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A drive in Manhattan could cost you

New York City traffic

KAI RYSSDAL: Sunday's not usually a big day for city governments. But this Sunday is Earth Day. And New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's going to be busy. He's set to announce his plans to make New York a greener and more livable town. Even as its population continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The Mayor's staff is trying to keep a lid on the details. But one proposal he's expected to make is already stirring up plenty of angst. You could even call it road rage. Ashley Milne-Tyte has more.


ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: Reports say that drivers entering busy parts of Manhattan might soon have to pay as much as $8 for the privilege. Dan Becker of the Sierra Club says a congestion charge is an excellent idea, because fewer cars means less pollution.
DAN BECKER: And if the vehicles that you have are getting to their destination rather than sitting for long periods of time in traffic, it's more likely that there will be fewer pollutants than if they're stuck in traffic.

The idea is to use the money from the charge to fund more transportation projects. But small business owner Dominic Valenti says public transport's no use to him. His bakery ingredients business in Queens sends six trucks out to customers in Manhattan each morning. So, he says, that's $48 a day.

DOMINIC VALENTI: 48 times 5 is an additional $240 a week, times 52 weeks a year. I mean, y'know that's . . . It's difficult enough to make a profit these days. I don't need that kind of a hit on top of it.

But maybe he won't get that kind of hit. Allison de Cerreno is with NYU's Center for Transportation Policy and Management. She says until Bloomberg's speech on Sunday we won't know exactly how the congestion charge will work. But she says traffic already hits New Yorkers in their walletsa€¦

ALLISON DE CERRENO: Quite frankly, one of the reasons that our goods are so expensive in the New York area is because the travel time for the freight movers is significantly high enough that they pass those costs along.

She says if New York drivers can be convinced they're getting something for their money, whether it's more mobility or cheaper food, the charge has a decent chance of success.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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