New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan for a congestion charge to reduce traffic and pollution in Manhattan has been blocked by the state Assembly.The plan, first announced in December 2006 is modelled on congestion pricing programs in London, Stockholm and Singapore. It was to be a three year pilot program at the end of which the city and state were to decide if the program should be made permanent.
The plan would have charged most drivers $8 to drive below 60th Street, near the southern edge of Central Park, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Transit buses, emergency vehicles, taxis and handicapped drivers were to be exempted from the charge.The initiative had been endorsed by the state's Democratic Governor, David Paterson, its Republican-led Senate and the New York city council.
The main criticism of the plan was that it did nothing to address the traffic jams which would inevitably be caused outside Manhattan, as motorists tried to avoid the congestion pricing zone.Brooklyn and Queens are also strongly opposed to the plan.They say that as more than half the traffic into Manhattan originates from the city proper, taxing Brooklyn and Queens for pollution problems on Canal Street is unjust punishment. All the middle-class and working neighborhoods also oppose the plan as they see it as an unfair tax on their incomes.
The vote means the city will forfeit $354 million in federal money for starting the initiative.The plan had been endorsed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who called Mr. Bloomberg an 'environmental warrior,' and also by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who had hailed it as a move which would 'mark out New York as a global leader in the fight against climate change.'