Original: Though a bargain by any Londoner's standards, the new charge will hit New Yorkers entering Manhattan where it hurts in an effort to help cut back on downtown traffic and pollution. However, the measure still has to face consideration by the New York state legislature, which has final say over the city's ability to tax motorists.
Backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the congestion charge passed a City Council vote 30-20. The proposal would tax drivers entering Manhattan south of 60th Street on weekdays between 6am and 6pm, exempting disabled drivers.
Last year a similar tax, although priced at only $4 for passenger cars, was rejected after a poll showed that 61 percent of New York City residents and nearly half of Manhattan dwellers were against the idea. Despite the resistance in the past, it seems things have changed. At a news conference following the vote Mayor Bloomberg said, "The people of New York City have spoken."
But even if the state legislature approves the measure, it will not take effect until the end of next March at the earliest. Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, "This is a bold decision... which will send a message to the state Legislature that we are sick and tired of our streets being clogged with traffic." But not all New Yorkers feel as she does. Mayor Bloomberg recognized this fact, but countered, "There will always be somebody who doesn't like things, but they will be breathing cleaner air, they will be taking mass transit, and congestion will be less."
His response hints at an underlying reason for the congestion charge: enacting it makes New York City eligible for $354 million in federal funding to finance a mass transit system upgrade that New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority was unable to afford. It is hoped that the transit system upgrades would further alleviate gridlock and pollution in the city center.
As the trend of major cities enacting congestion charges grows, one has to wonder which city is next.