Monday, April 07, 2008

Well, I'm Glad!

At last Mayor Mike Bloomberg's pet project of congestion pricing has received a final fatal blow from Albany. For those of you who do not live in the New York City metro area, we here in Gotham have had to endure a year of Bloomberg style propaganda promoting his last attempt to leave a legacy on the city--that of congestion pricing. The bill was so unpopular it never even made it to the State Assembly floor for a vote. From the beginning critics have accurately argued that congestion pricing to drive into Manhattan below 60th Street amounts to a tax on the working class. The first setback the plan faced was last year when it was decided that drivers from New Jersey who already pay $8 (the same price proposed for congestion pricing) to cross the Hudson River at bridges and tunnels would be exempt from paying the fee once inside the city.

The Bloomberg administration has tried to spin the congestion pricing plan as a "green" solution to the city's traffic problems claiming that the additional commuting cost would result in less cars on the road and more people using mass transit. But anyone who thinks that in a city where it costs $6 to $8 to cross almost any of the bridges and tunnels, in addition to local NY Thruway tolls, Parkway and Turnpike tolls, gas prices averaging almost $4 a gallon, daily parking spaces in midtown ranging $40 to $60 a day and parking tickets in Manhattan ranging from $65 to $125 that an additional $8 would keep anyone from driving into the city has clearly just fallen off the turnip truck from Idaho. The only thing green about this plan was the $350 million that the city would have received in federal funds if the plan had been put into effect, money that would not necessarily go to improving New York's already overburdened public transit system and did not even address the issues in neighboring commuter states of New Jersey and Connecticut.

This is New York. No one drives here for the fun of it. But things have to happen here. Important things. Life and death things. International things. World economic things. These things will happen at any cost--especially if it's only $8. Companies would figure it in to the cost of doing business. The only people who would feel the sting of congestion pricing are the true working class--the truck drivers for example, who would have been charged $21 for coming into the city. The taxi drivers whose daily operating costs would sky-rocket. And all of those fees would result in increased prices on goods and services for those not commuting, but actually living in Manhattan--guys like me.

As for going green New York is ahead of most American cities with strict emissions laws in place, all city buses now running on hybrid power, an electric subway system (which we've always had) and a plan to make all taxis hybrid cars in the next few years. We New Yorkers use mass transit in greater numbers than any other American city--just ask anyone who has the misfortune of living on the 4,5,6 line. Certainly more can be done to decrease the city's carbon footprint and we need to look into that and fast--but this isn't it.

It's true that New York has a serious congestion problem. But how about this: Why let Good Morning America or MTV block off Times Square at rush hour for some stupid pop-tune promotion? Why allow a movie studio to hijack the city for an entire week staging publicity stunts causing traffic and tie-ups for the opening of the Spiderman movie? Why allow a ticker tape parade in the Financial district on the day of a presidential primary? And if those things must happen why not charge the multi-billion dollar corporations behind those events exorbitant fees to do so rather than passing the buck on to the poor working slobs? Just asking.

UPDATE: Mike Bloomberg is now railing in the press against Speaker Sheldon Silver who put the kibosh on the Congestion Pricing vote. The down side of this is that the city has lost all that federal funding--but then Bloomberg should have come up with a better plan rather than this extremely flawed one. By the way--Sheldon Silver is also the one who saved us from a West Side stadium to attract an Olympic bid. Funny how Mayor Mike wasn't worried about traffic congestion back then.



At 10:23 AM, Blogger Maddog said...

Someone's on their soapbox. But I couldn't agree more. None of their explanations of the pros of this plan seem to offset the cons. And as far as I'm concerned, do we really want more people riding the subway? It's a mess as it is. I'm just thankful I live far enough north that I actually get to sit down while riding downtown.


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