Mary’s Musings

Pay-to-drive plans: Hopefully not in Maine

Posted:  Wednesday, January 24, 2018 - 8:45am

 The next time you’re inching your way from one side of Wiscasset to the other due to unusually heavy traffic, or you’re stopped on Oak Street behind eight or ten cars waiting to get to the center of downtown Boothbay Harbor near the library, you can thank your lucky stars you don’t have to go to Manhattan every day. Why? Because in addition to bumper-to-bumper cars, you may soon have another reason to curse: A charge to even drive in that part of the city. Traffic is so heavy that New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is reportedly seriously considering adopting a pay to drive plan, whereby vehicle operators would be charged $11.52 just for the privilege of driving there.

It sounds like a far-fetched concept, but apparently some other cities around the world, such as Singapore, London, Milan and Stockholm, already have fees designed to discourage vehicles from entering the city limits. If New York decides to institute fees, trucks would reportedly pay $25.34, while taxis would also pay more, and thus be forced to increase their fares.

So much for wanting to live in the city! New York’s bridges already charge what we consider exorbitant tolls, which you might not mind paying if the route saved you time, such as turnpikes which offer you relatively fast routes of travel, but that’s not the case here. You can sit in traffic for an hour or two just trying to get from one side of the river to the other. Two East River bridges are free, to encourage motorists to stay out of the busiest sections of Manhattan.Workers in the city would be between a rock and a hard place. They have to get to their jobs every day, and often can’t make connections to utilize public transportation. It certainly wouldn’t be fair to them unless special rules and fees were established to make it financially feasible for them.

We couldn’t help but think how sad it would be if pay-to-drive plans were to be adopted in Maine. There are certainly a number of places where traffic bottlenecks occur, including some of southern Maine’s coastal routes that go right through downtown areas.

A recent opinion piece in the Bangor Daily News hints at the idea of such a fee on Mount Desert Island, which is becoming increasingly overcrowded, especially when cruise ships visit Bar Harbor and hundreds of passengers come ashore at one time. The article suggests that the town consider purchasing the old Blue Nose Ferry terminal which also controls the nearby marina, so that the town could institute a fee for ship passengers. The money might not discourage anyone from coming ashore, but could be used to help pay for needed infrastructure expenses.                       

We hope all areas of Maine facing overuse and traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) congestion come up with alternative solutions to what is being considered in Manhattan.  It seems to us that the last thing we want to do is drive folks away.