Why did the NYC road pricing proposal fail?

This paper is an object lesson in the pitfalls of attempting to introduce cordon pricing. Written by Bruce Schaller from the New York City Department of Transportation, it analyses Mayor Bloomberg’s failed 2007 congestion pricing proposal (it was ultimately blocked by the State legislature).

Opposing views on congestion charging (click to enlarge)

The key message is that gaining support for pricing proposals requires more than showing the social benefits – it is necessary to persuade individual motorists they will be better off. The New York experience shows small groups can have great influence – only 5% of workers would have paid the toll.

The author also argues that the best prospects for successfully implementing road pricing lie in initiatives like High Occupancy Toll lanes (see my previous post on this topic in relation to Melbourne) as motorists are less likely to feel they will be disadvantaged.

This table is a neat summary of the key views of proponents and opponents.