Congestion pricing hits the ditch in New York, providing more evidence that lawmakers focused on their next election don’t have the stomach to impose user fees to provide necessary, long-term infrastructure solutions. Most people don’t get it yet — congestion and resulting lack of productivity create huge economic costs in our global pathway cities, the country’s primary growth engines and best real estate markets. The longer we take to fund necessary mass transit and road improvements in these places, the greater the ultimate costs, not to mention the increased potential for tragedies from greater hazards in aging transport networks. If left the choice we will pull out a credit card and go into debt to buy a flat screen TV rather than pay higher taxes or user fees for better systems to move people and goods more efficiently with less pollution. That greater efficiency ultimately translates into lower costs in fuel or less child care and greater opportunity to make more money — getting to more jobs and appointments. Maybe we would end up being able to pay for the flat screen in cash. But who helps us connect the dots. Not our politicians.

The New York experience also points to the ludicrous lack of regional infrastructure planning in our country. New Jersey Governor Corzine helped torpedo the bill to “protect” his constituents from paying more to enter the city through Port Authority tolls. Corzine, meanwhile, has been trying and failing to raise tolls on Jersey roads, which are also overly congested, to raise money for his own infrastructure agenda. Considering the interconnected issues between New York and New Jersey road and transit systems you might think everyone might benefit from a regional plan, including congestion pricing. Suburban legislators pander to their voters, saying Manhattan gets all the benefits. Well, the city lost $350 million in annual federal aid, because of the thumbs down. Neither New Jersey nor New York can balance their budgets, and systems are literally crumbling. If people from the burbs can’t get in and out of New York will that be good for the regional economy?  (Oh by the way, did you know that flat screen TVs consume five times the energy of older models? See how that impacts your electric bill). 

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