If you haven’t heard of ‘congestion pricing’ you will

Published 11:24 am Monday, June 18, 2007

By Staff
Once you slide down the slope of charging fees for everything imaginable, it's a short trip to "pay for drive."
When you're mired in traffic gridlock on the freeway, they're counting on your desperate willingness to pony up almost anything to get moving again.
To reduce bumper-to-bumper congestion and in the name of improving air quality with all those engines idling (with higher emissions than moving traffic), some cities are poised to charge motorists fees to even enter urban areas during rush hour.
If this sounds too fantastic to be true, the Christian Science Monitor reported on it June 14.
In fact, "congestion pricing" is not only a named concept, but will be funded this summer by the U.S. Department of Transportation using London as a model.
Nine car-crowded cities, including San Diego, Miami and Dallas, are proposing a charge to use roads during stop-and-go rush hour.
In fact, San Diego has been charging commuters a congestion toll since 1997 to use special lanes of the I-15, the main inland north-south expressway.
Who knew?
The toll itself changes, depending on traffic, from 50 cents to as much as $8 when there is an emergency or a vehicle breaks down.
Users save an average of 10 to 15 minutes, "but surveys show they think they save 30 minutes," The Monitor's Ron Scherer reports.
San Diego has something called SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments), which says the toll is "dynamic" and capable of reacting to conditions every six minutes, so it's investing $1.7 billion to expand its toll road from two to four lanes and 24 miles long instead of eight.
New York proposes $8 for cars and $21 for trucks to enter much of Manhattan.
It would be good to be Spiderman if you wanted to make such a trip routinely.
Proponents see it as a way to beef up ridership on mass-transit systems or at the very least to encourage van and car pooling.
Foes call it a regressive tax that hurts working people and worry that small companies counting on commuters will lose business.
San Francisco considered adding an entry fee two years ago, but encountered political opposition. Instead, the city by the bay is looking at a 20-percent tax on top of parking fees as steep as its hills.
Quips, quotes and qulunkers: "Hey, have you seen Fred Thompson's wife (Jeri, who is not running for president and is an attorney, not a stripper)? You think she works the pole?"
– tacky MSNBC "Scarborough Country" host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Florida congressman
"Left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful – and politically successful – tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics. And that is precisely the danger here. Fury begets fury. Poison from the right-wing talk shows seeped into the Republican mainstream and sent that party off the deep end … The same could happen to the Democrats. (Candidates such as Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) know we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in. But they allowed themselves to be bullied into a more simplistic, more extreme position. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them … kowtowing to extremists is exactly the opposite of what this country is looking for after the lethal radicalism of the Bush administration."
– Joe Klein in Time
"We find ourselves in a situation oddly similar to one (Abraham) Lincoln faced in 1838. Lincoln delivered his address 62 years after the Declaration of Independence. We are now the same time span from the end of World War II. Our victory in that war – followed by our willingness to quickly assume another set of burdens in the defense of freedom against another great tyranny – marked the beginning of the U.S.'s role as leader of the free world. Through all the ups and downs of the cold war and through the 1990s and this decade, memories of World War II sustained the U.S. The generation of World War II is mostly gone. The generation that directly heard tell of World War II from its parents is moving on. We have exhausted, so to speak, the moral capital of that war. Now we face challenges almost as daunting as those confronting the nation when Lincoln spoke … Nations don't always rise to the occasion. And the next generation can pay a great price when the preceding one shirks its responsibilities."
– William Kristol in Time