Congestion is a problem but will fees work?

Last week, it was hard to read the news without stumbling over conversations about the new congestion fees in NYC. Uber spent $2 million lobbying for the program, and Uber’s plan to  market the idea as a blueprint for other cities will eventually stir even more conversations and questions.

What are your thoughts on congestion fees? Environmentalists for Effective Education is also concerned about the wellbeing of both the environment and commuters, but we also recognize that a lot of rush-hour congestion arises when people are forced to live farther from work than they would like. Fees would penalize these people even more. New York has the top public transportation system in the country, with a ridership of 2.5 billion. However, this is not the case in most cities. How far is the nearest subway stop from your home and office? Maybe the Manhattan congestion pricing model won’t work as well in your town. But long commutes and congestion are a problem in a lot of other places.

In case you’ve forgotten (or maybe you aren’t convinced commuting is an issue), here are a few lines from another study describing the negative effects of long commutes. However, this study adds a new factor, loss of productivity. Not only is physical and mental health severely impacted by long commutes but - get this - it impacts how efficiently people work.

“Employees commuting less than half an hour to get to work gain an additional seven days’ worth of productive time each year compared to those with commutes of 60 minutes or more.”

The study also summarized more about commuters well-being:

“Longer-commuting workers are 33% more likely to suffer from depression, 37% more likely to have financial concerns and 12% more likely to report multiple dimensions of work-related stress. These workers were also 46% more likely to get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night and 21% more likely to be obese.”

But we know that many cities struggle with long commutes for another reason. Take Atlanta, for example, where many people choose longer commutes in order for their children to be in the “right school district.” Families often sacrifice living close to work for the sake of education.

For the sake of the mental and physical well-being of parents in cities like Atlanta AND for the sake of the environment, we need change. We need school system reforms that help families live closer to work while giving children the education options that parents need.

Check out this strategy for combating congestion.