14 June, 2008 – New York traffic chief praises Manchester's congestion charge
Speaking at a visit to Manchester last week, Tom Maguire, Director of Traffic Mitigation in the busiest city in the USA, claimed that the congestion charge plans for Greater Manchester could prove a model for other cities across the globe.
His comments followed an announcement by transport secretary Ruth Kelly that Manchester’s tram, bus and rail network would receive £3bn of improvements – provided a peak-hour congestion charge of up to £5 a day was introduced.
Mr Maguire, who played a key role in shaping similar plans in New York, said the combination of investment and the charge could be the key to its success.
"This plan is a real opportunity for Manchester to be a leader in transport planning," he told the MEN. "I do not want to be too quick to pass judgment on cities which I don’t know too well, but I think this plan could work here.
"What makes it special is the fact it is a comprehensive package, with all aspects of public transport considered."
Mr Maguire was in Manchester to speak at the tmap – traffic management and parking – conference 2008, and exchange ideas with transport experts from Greater Manchester.
The region is about to start 12 weeks of consultation on the proposals from government before deciding whether to accept the charge-plus-investment package.
Mr Maguire has faced his own battles in New York, where plans for a congestion charge were recently vetoed. The scheme was approved by New York City leaders, but overturned at state level.
"There are eight million people living in New York, but only five per cent of them drive into the city," said Mr Maguire. "I believe it was those drivers who were listened to by the state over and above anyone else."
Mr Maguire said a congestion charge for New York was not yet dead in the water, and said he would continue to push for state approval.
"All the problems of congestion are still there," he said. "Traffic keeps getting worse, and that will happen in other cities including Manchester."
Mr Maguire later spoke to around 350 transport and parking experts, who gathered at the Bridgewater Hall to discuss and share transport practices.
Key themes were changing people’s attitudes to car usage, improving bus route coverage and making use of existing road networks with schemes such as car sharing lanes.
Mr Maguire’s message focused not just on congestion charging, but on improving and properly linking a variety of transport options such as cycle networks, bus services and on-site parking.
Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council , opened proceedings with a clear meassage that Manchester’s economy could only grow with the introduction of a pay-to-drive policy.
He said: "As our economy grows and grows, we need a step change.
"Monday’s announcement means we can now promote a serious debate – it has significance for the country as a whole and even internationally. We are being radical, but I know we are doing the right thing."
Source: Manchester Evening News