CityWatch Columnist Defends His Attack on Congestion Pricing

I know I’m a little late responding to this one, but CityWatch columnist Charles Tarlow responded to Streetsblog’s critique of his attacks on congestion pricing, and some of it needs to be responded to.

Tarlow’s March 28th piece, "Paying to Use Our FREEways," offers no new arguments until the last three paragraphs when it presents the argument that tolling HOV lanes on highways will stop the author from picking up his kids at school. Then the column ends with a call for more transit.

And let’s be real for a moment. The goal of Congestion Pricing is painfully obvious. The proponents of this scheme want to FORCE people out of their cars. By people, I don’t mean them … that would be crazy. By people, I mean people other than them. People who actually have to worry about what it costs to go to work, go shopping and pickup the kids.

This isn’t as much about toll roads and parking fees as it is about quality of life. Congestion Pricing is an assault on the quality of life in our cities. If the decision makers in Los Angeles, our Mayor and our City Councilmen, had to take public transportation, Congestion Pricing wouldn’t even be in the public discourse. We would be talking about mass transit and how we are going to pay for it.

In the end, that is what we should be talking about: Mass transit. It’s the only long term answer to the city’s gridlock. It is the only true solution; and not just for the rich … for everyone.

First, most of the people that support congestion pricing are not rich people. If you go back to the March 14th Streetsblog column’s comments you’ll see the people supporting pricing are not a bunch of upper class snobs, but a collection of activist bike riders and Metro Riders. I guess you could argue that we hope that people other than us will get out of their cars because, for the most part, none of us drive that often, if at all.

Second, I’m not sure if Mr. Tarlow understands what’s being proposed for Los Angeles. What’s being proposed is converting HOV Lanes, both those planned and those in existence, into variable toll lanes. I’m not sure what a highway pricing strategy would have to do with one’s ability to go shopping or pick up their kids. Unless you live in East Hollywood, the kids go to school in Anaheim and you do your grocery shopping in Woodland Hills.

And last, I agree that Los Angeles needs more transportation options and especially needs an expanded transit system. If only we could think of a way to pay for it. I propose a user fee for highway users, I wonder how Mr. Tarlow would pay for it.

  • mike

    Mr. Tarlow’s attitude is very similar to those anti-congestion pricing whiners in NYC — they want more transit (who doesn’t?), and claim that they want fewer cars, but they don’t want to pay for it, especially if it means paying more to drive.

    Seems pretty disingenuous to me.

  • Wow, what a nonsensical article Tarlow wrote.

    I am not promoting class warfare. I am trying to avoid it. In fact I am suggesting that we should ignore economic status when it comes to roads, highways, diamond lanes, and parking. Everyone should have equal access. Congestion Pricing makes money the great divider. If you have it … you are golden. If you don’t … you are screwed.

    What? What about the very price of entry to get on a auto road, high, diamond lane, or parking lot. Yeah, that’s right, the personal automobile. THAT is the great divider. Auto-roads, whether paid for by taxes, user fees, or money pulled out of a hat, still require people to pay the insanely high cost of personal automobile ownership. And by perpetuating the MYTH that freeways are FREE, we continue to further our reliance on this insane transportation system that FORCES all of us to be slaves to auto companies, the oil industry, the government, etc.

    We need to charge people for this wasteful mode of transportation not to FORCE anyone out of their cars, but to fund more reasonable transportation solutions that will at last give people a CHOICE in their mobility.

  • Inducing people to drive is seen as a “populist” thing to do in L.A.

    It is so strange that heavily subsidizing car transit to improve Mr. Tarlow’s “quality of life” actually traps millions of people every year in long term debt, large financial commitments to car maintenance, and actually kills and maims a lot of people.

    We’re told that cars are the ultimate symbol of American freedom – but they really represent a heavily subsidized market of manufactured goods.

    The strange thing is that we could still keep money sloshing through our economy, and still be consumers, without all of this car business. I think cars are the preferred mode of inducing consumerism because they are so incredibly wasteful compared to other options (e.g. mass transit, transit oriented development, and proper bicycle planning and infrastructure).

  • Mr. Tarlow needs a reality check.

    There is no divine right to drive and park an automobile anytime, anyplace, anywhere on demand, cheaply and affordably, just because he believes everyone is entitled to that.

    Anyone who wants THAT quality of life may pursue that form of happiness — in the actual suburbs.

    In no other metropolis around the world, and in Los Angeles no longer, would there we social engineering based on the entitlement to use an automobile.

    The limits of sprawl, road and freeway building have been reached. Density and public transit is the only way forward with three million people projected over the next three days. If that means that he cannot have the same quality or affordability of automobile motoring within an urban environment that he became used to do in the era of car culture social engineering and entitlement, that is just too bad for him.

    High quality of life in an urban environment does not equal automobile usage. That is what suburbs are for.

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