Thursday, February 18, 2010


As if making Times Square into a pedestrian Mall, eliminating all of the parking spaces along the length of Fordham Road, and turning-it seems-over half the city into one big bicycle lane wasn't enough. No, traffic hasn't been screwed up bad enough for the Drum Major Institute's John Petro, he now wants to add the coup de grĂ¢ce for the city's beleaguered motorists and delivery drivers-congestion pricing!

Here's his argument-proffered as a solution for the MTA's debt problem: "We need a long-term solution that minimizes fare hikes and service cuts and creates a permanent, steady source of revenue. I am referring to the one and only congestion pricing. It died a premature political death in 2007, but Mayor Bloomberg and transit advocates have lately been calling for its resurrection. That's because it's a responsible, equitable and sustainable solution. It deserves a fresh look."

Now we have already made the arguments as to why this is a really dumb idea-but the DMI never gives up on schemes to further burden the city's outer borough commuters; as well as the small businesses that supply and service the stores and customers of Manhattan: "An $8 daily charge on cars entering or leaving Manhattan below 86th St. between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, would generate $400 million or more a year in revenue to keep fares reasonable and support vital maintenance, repair and expansion of subways and buses."

Sure, and why not toll the bridges as well so that only Mike's limo-or his idling SUV-can have the unencumbered streets to itself. Petro should know that the congestion tax failed because it lacked political support, and the legislature is surely not gonna enact a new tax in an election year. But, be that as it may, why would anyone want to throw more money down the MTA blackhole before a thorough revamping of the agency is accomplished?

And Petro continues to allege that the congestion tax would benefit the middle class that DMI's overall philosophy-if enacted-would be a death knell for: "Contrary to the claims of opponents, congestion pricing would be a net benefit for the city's middle-class residents - most of whom never drive into the congestion zone below 86th St. Regular working New Yorkers overwhelmingly rely on mass transit to travel to and from their jobs. People who do drive to work - just 5% of working New Yorkers commute by car into the city's central business district - can afford to pay a little more. A 2007 analysis by the city's Independent Budget Office revealed that the median annual income of these drivers is 30% higher than the income of other commuters."

Sounds an awful lot like our president, doesn't it? The chilling phrase, "can afford to pay a little more," is the clarion call of the advance army of those who would, if they had their policy wishes, turn the entire country into California. And isn't it usually true, that those who can afford to pay a little more always turn out to be an expanding target rich environment for those scheming to steal more of our hard earned money?

Now we know that the MTA is bleeding ink-but the further bleeding of hapless city motorists in order to fund this dying monster is compounding the problem. What we really need is to political bomb the MTA back into the Stone Age-and not pony up a dime more to this dysfunctional mess; whether it's a congestion tax or a bridge toll.

That the idea has coming from the DMI-a group that has never seen a tax that it doesn't like, and whose former director went breathlessly into the arms of the plutocrat mayor-is all you reall need to know about just how stupid the congestion pricing idea really is. And to advance the concept in the middle of a horrid recession, well, there is simply no stopping the scheming of the pro-tax chatterers.