To the People

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Bush Pushes London-Style Congestion Pricing

A little noticed or commented upon item in the Bush administration's proposed 2008 $2.9 trillion budget is a scary new grant program [WSJ subscription only]:
The administration will award $130 million in grants starting this spring to help cities and states build electronic toll systems that would charge drivers fees for traveling in and out of big cities during peak traffic times. The money also could go to other congestion strategies such as expanded telecommuting, but administration officials make it clear they think congestion pricing is the most powerful tool they have. The White House will seek an additional $175 million for congestion initiatives in next year's budget.

Beyond automobile traffic, the administration will also introduce legislation soon that could seek to impose a form of "congestion pricing" on airline travel, likely through user fees on airlines. The idea is to spread flights more evenly.
Big city governments will sell their souls to get federal funding (see example of DHS money turning small-town police departments into little militaries) so expect to see London-style tolls coming to a city near you. Unfortunately for me, these grants will have extreme appeal to the DC Council, as they package money, regulation and a claim to "green"-ness all together into just one policy and the suburban people paying the tolls will not be able to vote against them.

The unintended consequence would be that companies employing low-wage workers would possibly relocate outside the city, creating more sprawl and undoing any "green" benefit of the policy, perhaps by multiples.