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Congestion pricing in Philadelphia: Is it time?

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Looks like it is in NYC

Fernando Garcia Esteban/Shutterstock

New York City is closer than ever to enacting congestion pricing—that is, charging most motorists a fee for driving in and out of Manhattan’s main commercial districts.

Might the idea take in Philadelphia, too? In Center City perhaps?

Here’s what’s happening in New York. In a bid to come up with funds to repair and upgrade the New York region’s mass transit system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the charge earlier this year.

The idea, which is still short on details, has the sort-of backing, or at least not outright opposition, of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Business groups are starting to line up behind it, and even ride-hailing apps such as Uber are saying they wouldn’t have a problem with the fee.

The idea behind congestion pricing is simple: To reduce vehicular traffic in congested areas by making it a cost-benefit analysis rather than a routine for drivers. Go in and about only if you absolutely need to—otherwise, take public transit, bike, or walk.

Congestion pricing as even a concept, much less a concrete proposal, has never caught on in Philadelphia (as at least the idea has, say, in Boston). But rearranging access to Center City to raise money for SEPTA does not seem that far-fetched. Does it?

By the way, if New York does enact congestion pricing, it would be the first city in the U.S. to do so—and that might prove an irresistible tipping point for similar major cities. Domino effect and all that.