Saturday, May 05, 2007


Well now, according to a poll that was conducted by the New York City Partnership, sixty percent of the people who now drive to work would stop if the mayor's congestion pricing plan was enacted. Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the poll is even partially accurate, i.e., a substantial number of commuters would be forced off the roads as a result of the mayor's tax. What would this mean for the folks forced to do so?

To answer this question you first need to examine why these people are driving in the first place. The answer is rather simple. In many parts of the city-Southeast Queens, Mill Basin Staten Island's South Shore, the Northeast Bronx, just to name a few areas-the transit system is not an accommodating alternative. Forcing these folks onto buses and trains will, unlike the mayor's commute, drastically increase the time it takes to get to work.

So when the mayor talks about the impact of "capitalism," and does so in reference to the fact that the congestion tax will force commuters off the roads, what he really is saying that he is happy that thousands of outer-borough New Yorkers will now have to spend anywhere from a half hour to an hour in extra commuting time in order to get to their workplace.

This is the kind of callous disregard for average people that the mayor is becoming more and more known for. As he told his radio audience, he believes that the people who drive to work can afford the tax "because otherwise they'll take mass transit." He can't really understand the difficult choices that people in certain areas of the city are forced to make in order to feed their families. It reminds me so much of what one of my history professors once said when I asked him about a midterm: "Richard, It's just a question of mind over matter. I don't mind, and you don't matter."

Which gets us to the issue of the state of a great many parts of the city's transportation infrastructure. Put very simply, many of the train lines are already severely overcrowded. What will be the impact of funneling thousands of additional riders onto these trains? The mayor apparently recognizes this when he says that "...we must do a better job of providing mass transit in parts of the city where the city never invested in the past..."

In the meantime, however, those forced off the roads are left out in the lurch, waiting for the day when all of this extra transit tax monies can be channeled into building more subways. Short term heartache in exchange for long term "sustainability." As the poet once said, though, "In the long run we're all dead."