The NY Times is reporting today that the federal government has made NYC one of the five finalists for transportation grants that are being earmarked to ease congestion in urban centers. There's no doubt, as the Times says, that the potential grant-estimated to be around $350 million by the NY Daily News, will put some additional pressure on state and city law makers to approve at least some portion of the mayor's taxing plan.
That would be a big mistake, If the events of the last week have taught us anything, it's that our metropolitan transit system is in utter shambles-with little accountability over how the funds currently generated are spent. Adding a new tax scheme-a plan that will at best only reduce congestion by small percentages-before the incoherent governing structure of the MTA is addressed is not sound public policy.
It's even less so when the mayor's traffic relief proposal has not been subjected to any independent environmental review-something that we believe is mandated by federal, state and city law. In particular, we need to know how much traffic-diverted from the CBD, will be diverted into neighborhoods where pollution and asthma rates are highest.
So the commission that has been set up needs to, as the Times observed on Sunday, examine not only the mayor's plan itself, but also the soundness of the targeted repository of these funds-the MTA. And the Times is correct that the citizens of the city would not be well-served if the commission is made up of the, "usual suspects." Too much is at stake, and no one should be willing to simply buy the mayor's pig-in-a-poke simply because he says, "Trust me."