If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.
London has it. Singapore as well. It’s coming to New York in a couple of years. The concept of congestion fees; additional charges – like a bridge toll – to drive your car in certain designated areas at times of high volume.
If you want to drive your car within the area shown on the map below from Monday to Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. you will have to pay a fee of £11.50 (about USD$15).
I heard a radio interview with an urban sociologist on this topic recently. The interviewer pointed out that we already pay significant taxes for street maintenance and repair. The sociologist responded that the congestion fees are not for road upkeep, but for road access. It is considered a surcharge, not a tax.
Collection is by bar-code scanning much like bridge tolls. You can pay in advance and get a reduction, or get a bill at the end of the month.
Perhaps it’s just me, but this seems patently unfair. Cars are expensive, gas is expensive, insurance is expensive and taxes are high. To impose a surcharge on folks trying to make a living seems counter-productive.
Even those who use public transit don’t get off free. Unless you are in a standard black London taxi, which are exempt from the fees, you will be hit with an increase. UBER will add a £1 surcharge to clients’ bills if they enter the charge zone. There are those who blame the various ride sharing companies, chief among them UBER, for causing the increase in congestion and leading to the fees.
What’s next? A surcharge to sit on the bus or subway – one fee for strap-hangers and an increased fee for seated passengers (and don’t get caught sitting with a standee ticket or the fine could be significant).
Restaurants could start charging for utensils. Aside form the price of one’s meal, the final bill would include a breakdown of knives, forks, spoons, etc. used and the subsequent surcharge. Smuggling in your own utensils will be easily detected and result in being ousted from the establishment.
Seems to me these congestion fees are a very slippery slope; one that will no doubt involve a fee to use!