Councilman Lew Fidler has put together a comprehensive alternative plan to the mayor's proposed congestion tax. As the NY Sun reports this morning: "From the far reaches of southeastern Brooklyn, a City Council member whose district has no subway stops, Lewis Fidler, is mounting a one-man campaign against Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal."
We love Lew, and we think that he's spent a great deal of thought on this alternative, but to say that he's engaged in a one man fight does overlook the efforts of so many others all over the city. Suffice it to say, however, that the Fidler plan demonstrates that there are any number of alternative possibilities that don't involve taxing middle class commuters from the outlying areas of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
What we like about the plan is that it looks to fund a number of transportation initiatives through a small regional payroll tax that spreads the balance of payments more equitably across income levels: The council member's proposal calls for a .0033% regional payroll tax to be paid by businesses in the city: "Sounding like John Edwards during his "two Americas" speech, Mr. Fidler said congestion pricing stresses the city's economic differences and is morally wrong. "We don't just want to be a city of rich people and poor people," he said. "I don't think they thought it out as fully as they needed to."
Of course, as we have stated ad nauseum, there's no way to evaluate the Fidler plan for efficacy-or any other plan-because there's really no review mechanism in place that could contrast and compare alternatives in any thing that resembles an empirical manner. In spite of this, the Fidler concept was praised by Commission member Richard Brodsky: "Mr. Fidler's proposal, is exactly what this debate needs, which is a workable, bold concept that responds to the city's needs in ways that don't have the defects of the mayor's plan."
Finally, on the thoughtful council member front, there's the testimony of councilwoman Melinda Katz. Katz questioned whether the mayor's plan fit into any larger regional transportation plan, a concern that's magnified by the recent furor over the MTA's fare hike proposal. As she said: THE PROPOSAL TO TAX COMMUTERS AND TRUCKS GOING INTO THE CONGESTING PRICING ZONE (CPZ) CANNOT BE EFFECTIVELY ANALYZED OUTSIDE OF A MUCH WIDER PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTEM CONTEXT. RECENTLY, THE MTA HAS MADE STATEMENTS REGARDING AN INCREASE IN FARES FOR THE SUBWAY AND BUS SYSTEM. THIS IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF THE LACK OF COORDINATION. IT IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TO PASS A PLAN THAT ON THE ONE HAND IS MEANT TO ENCOURAGE THE USE OF MASS TRANSIT WHILE ON THE OTHER HAND THE FARES ARE BEING RAISED MAKING MASS TRANSIT A MUCH LESS ATTRACTIVE ALTERNATIVE.
All of which underscores the extent to which the enthusiasm for the mayor's proposal has begun to ebb significantly. The last word on this belongs to Richard Brodsky: "Mr. Brodsky, a critic of congestion pricing, said alternatives to the plan are surfacing because the momentum behind congestion pricing is fading."