Everyone knows it's going to be done, no one knows yet how: the "congestion charge" is coming to Manhattan. Mike Bloomberg finally won the capitulation of the plan's most ardent foe, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and with him out of the way, there doesn't appear to be any other obstacles.

All that's left now is the shouting, and there promises to be plenty of that. The question is how to charge everyone equitably, since people can arrive in Manhattan south of 86th Street (where the toll would take effect) in ways that already require them to pay a toll (like the Battery Tunnel, which is $8 round-trip with E-Z Pass). Refunding the congestion charge was an idea, but that was deemed too complicated. (However -- and not to throw our New York friends under the bridge, as it were -- bridge and tunnel tolls weren't created to cut down on traffic into the city, so would a bridge/tunnel toll and a congestion toll really overlap?) Any solution will take a fine mix of fairness, technology, PR, all of Bloomberg's negotiating savvy, and, frankly, somebody taking some lumps.

The plan still needs final approval from the City Council and State Legislature, which is projected to go Bloomberg's way on March 31, 2008. But with 31 of 50 City Council members hailing from Brooklyn and Queens, all with a multitude of constituents who will have to pony up the ducats, the fine points of who pays what, when, and where, is still quite some ways off.

[Source: The New York Sun via Winding Road, Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty]


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