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Several Major Cities Consider Placing Tolls on Urban Streets

Less parking and more commercial real estate could be in store for New York City if local officials put tolls on its busiest streets, a move other major cities from Boston to Los Angeles are considering to cut traffic congestion and raise money for transportation improvements.

New York is planning to become the first U.S. city to enact the practice known as congestion pricing, starting by the end of 2020, after its state legislature approved plans allowing funds collected from drivers traveling south of 60th Street in Manhattan to eventually be put toward upgrading the city’s aging subway system and other projects.

In theory at least, demand-based pricing should encourage some drivers to choose alternative routes or alternate modes of transportation, such as light rail, buses, bikes, carpooling or ride-hailing services. Those who can’t make those changes – or are willing to pay to maintain their routines – would help fund alternatives aimed at lessening the traffic and pollution generated by cars.

It could allow commercial developers, for instance, to devote less space to parking and more to rentable apartment, office or retail spaces. And those projects built closer to existing public transportation and employment centers could potentially create new job hubs in the process and offer other tangential benefits, too.

“Congestion is a byproduct of a location or property already being viewed as being more valuable,” said Michael Manville, an associate professor of urban planning at University of California Los Angeles. “So if you take away negative impacts like traffic, you could in turn make that location more valuable.”

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