Bush Administration Advocates for Congestion Pricing

Here's some more fodder for the debate that was prompted by today's earlier post about charging more for parking on city streets. This story, too, comes from the Wall Street Journal, and is available online to subscribers only. But you might want to run out and buy today's paper to read the whole thing, because the news is that in a budget blueprint to be released today, the Bush Administration is coming out in favor of congestion pricing:

[T]he centerpiece of the traffic plan involves an initiative that some critics say amounts to a tax, a plan depicted by administration officials as "congestion pricing." 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.

Bush's Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in an interview with the WSJ's John D. McKinnon that congestion is "a cost to business and probably affects our ability to be competitive on the global market. But it's also something that just drives people crazy."

In a press release, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said that he applauded the administration's  traffic initiative and that New York should be aggressive in pursuing a share of the grant money. "I can't believe I'm saying these words," said Stringer in the release, "but I applaud the Bush Administration for their forward thinking on the issue of congestion and thank them for their willingness to work with local governments to address their unique problems."