Saturday, April 21, 2007

Congestive Traffic Failure

According to yesterday's NY Times, the mayor is poised to announce a massive planning initiative, titled PlaNYC, that will supposedly transform the city and help to make it "a healthier city for our children and grandchildren." As one breathlessly awaits the unveiling, we are reminded of the Yiddish expression, "Man plans, and God laughs." In this case, however, we think that the laughing will be restrained, perhaps only released after all of the forces that will array against the hubris come together to defeat it.

At least we hope so, because we really have no faith in any plan that was put together by the team of Blooomberg and Doctoroff. In fact, the team and its plan, designed for its putative environmental benefits, has a vaudevillian flavor when we consider just how much the current administration has done to make the city safe for Related and its auto-dependent box store mania.

Certainly no one at city hall had the brilliant idea that encouraging more local, neighborhood shopping, activity that would diminish the auto-driven shopping center-centric approach of Deputy Dan's real estate soul mates. In fact, the PlaNYC can be seen as a total rebuke of the mayor's first five and a half years of economic development policy. And the plan's acceptance, a real long shot from our perspective, would mean that the next three or four mayors would be locked into reversing the entire Blomberg economic development opus.

Which brings us to the congestion pricing scheme. Not only will the mayor be charging motorists an additional $8 to come into the CBD, he will also surcharge delivery trucks. Now if the concept is to reduce traffic, than the levy on deliveries can only be seen as a tax on small businesses, since so many of the delivery businesses are manufacturing and distribution firms from the outer boroughs. If they are to stay in business than they must pay the toll, and they won't be looking to find ways to replicate the Berlin airlift. Hence a tax, and not an environmental benefit.

The mayor, demonstrating his usual hauteur-after all this is the same guy who described the $260 million a year "bodega tax" as a "minor economic issue"-bristles at the description of the $8 fee as a tax. He goes on to tell the NY Daily News that, "Using economics to influence public behavior is something that this country is built on...It's called capitalism."

Well, not really. No matter what kind of linguistic contortions you perform, this is still called a tax. Something that the government is built on, but not in any normally understood sense a contributor to the economic growth of this country's fabulous economic system. It is what Bloomberg described, in a different context, as a costly and"burdensome regulation."

And why aren't we surprised at the collusion of the machers in all of this? The permanent government, feeding at the mayoral trough, will be lined up with feed bags after their conspicuous cheer leading at Monday's announcement. Wonder where the small business folks will be? Hunkering down and trying to figure out how they're going to pay for this grand scheme.