Friday, July 27, 2007

No Green Light

It never ceases to amaze us how certain folks can't help but try to put the best spin on the legislature's approval of a commission to study the mayor's congestion tax-and reasonable alternatives to the taxing scheme. This morning's NY Daily News editorial is a case in point; an effort apparently written directly out of the mayor's press office.

The News' editorialists feel that the commission will have no choice but to approve the mayor's plan-that's if the money is even there-because; "The legislation establishes a commission that must find a way to reduce Manhattan traffic by 6.3%-but, by our reckoning, there's no way to do that except through congestion pricing."

Well let's hope that the commission doesn't use the DN's reckoning, because there is absolutely no empirical basis for the paper-or the mayor for that matter-to make the 6.3% assertion. The commission, as Richard Brodsky told the Times, is a process not a fait accompli; and one of its primary missions, along with that of the City Council, is to devise the right methodology to evaluate the congestion tax plan-under the heading of, "There's a first time for everything."

Which gets us back to our emphasis that this proposal needs to undergo a full Environmental Impact Statement-there is no exemptions for "Pilot Programs." Here, from our developing expert analysis, is a brief taste of the underlying rationale: "It is self evident that an underlying concern about the proposed Action that meets the SEQR/CEQR criteria of significance that warrants an EIS is the potential adverse environmental, social and economic impacts on communities adjacent to subway stations that serve the pricing zone caused by a large number of auto commuters who would not otherwise travel to these areas..."

This is just a preliminary glance at what will be a full-blown, clarion call for a thorough review of the congestion tax assumptions. We're pretty sure that the 6.3% figure-probably simply extrapolated from London-will not withstand real world empirical review-which will make the mayor's proviso of this figure in the legislation moot.

So there's along way to go from here. There is much opposition in both houses of the legislature-and in the senate particularly there is no guarantee that leadership will be able to deliver the members. As tax supporter Senator Schneiderman told the NY Times; "'There's a lot more communication to be done by the advocates of congestion pricing, including me, if we're going to get anything done.'"