Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

New York is about to become the first city in over a decade to implement congestion pricing.

Why it matters: City streets are more clogged than ever. The growth of e-commerce has driven an influx of delivery vehicles, while the rise of ride-hailing services like Uber has led city-dwellers to assume that a car is permanently available to drive them anywhere they want to go.

If something is underpriced, it tends to generate excessive demand. Urban streets are a prime example: It generally costs nothing to drive on them, and as a result billions of city-dwellers sit in traffic every day.

Previous implementations of congestion pricing have aimed squarely at congestion, with the target of minimizing the time that people are stuck in traffic.

  • London started charging for road access in 2003, and Stockholm in 2006. London traffic has already slowed down to below pre-congestion-pricing levels, even as the fee itself has steadily risen.

How it works: New York's scheme could be the first to focus primarily on revenue generation, with relatively little effect on traffic.

  • 666 Fifth Avenue sits on a 61,755-square-foot plot of land. When the Kushner family paid $1.8 billion for that building, intending to tear it down and replace it with a brand-new tower, the purchase price worked out to about $30,000 per square foot of land.
  • At that rate, the land under a Cadillac Escalade would be worth $3.4 million. Put that Escalade on the street outside 666 Fifth Avenue, however, and it currently pays nothing for the privilege.
  • Once New York implements congestion pricing, that Escalade will probably pay around $14 to be able to drive around midtown Manhattan.

New York's charge will use basically the same technology that toll roads have used for decades.

  • More sophisticated systems, which are already technologically possible, would charge by the minute based on the actual amount of time that cars were on the street.
  • The problem: Now is a bad time to try to introduce such a system, given how concerned we have become about privacy and surveillance. Just because you can identify the location of every car to the nearest inch, doesn't mean you should.

The bottom line: New York's success or failure will play a large role in determining whether the congestion pricing gets copied in other cities, including Los Angeles.

  • Yes, but: If the purpose is more to raise money than to reduce congestion, then no one should expect significantly faster traffic speeds.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 18,178,736 — Total deaths: 691,111 — Total recoveries — 10,835,789Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 4,698,335 — Total deaths: 155,331 — Total recoveries: 1,468,689 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. Politics: White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing — Pelosi says Birx "enabled" Trump on misinformation.
  4. Sports: 13 members of St. Louis Cardinals test positive, prompting MLB to cancel Tigers series — Former FDA chief says MLB outbreaks should be warning sign for schools.
  5. 1 🎥 thing: "Tenet" may be the first major film to get a global pandemic release.

Twitter faces FTC fine of up to $250 million over alleged privacy violations

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket

The Federal Trade Commission has accused Twitter of using phone numbers and emails from its users to make targeted ads between 2013 and 2019, Twitter said in an SEC filing published Monday.

Why it matters: Twitter estimates that the FTC's draft complaint, which was sent a few days after its Q2 earnings report, could cost the company between $150 million and $250 million. The complaint is unrelated to the recent Twitter hack involving a bitcoin scam.

2 hours ago - World

Hollywood's international game of chicken

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

If all goes to plan, Christopher Nolan's thrice-delayed "Tenet" will be the first blockbuster to receive a proper worldwide theatrical release amid the coronavirus pandemic at the end of this month.

Why it matters: It'll be playing a $200 million game of chicken, hoping to prove that people across the globe are still willing to trek to theaters to see a splashy new movie.