There's a story on traffic congestion in today's NY Sun, that focuses on traffic congestion policy, and suggests that the city's failure to enforce existing laws is a major contributor to the congestion problem. As the paper points out, "The politics of where and when the New York Police Department enforces traffic laws is coming under scrutiny as Mayor Bloomberg pushes a congestion-pricing proposal to ease traffic in Midtown Manhattan."
The questioning of traffic enforcement policy came from Congressman Anthony Weiner, a firm opponent of the mayor's congestion tax: "I have a feeling — not to accuse anyone of doing something cynical — but they haven't been doing all they can to enforce existing laws because they need to continue the rationale for the plan they have out there," Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat of Brooklyn and Queens, said at an October 25 hearing on congestion pricing."
The suggestion, of course, immediately gets a rebuttal from fans of the proposed congestion tax, who ridiculed the whole idea as a conspiracy theory with little basis in reality. All of which seems to underscore the point that we've continually made about this whole debate: little of it is built on any empirical data, and the confusion between correlation and causation plagues all of the arguments-pro and con.
The fact remains, that we're all aware of the existence of congestion, and Weiner's flip remark about enforcement underlies a more serious observation that selective enforcement may be one of the most crucial reasons behind the congestion crunch. At least it should be a testable hypothesis, one that should be explored before an elaborate tax scheme is implemented.
Instead we get this from the mayor's spokesman: "Any suggestion that we're not enforcing traffic laws and regulations is absurd," a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, John Gallagher, said in an e-mail message yesterday. "Congestion is and has been a huge problem in this city, and to suggest that it's artificially manufactured just isn't dealing with reality."
So we all continue to talk past each other and, in the absence of a thorough review by independent experts, the debate takes on a surreal quality. In the process, the mayor continues his carbon devouring peregrinations, unmindful of the hypocrisy involved in his "do what I say, not what I do" approach.