therefore we must price cars into the realm of ridiculousness. If you want your argument to be more than cheering against cars, you should actually calculate the externalities and you should do so for competing modes of transportation. Heck if you're talking about noise pollution, someone dribbling a basketball is far more distracting to me than the white noise of cars.

Also note that you are only calculating the costs of cars to others, not the benefits. Cars allow workers to spend less time commuting and be more productive at work, which benefits strangers. They allow people to travel farther to make purchases. They encourage the purchase of larger objects that can't be carried by hand for long distances. Their gas taxes help pay for the roads that people walk and ride bicycles on. Their tolls pay for the maintenance of bridges that bicycles and trains travel on.

I'm a fan of congestion pricing, but the purpose of congestion pricing is to reduce congestion, not to be a sin tax on driving. If people time shift their driving, that's fine.


You only need to visit a busy Manhattan street corner during commuting times to immediately realize how inapplicable those calculations are. They’ll be hundreds, if not thousands, of people waiting to cross but they only get the light 25% of the time. The rest of the time and most of the space is devoted to a tiny number of people in cars each taking up a huge amount of space and time per person.

What would the charge per car have to be to cross that street corner to possibly equal out all the time being wasted by all those pedestrians (times their hourly rate) waiting for those cars? I have to imagine it would be in the thousands of dollars per intersection or more.

There aren’t very many people in the world whose time is so valuable that it outweighs hundreds of other people’s, especially given that a random person trying to get to work in Manhattan him or herself is likely to be decently productive on average.


Interesting point. We don’t even need to talk about basketballs. I find buses in New York to be a lot noisier than personal vehicles.

Even if you take into account the multiplied factor of personal vehicles that would otherwise (possibly) be on the road, the sounds would be much more spread out.

When I’m having an al fresco meal in the city, I never notice the cars. The snarling and snorting buses interrupt conversations.


> It's circular logic to assume the externalities are ridiculous, therefore we must price cars into the realm of ridiculousness.

You're missunderstanding me, I'm just stating the possible conclusion that makes this an interesting argument (that it's ridiculously high and no one would pay it except on rare occasion) before the logic (look at all these externalities).

> you should actually calculate the externalities

That sounds like inviting lots of nitpicking debate on the internet. I invite you to though. If you do so in good faith and come up with a number that is reasonably low, well congrats, you shouldn't find the argument convincing.

> you should do so for competing modes of transportation.

True - I haven't personally because I think it's intuitive that they are far lower, if you disagree feel free to include them in your version of the calculation.

> you are only calculating the costs of cars to others, not the benefits.

I struggle to think of any positive externalities for personal cars. Everything you list are benefits to the owner except tolls. Tolls naturally don't count because that's the mechanism by which we ask them to pay for their externalities, to count them as a positive would be double counting.

If you think there are some compelling ones, again, feel free to include them in your version of the calculation.

> a sin tax on driving

Pricing in externalities is not a "sin tax". A sin tax would be "being lazy (driving) is a sin so we're going to tax them for driving".


Instead of nitpicking, we can just look up the actual calculations.[1] They're on the order of 20 cents per mile traveled. Half of that is crashes, which insurance already covers. Most of the rest is congestion costs. Air pollution and global warming costs are actually quite low compared to the harm caused by crashes and congestion. Noise is also a rounding error.

Of course this is aggregate data. Congestion costs are higher in cities and higher during peak driving hours, so it makes sense to have dynamic pricing for that.

1. Quantifying the External Costs of Vehicle Use: Evidence from America’s Top Selling Light-Duty Models (http://www.ce.utexas.edu/prof/kockelman/public_html/trb08veh...)


Your study is based on a land value of $2 million per acre.

My first Google result shows that Manhattan is, at its most expensive, $90 million per acre: https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/2100-a-square-...

This matches my intuition that cars are much more massively subsidized in city centers (where they should be heavily discouraged) than in suburbs (where they're mostly fine).

I also think roads have way higher value than other land, because they connect spaces. Think of it this way: you can build 99% of a wall, and I can still cross from one side to the other, but if you build 100% of a wall, I can't. So that last 1% of a wall has significantly higher externality cost than the first 99% of a wall.

Similarly, the existence of a road makes it impossible to cross a street without waiting. It's the last 1% of the land necessary for going from one part of a city to another, and so it's way more valuable than the price per acre would suggest.

Your study also doesn't include infrastructure costs, and also costs in inconvenience to pedestrians.

Your study also estimates congestion cost based on the assumption that 10% of travel is under congested conditions, but in Manhattan this is closer to 100%.

All your study's costs are conservative estimates.

In conclusion, I completely agree with the overall conclusion that car usage in most of the US has relatively low externality costs. I just massively disagree that car usage in a superdense city center like Manhattan also has relatively low externality costs.


The study your citing doesn't say what you are claiming it does.

> It is also important to recognize that the five external costs calculated in this analysis do not encompass all possible external costs associated with vehicle ownership and use. For example, noise pollution imposes significant costs.

Not only does it not even attempt to put a total cost per mile - which I read as the main reason why you cited it. It directly contradicts you when you say "Noise is also a rounding error".

It specifically excludes some of the biggest costs

> Based on his review of the transport-cost literature, Litman (2002) believes that the largest external costs of automobile ownership and use relate to land use impacts [...] However, these costs are, to a large extent, indirect. In other words, they are a result of auto-oriented travel patterns and will not vary much by vehicle type, make and model. Thus, they are not examined here.

Another quote to make it extra clear that this study really doesn't say what you are claiming it does

> Many other external costs associated with driving exist, and many of these have been characterized at an aggregate scale, rather than by make and model. For instance, [...] disposal costs. Water contamination [...]. However, like the noise and land use costs described above, these other costs are difficult to distinguish by make and model. Thus, they are not covered here

A quote explaining what the study is about

> While certain studies have analyzed other types of external cost, beyond the five quantified here, these studies have been aggregate in nature, focusing on passenger vehicles as a whole, or cars versus light-duty trucks. In contrast, this work looks at likely variations across specific makes and models.


If you can find any studies that take the context of Manhattan (or anywhere else in the first world with similar population density really) I'd be happy to look at them. The study you're looking at doesn't do so.

So while I assume that it's a perfectly valid study it really doesn't apply.


I could use that same logic to refute a study showing public transportation is cost-effective as long as that study wasn't done in San Francisco. It would be an obviously incorrect argument in that case, and that is also true in your case regarding cars.

The study's numbers are far more connected to reality than your made up numbers. You are making an isolated demand for rigor.[1]

1. https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/14/beware-isolated-demand...


I'm not making an isolated demand for rigor, because I'm demanding everything we do does not include clear systematic biases in one direction. I'm making a global demand for the most minimal amount of rigor you could possibly use and not necessarily arrive at incorrect answers.

Your study has a clear systematic bias (edit: Actually it doesn't even say what you claimed it did, but if it did it would have a clear systematic bias), that most costs scale with population density, and it was done studying an area (the US) with a much lower population density than the area at hand (manhattan). Assuming your study is entirely correct, its answer is incorrect when applied to the problem at hand. You would have to be an idiot to rely on it because the only way it is "right" is by being incorrect by the right amount in the right direction by sheer chance.

Likewise, if you tried to apply a study about public transportation done in the middle of the Sahara Desert to San Francisco, I would call you an idiot.


> Noise pollution.

How about we start taxing loud talkers?

> Pedestrian safety. Congestion.

And people who take up the whole sidewalk.

I don’t see people arguing for extreme measures, to the point of “ridiculousness”, to improve the state of walking around cities. So I don’t take this too seriously, it doesn’t seem to be done in good faith so much as, “I don’t like cars and there are some negative externalities, let’s use this as an excuse to really screw over anyone who thinks to use one.”

And of course, this is how a coastal elite most likely feels meanwhile they think traveling by airplane is okay or should even be celebrated.

It’s not in good faith.


Lots of people advocate for “superblocks” in lower Manhattan, where thru-traffic would be entirely banned and otherwise traffic slowed to something like 5-10mph. That is drastic, but very much in line with improving the state of walking around.

Admittedly a big focus on reducing cars in major cities likely is coming from the fact that the wealthy started moving to major cities rather than commuting from suburbia. Other people car commuting really does hurt their quality of life. But that seems more an argument that we should bring these policies even to poorer dense urban areas rather than limiting their roll-out only to Manhattan and other wealthy enclaves.


When every subway stop has elevators, then we cannot talk. Until then, try transporting kids or groceries using the subway. When the sidewalks are cleared of construction scaffolding, bike share racks blocking sidewalks or crazy grown adults dressing like Spider-Man, or psychotic homeless harassing people, then maybe we can talk.

As far as climate change; if NYC went to zero CO2, it wouldn’t make a single bit of difference compared to a single day’s worth of pollution compared to a small Chinese or Indian city. Perhaps a tariff on all goods and services from China or India would be more effective than banning cars in NYC. Banning cars from NYC would have a cosmetic effect on climate change and nothing more. And, in case you weren’t aware, cars already pay huge costs in NYC. It costs over $10 just to cross a bridge or tunnel into NYC. They don’t pay a toll to leave NYC: so someone is getting money just for a car to enter the city.


> Until then, try transporting kids or groceries using the subway.

I live in Atlanta, a place the NYTimes often writes about our lack of income mobility because of a lack of mobility[1]. I also live 2 blocks from the southernmost transit (midtown) connected grocery store that gets a lot of business from the poorer south side of the city.

So, when you say "try transporting kids or groceries on the subway" I (and transitively, the nytimes) ask, which kids? because it's not the 20% of Atlantans that are low income and that have kids and multiple hourly wage jobs that can readily afford the costs of a car -- and they're already doing it, in a city more sprawled than NYC and other cities.

[1]https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/business/in-climbing-inco...


> try transporting kids or groceries using the subway

Err. I was transported plenty as a kid on the subway without using elevators, so were many other kids.

Groceries... generally you just walk. I live in a less dense city and it's never been a problem walking to the grocery store. Including for my parents when I was a kid.

> sidewalks are cleared of...

I mean, getting rid of cars means more room for sidewalks mean they are defacto cleared of this stuff. The reason it's a problem right now is they are packed into the same 5 feet as the pedestrians.

> As far as climate change; if NYC went to zero CO2...

I suspect you are right. I put what I consider the least compelling reasons at the bottom.

> cars already pay huge costs in NYC. It costs over $10

$10 really isn't that much money... as demonstrated by the number of people who pay it. Understand that when I say the right number might be "ridiculous" I do mean "ridiculous". I'm avoiding saying specific numbers because then I have to justify them, but think thousands, possibly large numbers of thousands.


try transporting kids or groceries using the subway.

When I lived in an area where I could commute by subway, I had a full service grocery store and several smaller specialty markets (a produce market, a butcher and a bakery) on my way home (well I had to get out one stop early to pass the butcher). I see plenty of parents with kids on the subway -- though none of them have the full-size strollers you see coming out of the backs of SUVs.

So instead of making one large shopping trip every week or two, I'd stop several times a week on my way home.

Though now I just buy groceries online and have them delivered, in the rare cases where I do want to go to the supermarket, I take my bike.


  Though now I just buy groceries online and have them delivered
... which requires more road use than people stopping by the store on the way home. (Round trip vs. one way)


Does it? A truck uses around the same road space as a car, so if it removes one person in the neighborhood's round trip to the store (not everyone has a grocery store on their way home from work), then it's a net win. Even if everyone makes a small side trip to go to the store on the way home from work, that one truck can replace ~50 side-trips to the store.

Though in my case, I usually alternate between bus and bike to work, so if I did drive to the store, it'd be a round trip. If I bike to the store, it means a round-trip from home since I usually have one or 2 commuter panniers on the bike when I go to work, and don't want to haul the empty trailer all the way to work and back.


  Does it? A truck uses around the same road space as a car
Well, if you ignore fuel consumption, pollution, and parking impact. Anyway...

  so if it removes one person in the neighborhood's round trip to the store
No, I was referring to the specific "on my way home" use case you referred to... which is the typical case. If you stop by the store on the way home, you aren't adding a trip in either direction. Having delivery adds two trips, from and to. Two trips vs. zero.


"No, I was referring to the specific "on my way home" use case you referred to"

I don't think you read my entire comment: "When I lived in an area where I could commute by subway, I had a full service grocery store and several smaller specialty markets (a produce market, a butcher and a bakery) on my way home"

I was referring to the comment asking how to shop by subway -- the answer is to shop in smaller increments, but now that I bus/bike to work and no longer walk past a grocery store on my way home, I just have groceries delivered.

Your answer seems to be saying that the answer to shopping on the subway is to not take the subway and drive to work and stop at the store on the way home.


Depends on zoning. If each customer has to go a mile out of their way, but each customer's home is within a mile of the next, the traveling salesman route (start at the store, visit each home, finally return to the store) is shorter and doesn't need to happen during rush hour.


You could ship the stuff home... Yes I know that's probably not realistic but here in Japan for example it's extremely common to ship your luggage to the airport the day before and/or ship it home from the airport on the way back. I've done it a few times.

It's also common to buy things at a store like a PC or printer or microwave and have them delivered instead of carrying them home.

Japan's shipping services are relatively cheap and generally pretty good at delivering in 2hr windows


I also live in Japan about half time. The near-complete lack of on-street parking and high tolls (which are effectively congestion taxes) plus amazing public transportation are all good objectives for NYC. Also, things like luggage delivery, which I’ve used to ship bags from Tokyo to Kyoto and back.


that's not a very compelling reason. Making it slightly easier for you personally to carry your groceries isn't going to convince anybody that personal vehicles are a necessity.

>Why does the car debate need to be made into some kind of class conflict?

because it's simply not sustainable for everybody who wants to drive a car to do so. there isn't physically enough space. The only way to let some people drive a car is to make it expensive enough to discourage most people from driving a car.


> I'm sorry it inconveniences you, but our society exists because we're willing to be slightly inconvenienced by our neighbors (especially those with different preferences than us) in exchange for certain benefits.

There's a certain amount of trading inconveniences that goes on in life. Think about an apartment building--maybe the guy in 4B has a dog that barks occasionally, the couple in 7D throws a big party twice a year, the woman in 2F hasn't bothered anyone in two years but back then she threw up all over the elevator and didn't clean it up, and so on. There's no explicit accounting but there's a rough justice. When that gets too far out of balance people get justifiably angry.

If you routinely drive in Manhattan and each time inconvenience thousands of people, how can you ever hope to balance those books?


I’ve owned a car in the city before. It’s also an insane hassle and an extravagant expense. I live just fine without a car now. If I need to drive out of the city, I rent.


You make it sound like owning a car in Manhattan is just a matter of choice when it is an extreme luxury and an inconvenient one at that. That's at least $1000 (probably more) on something you definitely won't use every day and definitely don't need.

My SO and I each make 6 figures each and will only own a car once we move out of Manhattan because no matter how inconvenient it is it's not fiscally responsible.


>I live in lower Manhattan. My feeling is that every vehicle other than delivery trucks should be banned from the city.

How do you expect to get your plumbing fixed?


Expand my original post from “delivery trucks” to “small trucks/vans on demonstrable business”. Also, other than for major construction, no more semi-trucks in the city.

And electric buses ASAP. They’re the loudest and dirtiest vehicles out here. And definitely no more tour buses.

That would make this city soar in terms of places people want to live and visit.


> And definitely no more tour buses.

You do realize tourism accounts for a great deal of income for NYC, yes?


You don’t need poorly-maintained double-decker ICE buses to have tourism. You also don’t need to accommodate fleets of tour buses on the narrow streets of Manhattan. Drop them off in Dumbo and let them walk or ferry over. They probably need the exercise anyway. Seriuosly though, I really doubt banning tour buses will have an appreciable effect on tourism here.


No ambulances, either. Or law enforcement. Or fire trucks.


People would just get their cars registered as delivery vehicles.

NYC already has rampant abuse of placards and literal "get out of jail" cards. A ban on personal vehicles wouldn't go any differently than those.


Because everyone in Manhattan is like you; a young, perhaps single, with no kids; especially not many, and none with special needs, who doesn't need to routinely carry or cart anything around.


Where are you parking and how are you getting from wherever you park to where you live or a shopping or whatever?

It seems to me some of these arguments prove too much. If you are rich enough to pay for convenient parking garages everywhere you want to go, you are rich enough to pay a congestion charge. And if you aren’t then how does a private car solve the problems you are pointing out?


People were living in cities for many years before cars were invented, presumably at least some of them had children and were not young. Hell, people still live in modern cities around the world outside of the United States where car ownership rates are extremely low.


And people used to die from infection before antibiotics. What's your point?


I think you get the point. We have an existence proof that people don't need cars to live in cities. We don't need everything in the past to have been better than everything in the present for the logic to work. (People aren't driving cars to avoid infection.)


>There is no compelling reason for anyone to drive in Manhattan.

It's remarkably difficult for disabled people and many elderly people to get around by public transportation.


Seems like it might be easier to eliminate parking, rather than ban vehicles. If there was no street parking, a lot of people would have no choice but to park outside of Manhattan. That would also still allow taxis and ride sharing to drive people from the subway to wherever they needed to go.


I’m good with that plan too. I wake up every morning to giant trucks beeping in reverse because the street parking blocks them turning a corner. And thirty jerks who drove in from Long Island are honking their horns behind that truck. Every day!


This literally every day... and I live on the 30th floor


can't shit in your car.


How do you propose the CEO of a Fortune 500 company should get to his meetings with his team? On a bus?

Ban cars and you make NY terrible for business. And if you haven't noticed, Manhattan exists for business. Everything else is either necessary for that goal or an unintended consequence.


Imagine no parking on streets. That would triple the bandwidth of many streets. You could remove parking on every four streets today and greatly improve congestion. Some parking would be needed for ride sharing cars, naturally, but much less than is needed for private cars not used for ride sharing.


How about going from queens to NJ? Some people need to pass through Manhattan in order go somewhere else. Because it was designed this way unfortunately


I wouldn't count the highways. If you take the BQE to the Harlem River Drive to the George Washington, I'd call that fine. It's the people that want to drive a single passenger vehicle from Midtown tunnel or 59th street bridge to the Lincoln or Holland tunnels smack dab across some of the densest concentration of people in the entire country that ought to be highly discouraged.


For those outside NYC, it can be difficult to understand the sheer scale of this phenomenon ("placard abuse").

https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/12/28/streetsies-2018-placa...

https://twitter.com/placardabuse


That top tweet of the police just casually harassing the placard guy for filming an officer’s car is very interesting. Particularly how the officer is using carefully chosen words “I’m giving you an order to show me your ID” to skirt the fact he had no legal right to demand his ID.

So much of law enforcement abuse of power depends on intimidation and (most) people’s default reaction to trust their authority in all situations (which is also essential to their abuse of placards).

I had a similar experience where police straight up lied about tenant laws during an eviction process of the, protecting the most awful and abusive tenant (who was a cocaine dealer) a family friend had to deal with. The family member was immediately willing to believe the police, and had another family friend not been a lawyer who was familiar with tenant law and knows very well from professional experience never to trust police outright. The result was saving the family over a thousand dollars (out of multiple thousand owed), as the timing of them leaving the property, which the police was attempting to mess with, was very important in the legal process of a later claim.

The officer essentially conceded on the spot he had no legal grounds for what he had previously claimed with such confident authority, with plenty of weasel words, and just left.


“I’m giving you an order to show me your ID” isn't skirting the law, it's invoking it. It's illegal to disobey police, even illegal orders.


At least in the US, you are definitely not required to obey unlawful orders. Otherwise the police could tell you to commit a crime and you’d be in a Catch-22.

Now, the police will never tell you whether an order is lawful, they’ll try whatever they think they can get away with. So whatever the citizen/police equivalent of “Caveat Emptor” is, it definitely applies in these situations; asymmetric information is not your friend.


> Now, the police will never tell you whether an order is lawful

Not to mention that police have very little education on the law in the first place; “criminal justice” or “administration of justice"—what amounts to the practice of law enforcement—maybe, but that has a more distant and tenuous connection to law than one might think.


That isn't true at all in this circumstance. He isn't disrupting traffic, on private property, or breaking any law. It's not illegal to disobey police except under special circumstances.


Outside NYC, they probably never even heard of "placard abuse".


Until I moved here, I hadn't heard of it. The lawlessness of law enforcement is striking.

It's doubly galling when it's "courtesy" extended to non-police. A lot of officers can argue that they need to get to work and they need to park somewhere. Police cars also have to be parked somewhere. The City will need a carrot as well as a stick.

But when it's stuff like "NYPD Family Member", I think only of collecting and sharing new four-letter expletives. That's just flat-out corruption.


You should read about the "walk out of jail" cards that are made for each member, to be distributed to family members.

There's a thriving secondary market for that.


Muscovites would probably be sympathetic:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_Blue_Buckets


And the other people who drive into Manhattan are those who live outside the 5 boroughs. And since the MTA is controlled by the state rather than the city, their votes on the issue (and those of people who live nowhere near the city and never visit but can't conceive of using anything but a personal car for transportation) outnumber those of the city dwellers who are most impacted by the noise, pollution, and transit slowdowns caused by congestion.


"Nobody drives a car in Manhattan cause traffic is just terrible!"


All kinds of excuses will be made to increase the taxes in this system where NO amount of money will add up to enough for this government.

New York City in particular has a MEDICAL ONLY section of its pension benefits for city employees that adds up to $100 Billion. Medical, only. Not including pension payouts.

Puerto Rico defaulted on $71 Billion worth of debt, which was all of it, just recently.

This reckoning that is on its way is going to be epic. Nothing in NYC government makes a profit or operates properly without gigantic losses and pathetic performance in every metric when compared to the past city performance.

This will be the Olympics of Mental Gymnastics.


You might be entirely right for all I know, but your points don't actually support your claims...

Why _would_ a city government make a profit? It's a government after all, not a business.

Comparing Puerto Rico with a city with multiple times its inhabitants and many many times its economic power isn't exactly saying much either


NYC population: 8.6 million

Puerto Rico population: 3.3 million

NYC per capita GDP: 64000

Puero rico per capita GDP: 31000

Not to mention the brain drain from Puerto Rico, or there special status as an unicorporated territory (and resulting lack of political power)


There are also people who want to visit or do business in a particular part of Manhattan where the cost or other constraints of the train are a deterrent.

NYC traffic really isn’t that bad anyway. Congestion pricing is all about revenue.


> traffic control refusal to enforce the law with respect to certain favored populations

Elaborate?


The commenter didn’t spell it out for some reason, but he or she means family members and friends of city employees. They use various tricks to get free parking even though they shouldn’t, and as they aren’t official city employees they won’t get reimbursed for congestion fees and their scam will become more expensive.


Other police, mostly, but also NYFD, teachers, pretty much anyone who puts an official-ish looking placard on their car.

Or sometimes just some stickers from the various police quasi-unions in the tristate area.


If everyone who drives is opposed to congestion control, why is it even on the table?


Eh? When has that been how we make laws? “If everyone who uses drugs is opposed to drug laws why are they on the table?” “If everyone who steals is against theft laws why do we have them?”


In Northern Virginia outside DC, I-66 had been subject to directional rush hour restrictions on single occupancy vehicles. It was illegal to drive a car with just yourself for a few hours every weekday and you risked a ticket if you were caught. People put blow up dolls in their passenger seats.

Last year they rolled out automatic congestion pricing for SOVs. All the news stories were about how the toll could hit a ridiculous-seeming price of $40+, but that was usually only for a few minutes in the morning rush. Buried in the articles several paragraphs in would be a note that, oh yeah, it had been illegal to drive alone. Now a year later, peoples’ habits have changed and the toll has done its job. Commuters have effectively time-shifted, alleviating and smoothing congestion. It has been so effective that the length of I-66 subject to this treatment will be extended.

I’m a smalltime neighborhood elected official in DC and I really hope I can convince DDOT to roll out bus lanes faster.


> Commuters have effectively time-shifted, alleviating and smoothing congestion. It has been so effective that the length of I-66 subject to this treatment will be extended.

Also, has anyone computed the cost of the economic externalities here? Time shifting ones commute either has severe financial repercussions for the employer (lost productivity) or the employees (a decrease in effective wages).

I suspect those numbers will dwarf the cost of investing in a light rail system or widening the road after a few years.

Similarly, if traffic is below about 45mph, then further slowing traffic increases CO2 emissions by lowering fuel efficiency, and the congestion on the road distorts property values, lowering prices in more places than it helps them, which hurts school funding (especially in minority areas), etc, etc.

As I said in the other comment, consider raising peak commute throughput instead of devising ways to suppress peak demand.


You should read something about it before you speculate idly:

"In August 2018, speeds on I-66 averaged 56.2 miles per hour, compared to 52.7 miles per hour for the same time period in 2017."

https://blog.arlingtontransportationpartners.com/one-year-of...

Also, bear in mind the Metrorail orange line runs along I-66, so mass transit is available. The DC region's workforce is highly educated and many workers have a decent degree of freedom about their schedule. It sounds like people have also been carpooling more, too. That goes to your point about raising peak throughput -- the easy way to avoid paying the toll is to have someone along for the ride, too, which doubles throughput (at a minimum; have a full car and whoa, Nellie). How many billions would it cost to double throughput for SOVs?


> consider raising peak commute throughput instead of devising ways to suppress peak demand

Getting rid of most of the cars and putting people on trains does wonders for peak throughput.


> Getting rid of most of the cars and putting people on trains does wonders for peak throughput.

Getting people on trains by forcing them out of cars can't actually do that. If you make it more expensive/inconvenient/impossible to drive, at most the same number of people will take the train. In practice fewer will, because some of them will find jobs somewhere else or do their shopping somewhere else etc. So the combined throughput inherently goes down.

The only way to get it to go up is to make something better instead of making something worse.


Riding the train, subway, trolley, or bus and walking a couple blocks at each end is a heck of a lot “better” than sitting in traffic or driving 20 times around the block hunting for a parking space.

Even moderately dense urban areas are inherently poor places for personal automobiles, whose infrastructure wastes tremendous amounts of space. The more neighborhoods are optimized for human-scale activity and pedestrians/bikes/transit (at the expense of personal cars), the nicer they become to spend time in as a human.

Life in a place where all or nearly all trips can be made without needing to drive a car is very pleasant, especially for anyone who isn’t an able-bodied high-income adult. If neighborhoods have been designed so that that is impossible, then what needs fixing is the neighborhood design.


> Life in a place where all or nearly all trips can be made without needing to drive a car is very pleasant, especially for anyone who isn’t an able-bodied high-income adult.

I've found the exact opposite to be true. Cars are great because they mean you'll never come in contact with crazy vagrants.

For a few years I tried taking public transportation in the bay area, but I gave up because I had too many encounters with insane homeless people. I've had crazy people scream at me and call me things like "faggot" or "peckerwood". I've had people threaten to rob me after I asked them to turn their music down on the bus. They're never caught by the police. The last time I was on BART, a guy smoked meth and threatened to kick the shit out of me if I called the cops. He got off at the next station and the cops never caught him.

Now I avoid public transportation and either drive or take Uber or Lyft.


In practice, cars are dramatically more dangerous (both for their occupants and for bystanders) than transit.

But the widespread use of transit by the poor which you note here is great evidence for my claim that cars are not an effective means of transportation for low-income people.

If people are screaming at you or smoking meth on the bus, that’s indicative of broader social problems which aren’t really solved by changing the transportation system. American society does a really terrible job at providing housing, drug treatment, and other social support for people with mental health problems.

For what it’s worth, I ride buses, trams, the subway, etc. all around San Francisco on a daily basis with my 2-year-old, and haven’t ever felt threatened. My general impression is that many yuppies feel unreasonable amounts of fear / disgust when they come into brief social contact with the homeless or mentally ill. YMMV.


> If people are screaming at you or smoking meth on the bus, that’s indicative of broader social problems which aren’t really solved by changing the transportation system.

Knowing the proximate cause doesn't help me avoid crazy people on public transportation. The problem of crazy people in the bay area won't be fixed any time soon, so it's still in my best interests to avoid public transportation. Also, it's not clear to me that many of these people can be fixed. The bay area spends enormous amounts of money on mental health and homelessness, but the problem is far worse here than it is in Boston.

> For what it’s worth, I ride buses, trams, the subway, etc. all around San Francisco on a daily basis with my 2-year-old, and haven’t ever felt threatened.

There's no nice way to say this but... I don't believe you. Every single one of my coworkers has a horror story about public transportation in the bay area. Robbery, theft, stalking, threats, harassment, catcalling, etcetera. There is only one woman at my work who commutes via BART, and she's only been doing it for 3 weeks. The rest drive or take Uber/Lyft because they've been robbed or threatened in the past. I think it's much more likely that my friends & coworkers are telling the truth than that you are. Either that or your threshold for feeling unsafe is incredibly high.

If you regularly take public transportation in the bay area, you will encounter mentally ill people, and some of them will engage in violent behavior without provocation.


> I don't believe you

You don’t believe that I travel by bus/subway/etc. and don’t feel unsafe?

There are people of all ages, ethnic groups, social classes, occupations, etc. riding transit throughout the Bay Area every day: foreign tourists; nannies with strollers; pensioners buying groceries; businesspeople commuting; high school students; sports fans; families taking luggage to the airport; .....

There are certainly occasional violent incidents on transit. Out of the 400k BART trips every day, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a dozen pick-pocketed wallets/phones every day, and the occasional mugging. If I were a small 12 year old girl, there are some BART stations I probably wouldn’t want to be alone in at midnight.

But crime on transit is not common (in general mugging and other violent crime in cities are down dramatically from the peak a few decades ago), and I have never personally felt threatened.

My wife commutes to work in SF by bike, and that is unfortunately far more dangerous (especially with all of the crazy Uber/Lyft drivers these days) than riding the bus.

> Every single one of my coworkers has a horror story

How many of your co-workers grew up in a not-rich family in a city?


  and the occasional mugging
There were three BART homicides in five days last July.


Yes there are very rare rapes and even stabbings in transit stations, and that is terrible. Just like the same crimes are terrible on the street, at stores, in public parks, at offices, or at homes.

There are also 400 traffic deaths and 2000 traffic injuries per year in the Bay Area.

Statistically, the BART is a very safe way to travel.


Part of the reason there are "crazy vagrants" is the government has systematically shifted access and policy in society towards the already wealthy, while the poor and disadvantaged have no alternatives and end up in bad circumstances.

I sympathize with your experience, but if I had to count the number of times I've had bad encounters with bad drivers vs. the times with bad commuters on public transit, it doesn't come close. I submit it's very possible that you're underestimating the negativity with cars because you've normalized it. For example, the statistics bare out that cars are amongst the most deadly thing in America but people ignore it as a problem compared to say gun violence which is a political hot topic.


40,000 people a year die in the US, because you are scared of a vagrant? Wow.


> Riding the train, subway, trolley, or bus and walking a couple blocks at each end is a heck of a lot “better” than sitting in traffic or driving 20 times around the block hunting for a parking space.

Then what do you need congestion pricing for? You don't need to suppress something that's worse than the alternative because if that were true nobody should have any desire to do it to begin with.

> Even moderately dense urban areas are inherently poor places for personal automobiles, whose infrastructure wastes tremendous amounts of space.

Congestion pricing doesn't change the amount of space allocated to those things. That's completely independent. You can build over roads or eliminate minimum parking requirements without congestion pricing. That also suppresses driving, but in that case it's a trade off which people are actually getting something out of, instead of just a regressive money grab that helps nobody but the corrupt politicians who will waste the money on pork. And then keep all the wide roads and parking spaces in the city because it's the only way to continue generating the congestion pricing revenue.


I said “Getting rid of most of the cars and putting people on trains does wonders for peak throughput.” That is clearly an entirely different proposal than “congestion pricing”.

The context was another comment criticizing congestion pricing as more or less a band-aid and advocating for increasing transportation throughput instead of trying to shift demand. I was agreeing with that comment and proposing radical changes to the transportation system as a way to increase throughput.

Your nonsensical response was that replacing roads by trains wouldn’t actually increase throughput because people like car trips better. While it went without saying that this claim is wrong on its face (throughput of the transportation system is a property largely unrelated to passenger preferences), I furthermore disputed your claim that car trips are inherently better.

Your follow-up here is a non sequitur. It is obvious that congestion pricing doesn’t get rid of most of the cars and switch them to trains, and that cities could remove cars from roads without anything to do with congestion pricing.


> I said “Getting rid of most of the cars and putting people on trains does wonders for peak throughput.” That is clearly an entirely different proposal than “congestion pricing”.

That is not clearly an entirely different proposal than "congestion pricing". "Getting rid of most of the cars and putting people on trains" is exactly what congestion pricing proponents argue that it does. But doing it that way can't increase throughput because there is at most at one to one relationship between people deterred from driving and people who take the train.

And in the context of a response to a comment criticizing congestion pricing, yours sounds like a comment defending it.

> Your nonsensical response was that replacing roads by trains wouldn’t actually increase throughput because people like car trips better.

My actual response was this:

Getting people on trains by forcing them out of cars can't actually do that. If you make it more expensive/inconvenient/impossible to drive, at most the same number of people will take the train. In practice fewer will, because some of them will find jobs somewhere else or do their shopping somewhere else etc. So the combined throughput inherently goes down.

The only way to get it to go up is to make something better instead of making something worse.

All of which is still entirely true. If you want to increase throughput, don't make driving worse, make alternatives to driving better.


  > Life in a place where all or nearly all trips can be made without needing to drive a car
  > is very pleasant, especially for anyone who isn’t an able-bodied high-income adult.
But also if you are an able-bodied adult. I live in Amsterdam and try to get work at bicycle-distance. (I currently travel by train because winter and I've fallen out of the habit due to the longer commute for a previous project, but I intend to pick up cycling again when weather gets better.)


> Getting people on trains by forcing them out of cars can't actually do that. If you make it more expensive/inconvenient/impossible to drive, at most the same number of people will take the train.

Why? You seem to have an implicit hierarchy of transportation, and public transit is at the bottom of it.


> Why? You seem to have an implicit hierarchy of transportation, and public transit is at the bottom of it.

No, many people prefer it -- everyone who uses it does. And everyone who drives prefers to drive. Because they both have the option to do the other thing.

But getting one person to stop driving can't get two people to use mass transit. Where is the other person supposed to come from? Why would someone who hadn't been driving to begin with change their behavior based on the option they were already not choosing becoming even worse?

If all you're doing is diverting people away from driving, you can't increase overall throughput because there is nowhere you're adding by more than you're subtracting somewhere else.


> No, many people prefer it -- everyone who uses it does. And everyone who drives prefers to drive. Because they both have the option to do the other thing.

There are many parts of the US where this isn't the case, because cars are the only transportation available.

That said, I think you're wrong about these strongly held preferences. There a decent amount of people who just want to get to where they're going and don't necessarily care how.


> There are many parts of the US where this isn't the case, because cars are the only transportation available.

There are few places that have no level of at least bus service. And bicycling and walking are generally considered mass transit, which you can do in every part of the US I'm aware of. The number of places accessible only by car is negligible.

But the mass transit in many places is terrible, to the point that a fifteen minute drive becomes a thirty minute walk followed by a twenty minute bus ride followed by a two hour walk. And the preference for cars comes in comparison to the alternative for the person making the choice, so people in those places obviously have a strong preference for cars.

You could get them to prefer the bus there by making the car trip take three hours or cost $100, but what good is that? Whose life does it improve?

> There a decent amount of people who just want to get to where they're going and don't necessarily care how.

That's the point. If you want more people to take the bus, don't make it worse to drive, make it better to take the bus. You get the result you want, but you do it by improving someone's life instead of making it worse.


> You could get them to prefer the bus there by making the car trip take three hours or cost $100, but what good is that? Whose life does it improve?

It improves the lives of all those who are agnostic to their mode of transportation but want to get to their destination faster. The carrying capacity of a bus or a train is much higher than individual cars. It also saves cost on road maintenance because the amount of road strain / person decreases.

> That's the point. If you want more people to take the bus, don't make it worse to drive, make it better to take the bus.

In a perfect world, of course. We'd make separate bus roads, bicycle roads, and car roads, and then the road user would select their mode and their road and be done with it. In reality, budgets are limited. Prioritizing a car solution makes it worse for busses and bicyclists to use the same road. While a train can be a good non-disruptive alternative, it is extremely expensive to initially invest in.

I'm also not exactly sympathetic to allowing car drivers free access to the space they take up on the road when space is a limited quantity.


> It improves the lives of all those who are agnostic to their mode of transportation but want to get to their destination faster.

But they're not getting to their destination faster. They were getting there in fifteen minutes, now it takes three hours because they can no longer afford to drive but the bus doesn't actually go to their destination.

> We'd make separate bus roads, bicycle roads, and car roads, and then the road user would select their mode and their road and be done with it.

You don't need separate roads, you need mass transit that actually goes where people need to go.

Or better yet, to put more people where mass transit already is.

> Prioritizing a car solution makes it worse for busses and bicyclists to use the same road.

A bus can use the same uncongested road as a car with no problems, and traffic congestion is the same problem for both. There are a hundred different ways to address congestion other than "punish drivers" -- add new mass transit routes, build more housing on existing routes, lower or eliminate mass transit fares, switch from property tax to land value tax to encourage density, etc.


As we've seen repeatedly in the past decades, increasing potential throughput only leads to increased car use to fill the unused throughput, and you'll rapidly reach the exact same situation as before. Add to that, whatever throughput you add, it will be bottlenecked by the time you reach the next city. Urban areas don't have room for more streets.


  > Time shifting ones commute either has severe financial repercussions for the
  > employer (lost productivity) or the employees (a decrease in effective wages).
What do you mean repercussions? Less traffic jams means spending less time stuck in traffic. Traffic jams cost the economy a lot of money. Time-shifting just means people start and end their work day earlier or later than the average.

As for widening roads, that's what's been the Dutch solution to traffic congestion for over 30 years now (congestion pricing is a major taboo with the largest government party), and traffic jams are worse than ever. Traffic seems to always grow to fill the available space and then some, unless you give it a reason not to.

That congestion pricing will reduce CO2 emissions is an added bonus, but not really the reason why it's considered necessary.


> Also, has anyone computed the cost of the economic externalities here? Time shifting ones commute either has severe financial repercussions for the employer (lost productivity) or the employees (a decrease in effective wages).

That, or companies implement flexible working hours, which allow time shifting without penalty.


> That, or companies implement flexible working hours, which allow time shifting without penalty.

The issue there is the two aren't that related. Congestion pricing doesn't get employers to implement flexible working hours, because most of the cost or the inconvenience of using alternatives is on the employee.

By contrast, if you passed a law requiring large employers in the city to implement flexible working hours, then you wouldn't need congestion pricing, because given the option people already prefer to commute when there is less traffic.


No, many people who have flexible hours still somehow choose to spend time in traffic jams. Considering congestion pricing has been proven to work, I really think that's the right way to encourage people either to drive at different times, or out of their cars and into public transit or bikes.


> No, many people who have flexible hours still somehow choose to spend time in traffic jams.

That is not evidence of a preference for sitting in traffic, it is evidence of a need to drive at that time for a reason other than work schedule. Which is only relevant for the subset of people with that constraint.

You don't actually need everyone to stop driving during rush hour -- that wouldn't even be efficient. You only need enough people to relieve the congestion.

> Considering congestion pricing has been proven to work, I really think that's the right way to encourage people either to drive at different times, or out of their cars and into public transit or bikes.

Congestion pricing works in the same way that hiring someone to throw bricks off an overpass into car windshields during rush hour would work. Effectiveness on a single metric is not the only criteria.

There are at least two major problems with congestion pricing. The first is that it can only really improve one thing -- traffic during peak times -- which only really matters to the people who are still driving at those times, who then have the benefit offset by the cost of the congestion charge. For lower income people the cost will generally outweigh the benefit. So the primary beneficiaries are people who continue to drive regardless and are so rich that the congestion charge isn't real money to them, at the cost of increased inconvenience for everyone who is deterred and increased cost for everyone who isn't (because their other alternatives are even worse) but still values that amount of money more highly than the reduced congestion.

The second problem is that it doesn't account for different levels of flexibility. Some people simply have no viable alternative. An independent steamfitter or HVAC tech can't carry all their equipment on the subway. Can't work at 4AM instead of 9AM because the customer isn't open then. The only choice is to eat the congestion charge -- thousands of dollars a year. There is no discount just because that person had no other option.

On top of that, the whole thing is a false dichotomy. The choices aren't "have congestion" or "have congestion pricing" -- there are many other, better ways to relieve congestion. Build more and higher density housing so that people can afford to live closer to where they work and more people live within walking distance of mass transit. Improve mass transit in general so that more people will actually choose it over driving without being forced to. Eliminate minimum parking requirements so that housing without it will exist (and cost less) and we reward the people who don't drive rather than punishing the people who have to. In general, use the carrot instead of the stick.


  > Congestion pricing works in the same way that hiring someone to throw bricks off
  > an overpass into car windshields during rush hour would work.
That is a horrible comparison. Horrible in two different ways.

  > The first is that it can only really improve one thing -- traffic during peak
  > times -- which only really matters to the people who are still driving at those
  > times, who then have the benefit offset by the cost of the congestion charge.
It improves general mobility. Less traffic jams, and money to invest in alternatives. People can still drive during peak times but reduce the cost and congestion by carpooling. People can take other forms of transport, and people can drive at a different time. The end result is that everybody still gets to where they need to be, but without getting stuck in traffic for an hour.

I don't disagree with your alternatives, but they have already been tried and haven't solved the problem. Maybe more money is needed to do it better? Congestion pricing can provide that. But it also helps to encourage people a bit more. A lot of people take the car because it's what they're used to, and they simply hope traffic won't be too bad. But with a little push, they'll be a bit more likely to try public transport. And with more people using it, there will also be more demand to improve it.

Living closer to work/working closer to home would of course be best, but again, it's not something that has worked so far. Some people don't have that luxury, and some people simply don't want to for other reasons.


> Less traffic jams, and money to invest in alternatives.

Assuming the money goes to alternatives, which it typically doesn't, and moreover that there isn't a less regressive way to generate the same money, such as sales or income tax.

> People can still drive during peak times but reduce the cost and congestion by carpooling. People can take other forms of transport, and people can drive at a different time. The end result is that everybody still gets to where they need to be, but without getting stuck in traffic for an hour.

They can already do any of those things, if they were viable for them. You can save hundreds of dollars a year in fuel and vehicle maintenance by carpooling, and then everyone but the driver can read or text or work from the passenger's seat.

The people who are driving alone during rush hour are the people for which that isn't an efficient option -- they already had significant incentives to do it regardless, and it wasn't enough.

> I don't disagree with your alternatives, but they have already been tried and haven't solved the problem.

They haven't solved the problem because they haven't actually been tried. Most of them aren't even a matter of money, they're a matter of eliminating restrictive zoning rules and minimum parking requirements.

> A lot of people take the car because it's what they're used to, and they simply hope traffic won't be too bad. But with a little push, they'll be a bit more likely to try public transport.

Traffic during rush hour is commuters. Commuters know exactly how the traffic is because they're in it every day, and none of them want to be.

And if it was a matter of a little push then the congestion charges wouldn't have to be as high to change behavior. They have to be because sitting in traffic is already terrible and the people doing it are doing it for lack of better options. Provide the options and enough of them will stop doing it.


  > Assuming the money goes to alternatives, which it typically doesn't,
That's a different issue. But the money is there and it could and should be used in a productive manner.

  > and moreover that there isn't a less regressive way to generate the same money,
  > such as sales or income tax.
Sales and income tax don't discourage traffic jams. But if you want, sure you could send the income from congestion pricing to something else and use other taxes to fund alternatives.

  > They can already do any of those things, if they were viable for them. You can
  > save hundreds of dollars a year in fuel and vehicle maintenance by carpooling,
  > and then everyone but the driver can read or text or work from the passenger's
  > seat.
They can, but they don't. Everybody hopes someone else will be the first to do that so they don't have to. With a bit of push, you can encourage more people to do this and make life a lot easier for everybody.

  > They haven't solved the problem because they haven't actually been tried.
Yes, they have been tried. There's a good reason why experts say that congestion pricing seems to be the only thing that works. With every other approach, traffic grows to fill the available space until you get massive traffic jams.

The US isn't the only country with this problem; many countries have it. Netherland has tried for years to solve it without congestion pricing by building more and wider roads, mass transit, zoning and whatever, and it's not working. Meanwhile, countries that have tried congestion pricing see it working. Congestion pricing is probably not a silver bullet that magically solves everything, but it might well be a vital ingredient to get people to actually use the alternatives.

The options are there, but too many people just aren't using them. Why they don't is a good question, but from the available evidence, it appears that congestion pricing provides the necessary push.


> That's a different issue. But the money is there and it could and should be used in a productive manner.

The point is that it's not free money. You don't get to spend resources without paying for them. The money comes from someone and that has a cost.

And where they come from is worse than where most other types of taxes come from, because it's an incredibly regressive form of taxation.

> Sales and income tax don't discourage traffic jams.

They also don't come disproportionately from working class people. And there are better ways to discourage traffic jams.

> But if you want, sure you could send the income from congestion pricing to something else and use other taxes to fund alternatives.

There is no such thing as directing specific tax money to a specific purpose. That's just an accounting dodge politicians use to lie to people. Money is fungible. The people paying don't pay a different amount and the people getting paid don't get paid a different amount.

What you can do is fund mass transit improvements from sales or income tax and not have congestion charges at all, which a significantly less regressive way to fund mass transit improvements.

> They can, but they don't.

Many of them do. More of them would if we had higher density housing and it was easier to find close neighbors who work in the same area, or just take the train to work.

> Yes, they have been tried. There's a good reason why experts say that congestion pricing seems to be the only thing that works. With every other approach, traffic grows to fill the available space until you get massive traffic jams.

China built a huge number of highways as a jobs program. They didn't suddenly fill up with traffic.

Los Angeles has worse traffic than New York City, even though there are more people in New York (both the cities themselves and the surrounding metro areas). Because New York has double the population density, and better mass transit. If population and density always caused traffic then how is New York better than Los Angeles?

And that's with New York shooting itself in the foot like this:

http://furmancenter.org/research/publication/are

You're not allowed to build housing with no parking even when it's next to a subway station. So housing in the city costs more because of the expense, causing more people to live outside the city and have to commute in. Meanwhile the people who do live there have mandatory parking spaces, encouraging them to own cars even when they live next to the subway.

New York also has density limits that would prohibit many of the existing buildings from being constructed today. Meanwhile they still charge money for mass transit -- not a lot, but enough to deter people for no good reason, and then a huge chunk of the money collected gets wasted on the infrastructure needed to collect and enforce the fees.

This isn't what having tried looks like.

> The US isn't the only country with this problem; many countries have it. Netherland has tried for years to solve it without congestion pricing by building more and wider roads, mass transit, zoning and whatever, and it's not working.

There are a hundred ways to do it wrong. That doesn't mean it's impossible to do it right.

> Meanwhile, countries that have tried congestion pricing see it working.

It's only working if reducing congestion is the only criteria and it doesn't matter if you're heavily taxing the working class or forcing them into even longer commutes or artificially scarce overpriced housing when they can't afford the congestion charges.

Politicians like congestion charges because they generate money instead of costing it. But it comes from the wrong people, and all you're really doing is changing the relative cost between driving and alternatives. If you want to do that, why can't you tax the rich and then make mass transit free? Or do something to lower market rate housing costs in the city so more people can live there instead of having to commute in?


That doesn’t work if you have kids. You miss seeing them in either the morning or evening, and the schools don’t time shift to match your schedule.


If you have kids and work either the kids can get to school without you needing to drive them and pick them up, or you need to have some sort of childcare.


I bring my kids to school, my wife picks them up from child care. She barely sees them in the morning (they get out of bed shortly before she leaves the house), I still see them in the evening. It's a nice balance.


You don’t have kids, I’m willing to bet.


I don't know about where you live, but in UK many school have breakfast clubs to deal with this sort of issue.


> widening the road after a few years.

Widening roads usually does not alleviate congestion. For one of many links, see https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/2/21/the-futility-o...


An acquaintance of mine was unfamiliar with that area and accidentally drove through there - it's pretty easy to do. Got a $55 toll fee for the single use.

Lesson learned - avoid doing any business down there if at all possible.

Have to wonder what the cost here is. Acquaintance does lots of business, and now directs it elsewhere to areas that are less hassle.


> avoid doing any business down there if at all possible

Nobody goes there anymore, the congestion pricing is too high.

(With apologies to Yogi Berra)


In the Bay Area, when they added the ability to pay a toll to use the HOV lane, and also extended the HOV lane hours to end at 10AM instead of 9AM, it immediately added 30-45 minutes to the 880 -> 237 commute from East Bay.

Extending congestion hours by lowering road throughput is counterproductive, so saying “it smoothed congestion” is applying the wrong metric.

At this point in time, we can measure door-to-door time of commuters, and also the number of trips per hour. Instead traffic engineers use metrics that seem to be designed by NIMBY’s that want to increase the cost of commuting into high property value areas.

The bus lanes you propose are likely to have the same problem.

Since you have the ability to improve the success criteria for transit projects, please consider using better metrics.


I don't think that is a very good example because that particular "HOV" lane is 100% Teslas with a single occupant, and because the HOV lane ends abruptly in the middle of 237 before anyone exits. The real lesson of these projects is that the EV sticker program was a failure and the cost to drive down 237 at rush hour should have been $50 instead of whatever it is.


It’s not 100% Tesla’s. There are also parents with children and fleet vehicles.

Those latter two categories are already as low occupancy as they can be. I suspect they’re representative of HOV users in other states.

Simply eliminating that HOV lane would probably improve the commute though. There’s data from a UC Berkeley study that more or less proves it.


I've been saying for years that only licensed drivers should count for the carpool lane.

I have kids, but I'm not eliminating any cars by carpooling with them.


No, but you are reducing the impact on other transportation systems.

The killer app for personal cars is families. And families have enormous positive long-term externalities for the human race for obvious reasons.

And your proposed system doesn’t make sense. It’d encourage people with no need for driving to get their driver’s license and punish others who couldn’t pass based on age and disability.


Improving your commute by car isn't the goal. The goal is to get you to stop doing it, or bear your share of the real costs for a change.


If the goal is to prevent people from commuting by car then we should just tear up or barricade all the roads. No need to invest in public transit, since that’s not part of the goal. From what I can tell, this is the actual policy the SF area has been implementing for the last decade.

I’d think a better goal is to minimize the average time and environmental impact of commutes, while maximizing the number of people that can use the transit system to commute (including cars, bikes, busses, trains, etc).


Wow I never thought of that! Here I thought barricading the roads would solve everything! But you're right, people could actually still get where they're going but use bikes, buses, trains etc.


I think most of the comments here are misunderstanding the article. It seems to be saying "Don't say congestion pricing is inequitable without also saying that these are things that we already have are inequitable." It's meant as a counter-argument to people saying "but congestion pricing is regressive against poor people therefore we shouldn't have it." So if you think that gas pricing should not have to be based on one's income, you aren't refuting the article since you presumably also don't think equitability concerns apply to congestion pricing either.


The main flaw with this article is that it's reasonable to think that since car transportation is already expensive for the poor that there shouldn't be even more costs for the poor. In "realpolitik" one can't really vote for "congestion charges but only if we remove tax A from the poor".

So yes, people can acknowledge that many things about transportation are inequitable while still believing that congestion charges are inequitable.


The main flaw of this article is if we add congestion pricing to manhattan to help pay for upgrading the MTA, Cuomo will just take that money when he next raids the MTA funds for some new upstate pork-barrel measure.


Hopefully the law would prevent such a thing :/. People in power have proposed such restrictions, but yes we'll see what we get.


[flagged]


I've downvoted your comment, because you claim without explanation that "gas taxes and congestion prices are different", and therefore the article is foolish. Maybe you're right in some meaningful way, but showing that will require some evidence or explanation.


One important difference is that one thing is currently free and the other is not. There are many other important differences. The original article is a lot of whataboutism and false equivalency but doesn’t grasp the fundamental problem, people being displaced.


Why? In both cases the user of gas and roads is creating negative externalities for others. Taxing them compensates for the externalities. The externalities aren't dependent on income, so an income based tax doesn't seem appropriate.

Externalities are:

* Wear and tear on roads

* Congestion

* Cost of policing roads

* Road deaths and accidents

* urban pollution

* co2 increase

The latter two don't apply to electric cars, and urban pollution doesn't apply to a gas tax on rural drivers. Otherwise they both seems to be things either a gas tax or congestion charge could make up for.


I drive an electric car. It is CO2 free only at the (hypothetical) tailpipe, not across the entire generation cycle. My car emits CO2 for every mile driven, just not right in the urban center.


That CO2 emission is (or should be) taxed for its externalities at the power generation side, same as any other electricity, and doesn't need to be taxed again at the car level like petroleum-fueled vehicles must be.

Plus, depending on where you're filling up, you may actually be using 100% renewable energy anyway, so you're not emitting CO2. There are states that are close to majority-renewable now, and will be in a few years.


The way I conceptually see it is that people with lower income pay less once a year, during tax time, and save a lot of money then. All other times it's just much simpler if prices/fees/whatnot are based on actual usage. Can you imagine owning a gas station or running a parking lot and having to deal with income verification from all your clients, and then dealing with the government to get reimbursed because Joe Schmo is low income and got a 25% discount? That would be a recipe for wasteful bureaucracy, black market activities like low income people using their gas cards to fill up others' cars, and generally just tons of inefficiencies.


The author isn't suggesting that gas taxes should vary with income. His point is that they're a flat tax and flat taxes are regressive.


I’ve made similar comments in other discussions, but there’s an element of redlining to this. Upper middle class people push for ever higher safety standards in new motor vehicles. This pushes the retail price higher for new cars, but also has the follow on effect of raising the price of newer used cars. As a result, vehicle consumers at the bottom of the economic ladder wind up with cars that are less safe, less efficient, and less reliable.


I drive a Kia Rio. It's one of the cheapest cars on the market and it's efficient and reliable. I don't know about safety.

There are good cars available on the lower end of the market. I wish there were options with less power available to be even cheaper.


I was approached twice on the same day at a cub foods once by people offering to buy my groceries with their food stamps in exchange for a lesser amount of cash.

I still think the program is valuable, but damn it hurts to see it be abused (especially since one of the guys had his little kid with him). A discount card or whatever that works on the spot is practically guaranteed to be abused as an easy money maker for people, and the net effect ends up being counter to the purpose od the program and many others.


If the majority of people are acting responsibly within the program does abuse warrant changing policies for everyone else, ie optimizing around the frauds, or should abuse be handled separately?

When GOG.com optimized around the frauds they came up with a refund policy for their ethicals that's driven by preventing the frauds, now their real customers wanting refunds must work within a hostile framework designed to deny their refund because it assumes they're an adversary.


This is all rather off-topic from what I was originally replying to (a purely hypothetical means of subsidizing a hypothetical tax), but what do you imagine could be done to change the food stamp policies?

The scam was simple enough- he'd buy $100 of groceries for me, and I'd hand him $80 in cash. The one guy was practically taking food out of his kid's mouth (almost literally, in fact) to try to get that cash. Maybe it was a legit need, maybe it was for crack (fairly popular in that area of town).

Either way, if he found someone to do it, he and his family would continue living off of the cheapest foods and charity, while he'd have some unreported money.

Food stamps themselves are already a compromise; the reason we have them rather than handing out cold hard cash (like he wanted) was because we wanted some assurance that it would go towards a legitimate need, rather than fueling an addiction or luxury goods.

Short of getting family members to turn fraudsters in or having grocery store employees act as police informants, I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to improve the system at all, without even considering the burden of new policies on good actors.


I think the solution is to treat their pursuit of cash, as it pertains to the food stamp program, as just a red herring, a distraction. Some food stamp funding probably ends up in exploitative mobile game IAPs, unhealthy food etc, can't police it without massively impeding everyone's privacy and independence but 0.9% fraud means the program's overwhelmingly working as intended so why bother?

If something is to be done to help the addicts, the ill, the obese etc so they spend food stamp funding more effectively it should address their addictions and illnesses and problems. Those are health and education and social services issues.

Address that and you could actually start asking why there needs to be restrictions at all on what people can buy with food stamps... they're supposed to be help people below poverty live at normal standards, which includes spending money irresponsibly or at their own discretion!

People on that program can't buy necessities like toilet paper, laundry detergent, soap, diapers, tampons, deodorant, lip balm, I think that is a bigger problem than 0.9% fund misuse especially when such conditions might contribute to the 'misuse'.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sue-kerr/10-things-you-cant-b...


GOG is not funded by money taken from others under the threat of violence.

Any corruption or waste in government weakens people overall faith in government.


Recipients of foodstamps aren't government employees and their fraud is individuals committing crimes, it's not government corruption.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/simonconstable/2018/04/04/the-f...

    The takeaway is that food stamp fraud ballooned during 
    the four years through 2016 but that it still represents 
    a tiny percentage of the program.
A corrupt solution would be punishing the 99.1% of ethical recipients through more bureaucracy and restrictions for what the 0.9% did. That 0.9% should drive 100% of their fraud policies separately without impeding the overwhelmingly legitimate aid distribution.

     When compared with those total figures, the fraud 
     identified in 2016 amounted to a mere 0.9% of the 
     total. That was up from 0.5% in 2012.


I had a college roommate who was on food stamps as a kid. He related the story that his mom used to buy additional discounted food stamps from drunks in order to extend her family’s food budget. Sometimes you can actually get a righteous result from a bad system.


If it were only the drunks, then I wouldn't mind (no getting around self destructive behavior). Those drunks might have had families that depended on those food stamps, and that definitely crosses the line in my mind away from righteous in any sense of the word.


If you consider enabling an addiction to be "righteous".


> parking meters don’t charge different rates to users based on their income; you have to pay the same amount to park your used Jetta as you do your new Mercedes [...] That’s inequitable.

I guess it depends on which end of the political spectrum you are, but this sounds absolutely obscene to me.


I don’t understand why this example is there at all. This is just a product being sold for a price. Is it unfair that a banana costs the same for Jeff Bezos as it does for the homeless guy he walked past on his way to the store?

I mean, you certainly could argue that this is unfair, but at that point you’re basically arguing for a different concept of money and commerce, which is a rather bigger subject than the unfairness of tolls.


The "product for a price" idea is a little weird when talking about some service typically provided by a government who deliberately prices it below market equilibrium. If we're going to effectively subsidize this, it's fair to open debate on how that subsidy should be apportioned.


Depends on the city. There's a lot of paid private parking out there.

I agree with you that the price of government-owned parking is generally too low, and that it should be increased to a level to which available spaces nearby are reliably guaranteed.


In the past we solved the problem on the supply side by reducing the difference between Bezos and Homeless Guy. However ideas like that have been made unpalatable to the people who most benefit from them - in a quite frankly brilliant campaign of social engineering - so we're left discussing unworkable "solutions" like this.


The real difference between Very Rich Guy and Homeless Guy is plausibly lower today than during any other previous era of history, including the mid-20th century. When he isn't working at Amazon or playing with his rockets, Jeff Bezos is, by and large, buying the very same kind of goods and services you or I buy-- his consumption may be larger than mine by some factor, say 3x or whatever, he might pick slightly higher quality stuff, but that's about it. This was very much not the case historically.


I guess Bezos’s mansion and Gulfstream are basically the same as Homeless Guy’s tarp and stolen shopping cart.


It's just an example of something that's not any more fair than congestion pricing. Congestion pricing puts a price on a scarce product: the ability to commute during rush hour.

The article isn't arguing that parking prices should depend on the price of the car being parked, just that having the same parking price for everybody is not any less inequitable than congestion pricing.


The point of the article is that that would be ridiculous, right? I think most people people anywhere on the political spectrum would agree; that's why it was used as an example.


No, not all people would agree. It's coherent to think that a) government punishment should be the same for each recipient, b) we measure punishment (and thus it's "sameness") in terms of pain, and c) financial penalties need to be indexed against wealth/income to inflict the same amount of pain.

Sweden (I believe it is) in fact does this.

------

Regardless, yes as the OP says if you think it's fair to charge a flat fine, then surely it's fair to charge a flat fee. The point is relative and thus holds whether you define fine equitability in terms of amount paid or difficulty in making the payment.


Near a federal building in Tampa I usually see the Mercedes SUV with a handicapped tag parking at the meter for free and the used Jetta in a $10/day parking lot.


Presumably the owner of the Mercedes is already taxed more than owner of the Jetta, when paying to register the vehicle, and also likely on the original income. Should the owner also be charged for its use? Should toll booths be more expensive too?


It sounds obscene to me too.

A car uses a parking spot. The spot is no longer available for someone else- regardless of your income. Incomes is orthogonal to the problem.

Flat taxes are the fairest taxes.

Take trash taxes for example: you produce 100 lbs of trash, you pay for 100 lbs of trash because disposing of 100 lbs of trash in a landfill or a recycling facility won't be affected by the income of the person having produced said trash.

Want to pay less taxes? Produce less trash.


The argument isn’t about whether the quantum of taxes is appropriate. It is how a fixed quantum turns a disincentive for some into an irrelevancy to others. If the purpose of the cost is to discourage use (peak period congestion charges), then it should vary with income so as to be a equally discouraging to all to whom it applies. For your example of trash collection, by having a fixed fee the state creates a greater incentive among the poor to reduce their trash production, whereas the rich aren’t affected and can produce far more before they feel the incentive to reduce waste.

I think the parking spot item is more like a meal at a fine restaurant - there is no incentive or disincentive from a social standpoint that should justify variable pricing on income. But to the extend there is, say via congestion, pollution, etc, it is reasonable to vary pricing in order to equally apply the disincentive.


> it is reasonable to vary pricing in order to equally apply the disincentive.

No, it's not reasonable. The goal is not to discourage use, but to price in the negative externality.

> For your example of trash collection, by having a fixed fee the state creates a greater incentive among the poor to reduce their trash production,

And that's good, even if we suppose your argument is right. Bear with me: what's the percentage of the population in your country that you would call "rich"? Let's say 20%.

Do you think that 20% of the population can create more bags of trash than 80% of the population? I don't think so.

In the parking example, do you think 20% of the population can park more cars than 80% of the population? I don't think so either.

Someone rich may have more than one car, but I strongly doubt they are able to drive 2 cars at once.


I'm pretty sure 5% of the population can create more of whatever negative externality you'd like to tax than the lower 95%. Someone rich might not drive a car at all and instead take a private jet. An average person from the US produces fifty times as much CO2 as an average person from Kenya.


If we were talking about CO2, I'd agree with you.

But we are talking about parking spaces, and production of trash within a country.


The point is not the number of cars or trash bags. It is the incentive to use a vehicle or generate a bag of trash. If a $20/day charge is out of reach for the poor, 100% of the poor will avoid parking and take public transit. If $20/day is meaningless to someone that makes $500k/year, then they will not factor that into their decision to drive versus take public transit. So for those that set prices, does it matter whether demand elasticity is equal across income levels or not?


> Do you think that 20% of the population can create more bags of trash than 80% of the population? I don't think so.

I live in a wealthy household, our discarded amazon packaging, food and meal delivery garbage is easily 4x the garbage produced by a penny pinching household. And so far my housemates and I haven't reduced our consumption because the garbage collection fees do not outweigh the convenience of online shopping.


A poor person's car takes up the same number of parking spaces as a rich person's car, and a rich person has already paid a huge amount of their income to the poor person in the form of income taxes and welfare.


poor might mean lower middle-class. no welfare income.


Flat taxes are not the fairest taxes for a very simple reason: the decreasing marginal utility of money. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/lawofdiminishingutility...

If you're poor, a tax - no matter how small - affects things like food expenditure.

If you're income rich, the difference tax makes affects things like what kind of car you buy or what quality of hotel you stay at when you're on vacation.

These are not like for like tradeoffs, they're qualitatively different.


Decreasing marginal utility of money is just a theory, and there are many flaws in the theory - including measuring happiness with a discrete scale of questionable boundaries (5=very happy, etc.), considering self administered questions at face value, etc.

Another theory is hedonic adaptation- you adapt to whatever and regress to a baseline.

Finally, there seems to be proof that some people do not spent their money on what will make them happier, the typical example being buying an object instead of an experience.


If you are seriously suggesting that a penny is worth the same to a wealthy man as a child, we cannot have a serious conversation.


There are lots of people who don’t think a flat tax on income is the fairest tax. Presumably a person whose income is very large has a lot more to lose if society collapses so they should pay more to maintain society. I tend to believe progressive taxation on income/wealth is the most fair. But I’m someone who believes that there should be a ceiling and a floor on how much a person can have. The distribution of resources and wealth in the world is grossly unfair in my opinion.


I don't agree with the fact we should tax more expensive cars for parking.

But I don't think your reasoning hold either.

If you have more money, it's easier to take less parking space, and produce less trash.

I can certainly attest that it's easier for me now: I can afford a private parking lot and taxis, I can buy food in expensive organic shops that have less packaging, I can pay people to do things for me, that would result in more work, but less waste.

Basically, when you have money, you can optimize for way more things than when you are constrained financially.


The point of the article is that the same arguments work in favour of congestion pricing.


Now do water.


This seems rather US-centric, but perhaps there are some universal things in there? In The Netherlands, we usually split off some of the issues; for example there is the tax that covers road usage paid per active registered vehicle. This depends on the vehicle, so depending on how expensive/big/powerful etc your new car would be, you'd pay more or less tax. For public transportation, more and more networks are getting dedicated lanes or even dedicated roads, so buses for example are not affected by what the cars happen to be doing at that time.


Yeah much of it doesn't transfer, but on the subject of the taxes in The Netherlands a lot of it is nonsensical:

1. You pay tax per weight of the vehicle, and that's a (mostly?) linear relationship. Whereas a 10 ton vehicle causes much more than 10x the wear & tear to roadways than a 1 ton vehicle.

2. Even if it were adjusted for the wear it shouldn't be a fixed fee, but based on actual usage. Paying it for a combination of the weight and mileage/yr would still not reflect reality, but would be closer.

3. There's no tax for vehicle size, just weight (the two don't always closely follow each other), which produces an externality on small Dutch roadways.


That tax is not the only one paying for the roads; the normal tax on fuel and the fuel-specific tax on top of that (which also differs per type of fuel) offsets the heavier engines or heavier users.

At the same time, a project people abandoned a few times (mostly because or scare tactics) is in the works to see if we can lower or abandon some of the taxes in favour of usage-based taxes measured by vehicle kilometers on-road. So if you drive more, you pay more.

At the same time, I don't think it makes sense to make all tax super dependant on what you drive, where you drive it, and what money you make. We already have some specific systems in place to deal with the discrepancy between high income and low income (and the gradient in the middle), so instead of making the tax system more complex by adding yet more variables to existing rules, a rule with a highly specific target is simpler and reaches more of the people it applies to.

Basically, if you are poor, or simply don't make enough money to save or invest, a lot of the taxes no longer apply. At the same time, if your income is so low you are getting towards the edge of not surviving (depending on where you are I guess) you get money for rent and healthcare. And on top of that: if you don't have a lot of money, it makes no sense to own a car anyway.

I don't think a true per-use system that only relies on what the current usage of anything is will work, simply because we cannot predict what we will need or use in the future and it disables all paths to investments or building infrastructure because it is a lifeline to certain areas. After all, it's not a for-profit corporate system we're talking about, it's a country or a government. While sensible decisions are of course needed, and adjustments to how some things are paid for can be very sensible, making a very tight integration between what is available and what it currently used is a very bad idea for humans.


Fuel taxes are just another version of taxing the wrong thing. People using gasoline for e.g. yard equipment aren't using the roads, but they're effectively paying road tax to trim their hedge. Someone who owns a Tesla also isn't paying their road tax.

Taxes and tolls should be based on what/where/when you drive. Someone driving in circles in downtown Amsterdam in the middle of the day is causing a lot more externalities than someone doing the same thing in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

Nothing about saying fees shouldn't be externalized is an argument that there shouldn't be investment in infrastructure. Although I think you'll find that once car infrastructure would have to pay real property tax and pay for its externalities (including pollution etc.) we'd need less road infrastructure. You'd get more density, more things shipped by train instead of trucks etc.


People using gasoline for e.g. yard equipment aren't using the roads, but they're effectively paying road tax to trim their hedge

It's legal to use untaxed (undyed) fuel for off-road uses, but the quantities are so low that it's not worth the distribution system for it. So usually it's only used by large consumers (i.e. farmers and other consumers with large off-road fuel usage)

Someone who owns a Tesla also isn't paying their road tax.

That will change next year when California will start charging a $100 EV fee for car registrations. It's still less than the $176 a 10,000 mile/year 30mpg driver will pay in gas tax, but it's not "nothing". Though since EV's are typically more expensive than the equivalent conventional car, they'll pay a higher VLF fee. So for example, $10,000 in extra value means $65/year more VLF tax so that EV will be paying around $165/year.

I'd rather see a milage + weight based tax.


  > Fuel taxes are just another version of taxing the wrong thing.
It's not really the wrong thing, it's a different thing. Fuel taxes make a lot of sense as carbon taxes to pay for the pollution you're causing.

Ultimately, though, it's complicated to tax everybody exactly for the societal costs they're causing. Taxing just the weight of the car doesn't take usage into account. Taxing fuel doesn't sufficiently take weight into account. To tax people correctly for road use you'd have to keep detailed track of how much they use their car, and that may get rather invasive into people's privacy.

That said, it's pretty clear that cars cause more externalities than they're being taxed for.


> in downtown Amsterdam in the middle of the day is causing a lot more externalities than someone doing the same thing in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

how to track that in a privacy friendly way?


I really take exception with their point on insurance. They try to insidiously suggest that the poor and urban population pays more for insurance than other populations due to... Well they don’t say, but I do take their inference. The fact of the matter is that the auto insurance industry is highly regulated and cannot discriminate on many factors. Their rate books are reviewed by regulators. The fact that poor and urban residents pay more has to do with the risk to the vehicle. The chance of damage, theft, the type of car, the experience and record of the driver, etc. all factor in. It may be unfortunate, but it is it not some grand conspiracy or inherent bias to hold these people down. I wish other types of insurance (like health) were as easy to shop for as auto insurance. You can easily shop multiple insurers and compare prices from the comfort of your home and pick what works best for you. It’s really incredible when you think about it.


In Ontario, Canada, your insurance rates are tied tied to where you live, if you have a garage, and if you put on snow tires in winter.


> Well they don’t say, but I do take their inference.

So you’re criticizing them for something they, as you admit, do not actually say. How is it their fault if the undisputed facts they state make you think of something that you consider wrong?


I am not criticizing or disputing their point that, for example, a person living in a low income area will pay a higher rate than a similar person living in a high income area. I do dispute that it is an inequity that needs to be “fixed”, which is the main thesis of the article. While I do consider it unfortunate, it’s not discriminatory or inequitable and should not be on the list.


I believe they may really be trying to show that the complaint about congestion pricing being unfair is silly by giving some other, equally silly, examples.


>I wish other types of insurance (like health) were as easy to shop for as auto insurance. You can easily shop multiple insurers and compare prices from the comfort of your home and pick what works best for you.

Libertarian here, healthcare.gov is this. Its great.

well, its about as great as heavily bribed government sectors can be. https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?indexType=s


Yeah, I wish they would do more to open up competition nationwide and unsaddle health insurance from employment. How ridiculous would it be if I needed to change car insurance every time I changed jobs. Stupid.


Exactly. Once we remove health insurance from employment, I think everyone will be a lot happier. One of the biggest stressors in changing jobs is health insurance. If employees didn't have to worry about that, choosing a new job would be less of a problem (or quitting altogether to work on a business idea).

Once the majority of people are buying their own health insurance, the market for doing so will improve, and we could see private alternatives to healthcare.gov, as well as more brokers willing to take that on.

If I could change one thing about history, it would be wage and price controls during WW2 that got us into the situation of employers offering health insurance, and if I could change anything now, it would be eliminating that. I ran the math, and _most_ of our employees would've been better off buying from the market (e.g. through the subsidies they don't qualify for because our company offers insurance). I presented this to my boss, and he rejected it on the grounds that people expect the company to provide it.

We need to kill that culture before we can seriously consider changing health insurance/care again.


Author uses a really backwards definition of equitable. Equability is not about making every price defined as percentage of income. Equability is about making things so cheap that everyone can easily afford them, regardless of income. In perfect equitably, everything would be free.

Public Schools are equitable, because every child can attend public school, there are no barriers to attendance. Public Water utility systems are equitable, because every resident gets an identical cheapest possible rate for drinking water, so that the barrier to access to water is as low as possible. Public Libraries are equitable, because every resident gets identical access to the contents of the library, as cheap (or usually free) a price as possible.

---

Urbanists attack the roads from the opposite angle. They are trying to invent as many barriers as possible to their use. (i.e., additional taxes, additional congestion charges, etc). Congestion prices can never be equitable, because the idea itself is intentionally inequal -- it's an attempt to punish people for using a public good (and more accurately, an attempt to maximally-punish each person as equally as possible).

This is the exact opposite of true equability, which is all about delivering as much public good as possible, as cheaply as possible.


I think one of the main sub-texts of this type of articles is that roads are not “public goods”, or at least that they shouldn’t be reguarded as “public goods” anymore, but that instead road-users should be made aware that using those roads is a “privilege” (for lack of a better word) which they should pay dearly for.


> Public Schools are equitable, because every child can attend public school, there are no barriers to attendance.

My experience of seeing/evaluating/considering public schools in rich neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods suggests that public schooling in the US is far from equitable.


The three major themes of the article seem to be: micro transactions, variable pricing, and unbundling. I think that one of the unintended consequences of the first two is that doing them well requires a lot of information about the consumer at the transaction point. I can see some risks in that and I’m sure more devious minds than my own can think of more.


Alas license plate tracking is already pretty widespread, adding a toll gate with contactless payment doesn't make much of a difference now.

In car transponders of course would make the privacy problem worse.


it seems to me that the right way to solve the regressive nature of pigovian taxes like congestion fees or gas taxes is to implement them with subsidies so that they are largely revenue neutral.

The idea being to give everyone a tax credit equivalent to what they are probably going to spend on usage fees. The incentive structure remains, as they get to keep the money if you aren't contributing to the negative externality, and on average nobody is any worse off than before.


”A Pigovian (Pigouvian) tax is a liquid waste, or effluent, fee which is assessed against private individuals or businesses for engaging in activities that create adverse side effects. Adverse side effects are those costs which are not included as a part of the product's market price.”

Source: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/pigoviantax.asp


my understanding is that it's any tax used to price in an externality. An effluent fee would be just one example.

wikipedia supports my usage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigovian_tax

"A Pigovian tax (also spelled Pigouvian tax) is a tax on any market activity that generates negative externalities (costs not included in the market price). The tax is intended to correct an undesirable or inefficient market outcome, and does so by being set equal to the social cost of the negative externalities. In the presence of negative externalities, the social cost of a market activity is not covered by the private cost of the activity. In such a case, the market outcome is not efficient and may lead to over-consumption of the product.[1] Often-cited examples of such externalities are environmental pollution, and increased public healthcare costs associated with tobacco and sugary drink consumption."


Basically what many economists are recommending for dealing with climate change, namely a carbon tax + dividend scheme. That is, a (rising) carbon tax sufficient to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough, and proceeds from said tax paid out in equal amounts to each citizen.


For the people who believe this is fair and just-

Should engineers and programmers pay more money for the same laptop as an art student?

I'm unsure if this pricing should only exist in the public sector or should extend to private services. Looking to hear your rationale.

I'm one of those, treat everyone equal, types. Would like to hear your reason.


In the US, the idea of fairness is basically divided on political lines. On the "right", people think fairness is equality. On the "left", people think fairness is equity.

Helpful graphic: http://i2.wp.com/interactioninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads...


I always liked this one about the school system: https://imgur.com/a/aikYqxg


> Should engineers and programmers pay more money for the same laptop as an art student?

No, of course not, if it's the same laptop.

But suppose there is a laptop tax of $300. If the engineer and art student buy the same $3000 laptop, that's 10%. But let's be realistic here: art students will probably have a $1000 or even $500 laptop. Suddenly their tax rate is 30% or 60%, compared to the engineer's 10%.

Excises and levies are not flat taxes. They are regressive in structure. Whether you agree with progressive taxation is one matter, but I feel as though everyone agrees that taxation should at least be linear to the thing being taxed.


> I'm one of those, treat everyone equal, types. Would like to hear your reason.

Here's a thought experiment: Imagine that you are born as any random person in a society. You could be born as a white male of exceptional intelligence with 1% rich parents, or you could be born as a girl of a minority race to junkie parents and suffer from mental health issues your entire life. Now, without knowing what kind of person you're born as, design a just society in terms of, say, the level of income redistribution, tax-provided health care, or whatnot.

Getting back to your original question of whether somebody should pay more for a laptop than somebody else; well, IF you accept (some amount of) income redistribution, it's more of a technical question how to implement it. I imagine it'd be easier to implement with income redistribution, social spending on low-income citizens or whatnot rather than having wealth- or income-dependent prices on everything.


The problem with such an argument (imagine that you're born as...) is that it presupposes an arbitrary line based on the limits of your imagination.

You could just as well be born a farm animal, or a blade of grass.

Absurd? Perhaps. It's no more absurd to me than attempting to imagine being born as a Frenchman.


It's just as easy to imagine yourself living as a blade of grass as it is living as another human?

The line between humans and other species doesn't seem that arbitrary.


You don't have to imagine. You have to consider for fairness. This argument is usually attributed to Rawls. He wrote extensively about it in his A Theory of Justice (1971).


> This argument is usually attributed to Rawls. He wrote extensively about it in his A Theory of Justice (1971).

Bingo! I didn't mention it in my original comment, partially because I was interested if anyone would spot it.

(And partially because it wasn't per se relevant to the argument itself)


Human rights apply to farm animals now? :)


Many manufacturers DO have discounted student pricing (not that it's publicly mandated).


Student discounts, military/veteran + family discounts, employee discounts (negotiated pricing), bulk purchase discounts, preferred customer discounts, subscription discounts (like Amazon Prime), senior discounts, promotional discounts, price matching, negotiated pricing, courtesy discounts, employee discounts, retired employee+family discounts, low income subsidies, certain tax exemptions for certain populations, etc.

The idea we all pay the exact same for the same product/service is... not accurate.


Maybe in an ideal efficient world we could pay for all things based on the value we derive from them. This is really hard to measure though, so organizations use different proxies for the value a consumer might derive from a product, like enterprise, individual and student pricing or geo-fencing. Since these are very imperfect proxies for consumer value there are often arbitrage opportunities such as re-importing textbooks. Additionally, the imperfections lead organizations to cross subsidization of products, such as the difference between prescription drug prices in different countries.


Their point on registering vehicles by weight is the only sane way of doing it. You pay commensurate with the wear and tear your vehicle puts on the road. Doing it based on income or vehicle value is ridiculous. You already get dinged when you pay tax, now they want to double ding you? What a load of crap.


> Gasoline and gas taxes

This seems like a legacy problem that will soon go away. Gas taxes were done because they were a good proxy for both miles driven, when most cars got roughly the same milage. But now you have cars that get a few miles to the gallon while another car that might be heavier is getting 35mpg. And of course electric cars.

I suspect gas taxes will switch to milage taxes in the next few years as more and more electric cars are adopted. In California they've already started charging electric cars an extra fee on the annual registration to make up for the lack of gas taxes.


In Georgia there's an Alternative Fuel Vehicle fee charged on any vehicle that doesn't pay a fuel tax, or any AFV that does but chooses the AFV vanity plate.

The AFV vanity plate entitles you to drive for free in all Toll lanes.

All zero emissions vehicles are also allowed in HOV lanes regardless of occupancy since the HOV lanes were introduced to curb emissions in Metro Atlanta.


Not directly related but Georgia also has a pay to carpool/alternative commute program. http://gacommuteoptions.com/


let’s ask what it takes to create an overall system that is fair to all, considering all aspects of how the system is paid for, who benefits, and who bears the external costs

Here's a crazy idea: instead of pricing congestion, let's introduce a point system with quotas tied to license plates and surge point deduction.

Puts a hard limit on the number of cars that enter the zone and applies both to the rich and poor equally.

Unless of course some of the rich decide to buy additional cars just so they can drive more - although I don't think many would be willing to go to such lenghts.


> let's introduce a point system with quotas tied to license plates and surge point deduction. [...] Unless of course some of the rich decide to buy additional cars just so they can drive more - although I don't think many would be willing to go to such lengths.

During pollution spikes in Paris, the city occasionally alternates each day between forbidding odd or even ending car plates from circulating downtown. The rich do precisely what you say: buy an extra car and make sure the license plates are so they can drive any day regardless of restrictions.


Does it make financial sense comparing to taxis, or do they just buy some kind of barely-allowed shitbox as a substitute?


I’d guess that from a certain point on you don’t look at the financial incentives only, but that you want to maintain your “status” (for different definitions of that word depending on different social environments).

For example I know of people close to my age (late 30s) and from my social circles (middle-class people) who pride themselves for almost never using the metro, even though in the city where I’m living (Eastern Europe) the metro does a pretty good job at transporting most of the city’s population. As such, if a system that would forbid car circulation based on their license plates were to be introduced I’m pretty much sure that those same people would buy a second car especially in order to circumvent the new rules, and I’m also pretty much sure that that second car would be almost as “good” as their first car. Doing otherwise would be seen as a diminishing of those people’s social standing.


Doing otherwise would be seen as a diminishing of those people’s social standing.

That's what I'm getting at. Say they already drive the best car they can(or even cannot at times) afford. Do they switch to two 3 years older cars(assuming that's how long it takes for a car to lose half of its value)?


That would presumably depend on the financial situation. Anecdotally I've run into 2nd or 3rd car plans moving forward (e.g. a kid mobile to cart the family around, or a small car for use by the older children) and outright buying a 2nd Mercedes as a matter of making a point. I can't recollect anyone in my circle of acquaintances that did this for who money would have been much of a consideration.

Intuitively I do not think anyone is buying an old clunker as a supplemental vehicle to dodge such policies. The regulations during pollution spike control efforts could ban their use anyway, so it would need to be a recent car. And if cheap is a decision factor, you're probably using a combination of public transportation and the occasional cab anyway. (Public transportation is good enough in most major European cities that you can live without a car.)


> Here's a crazy idea: instead of pricing congestion, let's introduce a point system with quotas tied to license plates and surge point deduction.

Good idea. Then make these points tradable, and you'll reach the same optimality as a congestion tax, but retain a system that doesn't exclude low-income folks.


> Unless of course some of the rich decide to buy additional cars just so they can drive more

This workaround would be made moot by adding a rule saying you can use at most the square root (or any other sublinear function) of number of your cars.


Lease it, rent it, gift it, borrow it, legal technology.


Decrying everything that doesn't have a low-income subsidy as "inequity" is disingenuous and undermines your better justified claims. It's OK if poor people pay the same price as rich people for the same service and it's OK to have broad income subsidies or progressive income/wealth tax to help poor people. It's not reasonable to claim that every fee for service is "inequitable".


Why does this political subject get posted every week on HN, why does it always result in ideological discussions sprinkled with personal anecdotes and why is everyone asking for the defeatist solution of taxation (to reduce the appeal of individual transport) instead of at least treating the underlying technical problems (logistics, pollution) as an engineering challenge? It‘s disheartening...


> 5. Gasoline and gas taxes.

Are they suggesting progressive gas tax? The price of gas you pay at the pump would depend on your salary?


I think they're suggesting that if you oppose decry congestion pricing because it's a not progressive, you should also oppose gasoline cost and gas taxes because they're not progressive.

Their thesis is that congestion pricing shouldn't be dismissed on grounds X, not that all these other things should be dismissed on grounds X. It's pointing out the inconsistency of supporting a bunch of inequitable policies while rejecting another simply because "it's inequitable".

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