Friday, June 08, 2007

Only the People Oppose

Once again, as the Crain's poll reaffirms, the majority of New Yorkers remain opposed to the congestion pricing scheme (in spite of the shrill reaction of some to the legitimate voice of the people). The Crain's poll, made more reliable by the fact that the paper has editorially endorsed the traffic plan, doesn't break the opposition down by boroughs but finds that 55% of city residents are opposed to taxing cars and trucks below 86th Street.

What most folks realize is that the plan is little more than a taxing scheme, something that the mayor underscored in his testimony at this morning's Assembly hearings when he told the legislators that, if people's driving habits weren't changed by the fee, then at least the city would have the extra money for mass transit improvements.

But will it really? As City Journal maven Nicole Gelinas points out, once funds are generated they will become irresistable to the bloated and dysfunctional MTA bureaucracy. The MTA and the governor are bound to covet the $400 million a year revenue from congestion pricing, and the mayor's SMART authority will become a quaint memory. If this happens than the congestion tax will be diverted to keeping the fare down, and not to building up the mass transit infrastructure.

It appears, however, that Speaker Silver, along with his conference, is holding the line-for now, and it is likely that the legislature will go out of session at the end of the month without any action on this scheme. That being said, there is little doubt that the mayor, in his quest to out-Gore Al Gore, will continue to push forward. The people still don't have any real clear idea about what all of this means so it's up to the opponents to do the grass roots education.

Some of this has already begun, as yesterday's press conference highlights. The press event was well-covered on the TV side with WCBS, WNBC, WPIX, NY1, WCBS radio, and Univision all coming to the press event and interviewing the seniors who came down to NYU Medical Center with Senator Kruger. What's really interesting is a perusal of the CBS radio blog comments on the issue. They're running about 8-1 against, with most seeing the scheme as an elitist tax.

Another interesting observation is the glib manner that Bloomberg et al, talk about the available Federal money: no congestion tax, no $500 million from Washington. Does anyone believe that the Feds are going to fork over the dough to New York? Bloomberg says he won't implement the tax until the mass transit improvements are in place. If so, What's the rush?

The entire plan cries out for independent review, something that the bought-off consultants that are at the mayor's beck and call won't provide in a million years. The mayor told the Assembly hearing today that it is impossible to gauge all of the impacts until his "pilot" is in place. That sounds like a man that is desperately avoiding independent evaluation of his taxing plan. There is simply no need for unseemly haste here, and to go forward in this manner would be an expensive mistake.