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What New York Can Learn from Major European Cities

BY Alberto Gonzalez

By Alberto Gonzalez, Pulsar Advertising President and Executive Creative Director

In our 27 years of business working with clients to help solve transportation and transit challenges, perhaps none have been as daunting as those facing New York City and other major cities as they struggle with increasing congestion, air pollution and traffic accidents in their city centers.

New York is expected to be the first city in North America to charge a fee to drivers in an effort to reduce traffic and raise funds for public transport. The targeted area is below 60th Street in Manhattan’s central business district.

(New York has already instituted congestion pricing as of February in the form of additional fees for taxis and ride-hail services for every ride that starts, ends or passes through Manhattan south of 96th Street.)

What remains to be determined is how the fee will be charged, how much it will be, if it will be variable and what exemptions will apply.

As the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority ponders these questions, they would do well to look at best practices by major European cities that have successfully introduced such urban congestion management approaches.

London, Stockholm and Milan are three major European cities that have successfully implemented urban road pricing systems that have not only been accepted, but embraced and appreciated for environmental and quality of life benefits.

Whether the MTA’s top goal is vehicle trips reduction, carbon dioxide emissions reduction or raising funding for transport, the authority could emulate any of these cities’ approaches.

In London, for example, its congestion charge succeeded because it had a clear and convincing premise, and it was just one part of larger efforts to improve travel across all forms of transport in the city. Also, tangible improvements to alternative transportation were introduced the same day as the charge was implemented.

Stockholm framed its congestion charging policy as an “experiment,” solidifying public support by allowing people to see the difference before the pilot and after. Additionally, public transport improvements and parking restrictions were implemented prior to the trial, helping to ensure there was capacity on transit – something that will be critical for the MTA to consider for its subway, river crossings and commuter rail lines.

Milan is the only city in the world in which a pollution charge was a precursor for the introduction of a congestion charge and then, the congestion charge was positioned as a better environmental choice than a pollution charge. Again, same as in London and Stockholm, citizens also received tangible benefits and improvements to the transport network.

A key conclusion from these cities’ experiences is the need for clear and convincing messaging, combined with a committed political leader.

Where congestion charging has been successfully introduced, the pricing schemes have delivered financially, and the gains have been reinvested in local transport, which translates to significant environmental and societal benefits.

To read lessons learned from these and other major cities around the world that have successfully implemented urban congestion management, download the Pulsar White Paper.

Pulsar is a full-service 360° advertising, marketing and social/digital/mobile agency that specializes in achieving measurable results in remarkable ways. Together with our clients, we have been “doing a world of good” for 27 years. Pulsar has been the agency of record for the MTA since 2013.